Monsters and the Mall: Videogames and the Scopic Regimes of Shopping

Molesworth Mike
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is a film which has been criticised for its violence, but which also contains insights into our consumer society. In this paper I argue that videogames, which are similarly criticised for being violent, also tell us about one trajectory of consumer culture. Drawing from recent re-evaluations of the flâneur-shopper I consider the temporal, spatial and panoptic scopic regimes of shopping and tourism consumption, and compare these with the experience of playing first person shooters. In doing so I also consider the development of consumer ‘ways of seeing’ in shopping and videogames that construct the consumer as an imagining and desiring user of commercial images. Using reviews of first person shooters that have been promoted for their visual spectacle (Doom 3 and Halo) I argue that the active and speculative nature of videogame play allows for something like the flâneurshopper’s stroll through a commercially constructed space, but unlike shopping spaces which may be becoming increasingly similar, videogames re-enchant the consumer gaze with their spectacular vistas and constantly changing environments. The result however, is that Romero’s criticism of the alienating effect of a consumptionorientated life may also be applied to videogames.