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TAG | MARCH 26 – Jaroslav Švelch: Games as Resistance in the 1980s Czechoslovakia

Posted by pierson



TAG is excited to announce that at 5:00 pm on Thursday, March 26th, in the Hexagram Resource Centre (EV 11.705), we will be joined by Charles University’s Jaroslav Švelch for a special presentation about protest games in the Soviet-Era Czechoslovakian Context. Of his talk, Jaroslav writes:

“The idea that digital games may express political views is now widely accepted. However, little is known about the history of political games in other than Western contexts. In this talk, I want to highlight a distinct pattern of homebrew political protest games made in the 1980s Czechoslovakia – titles like 17. 11. 1989, P.E.R.E.S.T.R.O.I.K.A. (P.R.E.S.T.A.V.B.A.) or The Strike (Stávka) which criticized or satirized the Communist government. I will argue that in order to gain an understanding of their place within the game culture of the day, we must focus on their pragmatics instead of procedural rhetoric, which has so far been the preferred way of studying “political games”. While many of these games clearly show a political intention, they rarely contain any mechanics that “simulate” the regime or procedurally express its critique. In most of them, the protest itself is either satirized or entirely left out of the narrative. I therefore propose to take a pragmatic approach and study them as speech acts. Rather focusing on mechanics or narrative, it is more valuable to study their non-diegetic elements or their history, arriving at an understanding of what the author of the game wanted to do with the game. The political messages of the games like 17. 11. 1989 were contained neither in their mechanics, nor their narratives. They can rather be located in non-diegetic text or in the fact of their very existence. Although they were not “persuasive”, they validated the cause Czechoslovak protesters were fighting for by spreading the message that protest was possible and ubiquitous.”

Jaroslav Švelch is a lecturer and researcher at the Charles University in Prague’s Faculty of Social Sciences. He was a Fulbright visiting researcher at MIT’s GAMBIT game lab from 2007–8 and a Ph.D. intern at Microsoft Research New England in 2012. His work focuses on histories of computer games, social uses of digital technologies, humour in virtual spaces, online language management, and the concepts of monstrosity and adversity in games.


When: Thursday, March 26th, from 5-7pm
Where: Hexagram Resource Centre – EV 11.705, 1515 St. Catherine W.
Who: Everyone is Welcome!