Please join us for this Brown Bag Talk with Nicholas Hobin, English Language Literature PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo. The talk will take place in the Great Hall at the SLC.
This event is free and open to all.
This talk explores the rhetoric of animal remains in the video game Red Dead Redemption 2. In his book, Surface Encounters, Ron Broglio notes the harvesting of meat as a kind of alchemical creation. The change from animal into meat exposes the animal to human knowledge; the unknowable insides of the animal become visible, quantifiable and documentable outsides. The animal, we imagine, becomes knowable through its flesh and skin. Red Dead Redemption 2 takes these conceptual relationships and literalizes them, building them into mechanical dynamics which mediate the player’s interactions with the animal life of the game they play.
In the game the player’s engagement with the animal world is primarily violent: players hunt animals to kill them and collect their pelts and meat, to feed themselves and their gang, to sell, or to craft into items and clothing. Additionally, the game provides more information to the player about animals they have successfully hunted; skinning animals is the primary way by which a player learns about them.
The transformation of the animal from living creature into consumable object does not stop there, however; throughout the game, the player encounters animal bodies and body parts which have been used to conceive of fantastical narratives, arranged into eccentric dioramas, and worked into bizarre taxidermic experiments. The transformation of the animal into meat and skin begins as a way to develop animal knowledge, but becomes a medium for animal fantasy – the parts are transformed, reconfigured, and reimagined until the authenticity of any meaning attached to them becomes suspect. Within the gameworld, animal remains are ultimately another surface on which people project their ideas of what animals are or might be, rather than an objective window into their unknowable interiors.
Nicholas Hobin, BA (King’s University College), MA (University of Waterloo), is a PhD candidate in the English Language Literature program at the University of Waterloo. He is interested in posthumanism in game studies, and the ways in which digital environments work to confront what it means to be human. Nicholas’ dissertation focuses on the representations, uses and depictions of lifelike animals in video games and their cultural implications; his research presently focuses on the configuration of animal bodies in digital spaces. He is the associate editor of book reviews and interviews for First Person Scholar, the Game Institute’s student-run middle-state publication.
Nicholas has presented his research at conferences including “Living Timelines: The Transformation of the Mechanomorphic Animal” at Arizona State University. and “Meeting the Animal ‘I’” at the Canadian Game Studies Association, University of Regina. He has also been awarded the "TA Award for Teaching" for 2016.
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