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“Being in the world”

The film director contemplates travel experiences, empowerment from cyberspace enhancements and ideas that Jason Rohrer's latest game seem to prompt

Stephanie Beth, Blogger

April 26, 2014

9 Min Read

As global capitalism continues to hang in it’s crisis, metaphors loom. An active art form and cultural dimension is finding ways of being with others naturally and symbolically. Housing costs, travel costs, life costs can lead to downward spirals. We could all be cut off.  We all come from different cultural perspectives and points of difference. We are in a world where there are few universals, less tradition, more conservatism and harder challenges to the application of creativity with ideas. There is trauma attached to coming to terms with a world in stress.

It brings me to ZIZEK. He talks about how Beck suggests that we’ve changed our subjective stance. We are a society coping less with risk. We modify our subjectivity (if we are not hungry) from ,”I am hungry to “I am afraid”. (1) This was a thought in 1992. We had huge earthquakes where I live in 2010 and 2011 during the making of this film. The second was a 7.1 up thrust three weeks before the quakes and the tsunami that hit Japan. The Australian plate rumbled under us. There were deaths. It wiped out our central city. Flooding has increased for a lot of home dwellers who live near city drains and areas have subsided and flooded too ever since. The city has thousands of families on wait lists for new affordable homes. Many who have relocated to drier land and non -cracked land experience fuel cost rises and long traffic jams. The city was in a National State of Emergency for three months. The earthquake experience often overwhelms and engrosses the citizenry. I was able to keep going. Cracks happened near us but not under us.  Our dwelling remained dry.

We had the sound of demolition on our nerves a year and months later. That is awful. Each crunch and thump represents so much, not only in the recognition of people displaced, conviviality, gardens and community lost, but also the lost rendering of architectural ideas, timber and craftsmanship is a saddening feeling. We had the exhaustion that can so easily come from meeting grieving people who lost loved ones and felt the sing song of anger, frustration and trauma at the shock of damaged security and loss of symbolic identity.  At the sentimental end of this national disaster, homes as memories fell to neglect along the rivers, weeds grew, people lingered until the basic facilities and services were cut off – the water, sewerage and the electricity.   I had taken immediately to riding a bike more and adjusted in the second year to no streetlights. How did I adjust so fluently? I had the world -wide -web. It saw me through every event and every crisis.  Aviation was the biggest. Once the city airport was checked for cracks the first time and found to have none, (as it was, it was actually being built as a newer bigger facility in this time) I was off to the essential shoots. I had to be prudent about International travel and required quite an amount of internal travel. This was all to meet the professional standard of Digital video production and the sub-divided tasks for the goal of getting to export.  I coordinated continent travel and dates for several shoots in the USA, extending my time clock to twenty-four hours as required, commandeering Skype as my supervisory tool.

What about the metaphors and the crisis? What, for example, is the metaphor of open source? Go back. What about the divisions in 1968? We are often told of this as the turning point. That phrase,” The passage of the Master’s discourse to the University discourse” (2)

I was not a University type other than by correspondence when I hit the world walking in early 1970. My route was only later to provide me more formal intellectual life. I was still twenty years away from access to the Internet.  Beyond home I started my encounters with ‘others’, in the Art of Australians, both the European style schools and up on the earth out of Alice Springs.  “Others” coming south had stories to tell. One set of travel compatriots had wandered down through the Indonesian Archipelagos when we were spending time in Timor. They gave versions of privations at sea; later, Bangkok in all it’s chaos and intensity as an R&R spot for soldiers gave me exposure to “other “ in the expressions of hurt, of “feelings of being ravaged by political historical events.”  Here, stories were voiced by taxi drivers; later, a look down at the screeds of white washing on clothes lines on the outskirts of Calcutta after we flew over the vast flooded remnants of Cyclone Bhola’s 1970 damage to the Bengal Delta, shocked the imagination to  feel” other “ existences;  later to the glorious delirium of mixed metaphors at the Gay Lord restaurant in New Dehli, it’s aka colonial style  already a  remnant lodged  in the fraying sleeves of bus boys’ uniforms;  later,  the shock of  military bandolier apparel on the soldiers in the  Khyber Pass. This was my first witnessing of military arsenal for use in close up. Fresh exposure to mind went on and on until life sobered once more and 90 days later we passed up through Greece, on through a seeming calm Yugoslavia before the Balkan States exploded and started skiing in Austria.

Was any of this travel readying me to notice new game designs thirty -five years later?  Did any of the impact of the earthquake further formulate my appreciation of game designs? Well, yes and yes.

Developer Jason Rohrer designed The Caste Doctrine 
Jason Rohrer. Developer of The Castle Doctrine

The role of the game designer – to provide simulations, to amplify representations and give these over to whoever may wish to loiter and share and thrill, has bloomed in the games landscape.  Permanent death moves train players in caution. In traditional sports, it is usually play against self. In these permanent death digital games the opportunity to try again and again gives the chance to also imagine being in someone else’s shoes. Rohrer addresses the ‘other’ in The Castle Doctrine. For him, the relevance of “ being in the world “is foremost in his aesthetic. He decided to go along with a permanent death feature as there is potential in a player’s capacity here to deal well with loss.

 ‘Being in the world’ of the game for Rohrer, by the time of The Castle Doctrine, was to be ready to embrace networked play for infinite scenarios.

It’s already a year since he launched his game and the official forum. His first phrase says a lot. He says. Welcome.  Then there is an early response. “Thanks for making the game and the forum”. Then between the 15th and 16th the entry is the question of otherness as a posting. Rohrer says, “I was initially inspired by my experience on Minecraft multiplayer survival servers”. Then he came to comment on Minecraft.  “There was something a bit unsatisfying about this aspect of the game.  You could go beyond hiding your house and build fortifications or even traps, but the reality was that almost everything could be cut through and bypassed, given enough grinding, with the weakest wooden shovel.” 

The result is that The Castle Doctrine, is, he says, “ a game about violation, where every victim is also a violator, and every violator a victim.  It's a bizarre construction that permits the humanity of a completely anonymous, aggressive other to be brought into sharper focus than it could ever be seen in the real world” (3)

I value how far Rohrer pushes ideas. Whilst his style shall never be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, how lucky people are if they have chances to think about life experiences with well- rounded metaphors. Thinking back, both about a youth of travel and  impressions I took in, it would be the soldier so close to me  wearing a bandolier that made my blood run fastest out of my extremities. I cannot image what it must be like to live in a country where citizens may own guns.  It is a coup for Rohrer to have players who appreciate this ‘bizarre” situation as well as all the other details he has thrown in.  And, it is interesting how much he has listened to and considered design ideas from others during the Alpha phase. I think about the value of what was travel for me that transpired to become a bouncing board for this documentary. I saw some meta- contexts in my youth and I think this early experience has drawn me to the designers who are commanding meta- worlds. Rohrer, with his focus on the local, the family, the castle, the risk of decision itself has stopped many in their tracks. The thrill of dealing with loss is a liberator at a micro level, perhaps. It strengthens our capacity to be open. The game is an achievement, part of a mature continuum from his facility with Open Source and his enjoyment of forums. I think that Rohrer takes seriously that word agency and consideration for web opportunity without there being radical catastrophes and we all, also, after finding ways to exercise this skill, may tuck in regularly for a good night’s sleep and then get up again for another day of being worldly.

Director. Us and The Game Industry http://www.usandthegameindustry.com


1. Zizek. P 160.  Zizek cites Beck. Living in the End Times.  Verso. 2011

 2.p. 353, quote from Lacan. Living in the End Times.  Verso. 2011

3. Rohrer. J. The Castle Doctrine Forums



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