Digital Agency, inherent in both human and non-human participants interacting in digital realms or through digital technologies, can be hailed as the new and transformed ways of executable power. Digital games, especially, offer an insightful playground, where all kinds of agencies can be experienced: How is it to be a superhero, how is it to be an animal, how is it to be in VR – and what are my powers, what am I able to do?
Although exciting and inspiring, digital agency and its powers also have a fascinating tendency for experiencing unease. Inspired by a spirited but nonetheless ambiguous early media coverage series on digital games by the leading Swiss broadcasting company from the 1980ties, a closer look at this specific aspect of experiencing unease not only reveals the difficulties of coping with digital transformation as such. Whenever NPCs become threatening, whenever the players are stuck in a limbo-kind of state because the following steps are not clear, or whenever death becomes certain–coping with these moments of unease unfold fascinating ways of how participants deal with these situations by using certain interactional practices that can be described as ludic methods. These ludic methods as coping practices in interaction beautifully display the negotiation and retrieval of the momentarily lost agency, becoming the cheerful glue holding the frame of digital play together.
Hiloko Kato works as a senior researcher in Game Design at the Zurich University of the Arts with a focus on game reception, teaches at the Master’s level and researches media reception in the SNF Sinergia project “Confoederatio Ludens–Swiss Game History, Play and Game Design 1968-2000”. At the University of Zurich, she works as Head of Research at the newly established MEEET Lab and is associated with Prof. Noah Bubenhofer’s chair in German Linguistics. She also works as a lecturer at the German Seminar.
As a linguist, Hiloko Kato is interested in interfaces between digital games and language. This includes the semiotic analysis of games (understood as multimodal texts) and investigating games as a cultural asset using media and discourse linguistic approaches. Her current research focuses on the interactional production of digital agency in human players, game characters, animals, and other agents of digital transformation (robots, AI).
As Chair of the DSI Community Gaming, Hiloko Kato is committed to connecting researchers, stakeholders and interested parties in the field of digital games.