“Can You Can Play?” Metaludicity and Surrealist Hyperattention in Jason Nelson’s Poetry Games
Astrid Ensslin, University of Alberta
Literary gaming (Ensslin 2014a) happens at the creative interface between hyperattentive gameplay and deep-attentive close reading (Hayles 2007). Literary game designers experiment with the question of whether hyper and deep attention are indeed compatible, and they do so by juxtaposing creatively the readerly and playerly elements of a text/game. In this sense, literary games evoke a ludic metazone by foregrounding (poetic) language and other forms of semiotic expressivity, thus producing a variety of artefacts that inhabit various loci on the spectrum between ludic digital literature and literary computer game (Ensslin 2014b).
In this talk I’m going to focus on the poetry games of American digital poet and artist, Jason Nelson. In his ludic oeuvre he translates the clash between close reading and gameplay into an array of diversely surreal gaming interfaces that literally play with and undermine the rules of game design but also those of language and other semiotic modes. I will show that underlying his puzzling and often “annoying” (Alfredsson 2016) interfaces are concise techno-, socio- and ludocritical messages that emerge procedurally through kinetic, cognitive and curiously fun-oriented engagement with the ‘codes’ of his works.
Alfredsson, J. (2016), Personal Correspondence, June 29th, 2016.
Ensslin, A. (2014a) Literary Gaming. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ensslin, Astrid (2014b) ‘”Womping” the Metazone of Festival Dada: Jason Nelson’s Evidence of Everything Exploding’, in Marcel Cornis-Pope (ed.) New Literary Hybrids in the Age of Multimedia Expression: Crossing Borders, Crossing Genres, pp. 221-231. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hayles, N. K. (2007) "Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes." Profession 2007: 187-99.