I have been reading the collected writings of Laure, aka Colette Peignot, over the past couple days. I’m not very far into the book, but there are already a few things that I want to note for the future.
The opening section of her half-completed work “The Sacred” is really interesting for video games studies, particularly because Laure is focused on death and ending as a critical part of her philosophy. She writes
The sacred is the infinitely rare moment in which the “eternal share” that each being carries within enters life, finds itself carried off in the universal movement, integrated into this movement, realized.
It is what I have felt as weighted with death, sealed by death.
This permanence of the threat of death is the intoxicating absolute that carries life away, lifts it outside of itself, hurls forth the depths of my being like a volcano’s eruption, a meteor’s fall. (41)
For Laure, it seems that the sacred is a moment of being where the self is caught up in the act of living. For me, this seems similar to the well-worn concept of “flow,” the moments when the player is excelling and moving with a game system so well that they forget that they are playing a game. The sacred is occurring when life is being lived with no obstructions, but more importantly, it is when there is a harmony between the world and self while also being toward death.
I will admit to finding this confusing, and the fact that Laure’s writings are mostly fragments makes it difficult to parse most of it, but she provides an example here.
The bullfight has to do with the sacred because there is the threat of death and real death, but it is felt, experienced by others, with others. (42)
A little unpacking: “the threat of death” and “real death” are posed as different things here. I take the former to mean the threat of the end of the game of the bullfight–the end of the finite distraction that we have invested huge stakes in, particularly the lives of the animal and the bullfighter (the real death). More importantly, the event of a bullfight is communally engaged in–it isn’t the individual bullfight, but the bullfight desiring assemblage, the one that worships the bullfighter and collectively mourns for the collapsing, bleeding bull.
And we see this happening in video games, too. The collective investment in an game event, like Mass Effect 3, is limited in time and space–there is an “arena” of fandom for it that, while it might seem eternal right now, is merely an instant in time. Just like a bullfight, the game event is a combination of the player, the system and objects that make up the game proper, and then all of the collective investments that the entire audience possesses for the game. A huge assemblage with millions of small bullfight instances, but all “sacred” in the way that Laure means. All moving toward an ending, toward a death, toward a moment of eliminated existence.