(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 3: Elden Ring: Endless Purgatorio

In episode three of (Pop) Cultural Marxism, Ajay and Isi welcome fellow faculty and videogame connoisseur Joseph Earl Thomas to talk about Elden Ring, the acclaimed 2022 RPG videogame, directed and created by Hidetaka Miyazaki and Japan’s FromSoftware studio (alongside some “worldbuilding” by Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin.) After a few preliminaries (a revisit to Andor and discussions of the recent Sight and Sound “best movies” poll, Pokemon, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 as communist allegory, and more), the talk turns to Elden Ring‘s “endless purgatorio,” its “nihilistic” setting, its “open-world” structure (just how “open” are open worlds?), the meaning and limits of agency in videogame play, taking pleasure in difficulty, “affective difficulty,” why videogame playing might be like dancing (with reference to BISR’s late Jeffrey Escoffier), affect theory (and feeling bad about killing), gender, playing dress-up, and much more besides.

You can download the episode by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.” Or, look us up on iTunes.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism is a monthly series of the Podcast for Social Research, produced by William R. Clark. If you like what you’ve heard, consider subscribing to Brooklyn Institute’s Patreon page, where you can enjoy access to all past and future episodes of the podcast.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 3: Elden Ring


British Film Institute Sight and Sound poll

The A-Team helps form a militant union

Recent games: Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, Neon White, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 

Theodor W. Adorno, “Why Is the New Art So Hard to Understand? [1931]”, Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert, trans. Susan H. Gillespie (University of California Press, 2002), 127-134

David Brooks on his taste in music

Patrick Jagoda, “On Difficulty in Video Games: Mechanics, Interpretation, Affect,” Critical Inquiry 45, no. 1 (2018): https://doi.org/10.1086/699585

Graeme Kirkpatrick, Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game (Manchester University Press, 2011).
Roger Caillois, Man, Play, and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

Ajay’s essay on the Doom reboot

Source of Miyazaki interview: FromSoftware’s Dark Souls: Design Works (2014) [a small correction: Miyazaki’s interview comments about the sorrowful dragon refer to Dark Souls, not Elden Ring]

Mark Fisher, The Weird and the Eerie (London: Repeater Books, 2007)

Henry Jenkins, “Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces,” The Game Design Reader, ed. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2006), 330-363

Jodi Byrd, “‘Do They Not Have Rational Souls?: Consolidation and Sovereignty in Digital New Worlds, Settler Colonial Studies 6, no. 4 (2016): https://doi.org/10.1080/2201473X.2015.1090635

Adorno on play in Minima Moralia

Bonnie Ruberg, Video Games have Always Been Queer (New York: NYU Press, 2019)

Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

Graeme Kirkpatrick, Aesthetic Theory and the Video Game (Manchester UK: Manchester University Press, 2011)

Roger Caillois, Man, Play, and Games, trans. Meyer Barash (Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001)

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