Synthesis 2020



            In this apocalyptic third edition, the main revelation concerns precisely this section of the site / project which in the beginning we called, with too much optimism, ingenuity and a creative spirit, "answers".


            Crisis and apocalypses, on the other hand, often perform, thanks to the prophet who announces them, the function of the imaginative, definitive change of the "Pillars of the Earth".


            In our case, in the midst of the historical upheavals that continued to take place beyond the cyber walls in which we closed ourselves off to discuss with calm fervor about "Videogames, Apocalypse and High Culture", we only decided to change the name of this section using a simple and laconic term like "synthesis".


            The truth is that having been forced to carry out the annual round table in digital format has made the development of this specific section less necessary. From this year on, those interested in hearing how we answered  the central questions (assuming that the answers were really formulated) can simply watch the video recordings of the meeting day on our youtube channel.


            Covid-19 has therefore shaken us and put us in a corner both from a technical point of view, giving us the definitive push to create the online streaming that we will keep in the future regardless of the possibility of carrying out the event in presence, both from a theoretical-methodological point of view showing us with definitive clarity what we believe to be the main strengths and weaknesses of our adventurous research.


            The two strengths, it seems a bit trivial to repeat, are the questions and the meeting day that takes place between people from very different worlds who are really open to a dialogue without utilitarian sophistry.


            The weaknesses are the inevitable lack of "certain results" and the inability to respond satisfactorily, with adequate analyzes and studies, to the complex questions formulated during the conception of the annual round table. Our syntheses, of course, are therefore extremely exposed to our point of view, also reworked by the fascination that some ideas exercise more than others on our personal sensitivity.


            Having said all this, we do not know in all honesty if this section will continue to exist in the future or will be set aside in favor of video recordings that give direct and personal access to the days of the meetings, which on the other hand are not composed only of specific moments. of the official meeting.


            As for this edition, we cannot either say, both due to the necessary splitting of the interventions divided into sessions, and due to the truly complex nature of the proposed questions to have given specific answers.


            Therefore, we will not develop a report divided according to the questions as in other years, but rather formulate a summary of our impressions regarding the progress of the round table and the written responses received from the participants.



Synthesis and Impressions on the Third Edition of "Videogames & Alta Cultura"



            The debate on the relationship between Videogames, Apocalypse and High Culture was addressed in five sessions, with a variable number of speakers between two and four, and, in addition to reminding us of some "typical", almost archetypal, not to say often obvious and banal, post-apocalyptic videogame settings, highlighted these three points in particular:


  • the political-cultural purpose and use of the apocalypse (a theme emphasized in particular by Professor Antonio Brusa);
  • the separation, with an inverse psycho-emotional reaction, of the players between the played apocalypse and the perceived and experienced apocalypse in the material world (in particular in relation to the Covid-19 emergency);
  • the centrality of the world that arises following the apocalyptic events: the fulcrum of the apocalypse is not the nullifying abyss of death, but the desire and hope for a change that, through death (of the "extras-png" and of the scenario around) and the profound transformation of the pre-existing reality, can lead to a better life (optimistic scenario). In fact, even if the apocalypse leads to "adverse" or typically dystopian future scenarios, the important thing for "the player" is to be able to hope to have access to a new life, full of challenges packed with "relevant" emotions and meanings.


            Here are some extracts from the speakers who also provided us with answers in writing before the round table took place.


            Professor Brusa pointed out to us that: "We read Lorenzetti's Buon Governo as if it were a sort of Universal Judgment ..." and through an examination of this powerful work of great aesthetic and symbolic impact, full of apocalyptic references, he shows us that: “Therefore, the Apocalypse is not a definitive destruction, but an intermediate catastrophe, which cleanses the bad and precedes the advent of the world of the good; and the story of the Apocalypse is a performative political discourse, neither descriptive nor dreamlike”. Those who politically commission the depiction of the apocalypse want to tell us:" Do as I say or the consequences will be apocalyptic! ".


            Piero Molino, instead of answering, in the best of the dialogic traditions of our meetings, multiplies the questions by asking us: "The apocalypse and the post-apocalypse have been depicted in various artistic forms over the centuries. In video games the theme has been explored since the 80s (eg Wasteland). Is there anything unique in the way video games can let us explore our relationship with the apocalypse? What do the video games that deal with this theme tell us about their authors and about our society in general? "


            Again, asking a further question, Fabrizia Malgieri talks to us about the relationship between "real and fictitious apocalyptic drama" by writing: "Why do you usually like survival and post-apocalyptic video games? Because they represent a different world, usually unreachable, compared to everyday reality. In fact, this assumption can apply to video games in general or to any other form of art: we are constantly looking for something different from our routine to escape it, to escape from everyday life. To confirm what has been said, it is worth analyzing the great success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo's sim video game, during the pandemic. While the world was living subjugated by the coronavirus, between March and April 2020, waiting for precise health answers, the players decided to "abandon" the apocalyptic videogame scenarios loved up to that moment to devote themselves to more relaxed, habitual worlds.”

            Maico Morellini, entering into the specifics of the coronavirus emergency, states: "The Pandemic in my view removes the concept of Apocalypse. The Apocalypse is a catastrophic event, but immediate at least in its first resolution. The Pandemic is a slow and in its own way inexorable dripping that continues the same as itself - in negative - for an indefinite time. In addition, I believe that the apocalyptic imagery, precisely because of its (historical) pop connotation (in the mass media world of Entertainment), is difficult to associate with a perceived reality. And this is somewhat comfortable. The Apocalypse today is understood as an event that is as catastrophic as it is immediate, which begins and resolves itself in its most violent form within a limited time. And it is precisely for this reason that having lived so many apocalyptic narratives of this type has made us less capable of facing the crises of reality which, instead, we are seeing, have much longer times. Which for us risk becoming inexorable, more suited to internalize instant catastrophes at least on a theoretical level.”



            Elda Perlino, on the other hand, focuses on an aspect dear to us even in past editions, saying that: "Playing with the Apocalypse through video games and not only video games, but also literature and even more through the media, primarily cinema , not only satisfies the thirst for a terrifying imaginary standardized on the needs of the average viewer by representing collective nightmares, but tries to remove by overexposure the theme of death that the myth of the modern society of well-being conceals by denial. "


            Giuseppe Longo, on the Charm of the Apocalypse, emphasizes that: "The variety of artistic approaches on the subject is so wide as to make you dizzy. Without abstracting too much into what artists like Kandinsky saw in the apocalypse (although for a holistic approach to this analysis it would be useful), the aesthetics of the end of days has been revisited in as many ways as the sensitivity of an artist can perceive, multiplied exponentially due to previous artistic influences and contextual influences on a historical and social level. Finding a single line of interpretation is a gamble, but if you want you can recognize as eternal the concept of "chaos" (often associated with a sensory horror vacui) and the "journey" of the single or more individuals (even if the call is always metaphorical of the whole human race) within it, in search of a path / Ariadne's thread that leads it to its exterior or to its conclusion.


            Beyond the individual contributions of the speakers, which, as already mentioned, can be directly viewed on the official website, it seems necessary to emphasize in this summary, probably the last to be made in this form, that this year's "apocalyptic gift" was of to realize clearly that we have succeeded in creating something that triggers international reflections which somehow, at various levels, seem to be needed.


            Of this day, I particularly want to quote the words of the aforementioned dear friend Piero Molino, professional and international expert in AI, who confided to me: "... I realize that here, on the edge of the empire, there is ( perhaps also due to less economic and competitive pressure) paradoxically more freedom to space horizontally, to discuss freely and in a relaxed way ... "


            I believe that this observation captures one of the main essences of this project on the "limes", a project that was born and developed in the heart of the "mare nostrum", a focal point between East and West, between North and South, in a place in search of the deep soul that stirs in the beating heart of questions made not for "profit or advantage", but for the true passion of an "anti-sophist" knowledge interested in the complex meanings connected to the evolution of the "Ludus" and its ability of creating "Sense" in our lives and civilizations.

            Aesthetically also, imagine being on an imperial border that with its ancient walls and white cathedrals on the sea has always looked to the East, beyond the wonders of an immense Arab world, beyond the sacred paths of Jerusalem to reach, yesterday as today, to the other mighty, millenary empire of the Dragon ... well, in short, this image almost makes me reconcile with this complicated city Bari.


            At the center of the empire, perhaps, one commands, but it is on the borders that History, and stories, reach the apex of Beauty, also due to and thanks to crises, pain and difficulties.