GIC Research Seminar: The politics of play - wargaming with the US military
15 November 2021
GIC Seminar Series - Dr Aggie Hirst talks about 'The Politics of Play: Wargaming with the US Military'
Aggie Hirst tells us about her forthcoming book, which explores the role of wargaming in the production of warfighters in the US military. Drawing on 100 hours of original interview data generated with instructors and trainees across the US armed services, The Politics of Play: Wargaming with the US Military argues that wargaming plays a significant part in the production of warfighter subjectivity. The book offers a retheorisation of immersion, drawing on the thought of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, through which the pedagogical power of gaming is established. From there, it argues that by cultivating a non-reflexive immersive state and a drive towards victory conditions, US military wargaming has subject-producing properties. Building upon Hans-Georg Gadamer’s thought, the books shows that in US military wargaming, far from the player playing the game, the game plays the player. To remedy this problem, drawing on Jacques Derrida, the book argues for ‘deconstructive play’, a mode of player engagement which punctuates immersive gameplay with critical reflexivity to expose and explore games’ aims, assumptions, omissions, and politics. Contesting the assumption that play and gaming are apolitical and unproductive, the book thus demonstrates the significance of US military wargaming in the current digital age.
Dr Aggie Hirst is Senior Lecturer in International Relations Theory and Methods in the Department of War Studies at King's College London. Her research is situated in the fields of international political theory and critical military studies. She is Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Trust and British Academy funded research project exploring the US military’s use of wargames and simulations for teaching/training purposes. She is currently completing her second book, The Politics of Play: Wargaming with the US Military (contracted with Oxford University Press), which explores of the phenomena of play and immersion, arguing that the ‘flow state’ generated by gaming is being used to instil doctrine and cultivate mental and physical muscle memory in service members. She has recently published articles with Review of International Studies (2019), Critical Military Studies (2020), and International Political Sociology (2021) on play, videogames, and the wargames renaissance, and she is a lead co-author of new IR Theory Textbook with Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2022).
Seminar held on 3/11/2021
Listen to the seminar (starts recording a few minutes into the seminar)