Is there any emancipatory potential in playing mainstream video games? And can war games convey pacifist messages? The work of the art collective Total Refusal seems to indicate that the answer is yes. It is so because its members do not play by the rules. They subvert the usual logic of game narratives and show how they are permeated with politics. In this artist talk, two of Total Refusal's members, game theorist Leonhard Müllner and illustrator and cultural anthropologist Robin Klengel, discuss the merging of capitalism with the gaming world and the possibilities of subversion. The talk is moderated by philosopher Václav Janoščík.
Mainsteam video games are the core material of all Total Refusal’s work. Besides films, they also create installations. In the one called Flowers Don't Care, for example, they explore the indestructibility of flora in the environments of three different war video games. Another work of theirs, the video installation Featherfall, is based on research on internet forums in which gamers exchange their dream experiences and shows how close dream and game worlds can be in the psyche of video game players. The collective was founded in 2018 and has won several awards, including the Diagonale Film Award for Best Short Documentary and the Contemporary Visual Arts Award of Styria Province.