Aubrey Anable: Playing With Feelings

We can’t dismiss the woman on the platform playing Candy Crush Saga as simply a dupe of capitalism.
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Aubrey Anable discusses her book Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect with Chris Richardson. Anable is an Assistant Professor in the School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University in Ottawa. Aubrey’s research examines digital aesthetics, video games, and virtual reality in conversation with feminist and queer theory. Her book Playing with Feelings: Video Games and Affect (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) provides an account of how video games compel us to play and why they constitute a contemporary structure of feeling emerging alongside the last sixty years of computerized living. She’s an advisory editor for the journal Camera Obscura and is currently co-editing The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Visual Culture.  


“In ‘Culture is Ordinary’ (1958), Williams takes a bus trip through the Welsh countryside. I’ve returned to this essay (and several others by Williams) so many times in my work. It’s a sort of ground for me and a reminder of why I insist on ordinary and highly inclusive definitions of things like video games and art.”


“In addition to Williams, the work of Silvan Tomkins is the backbone to Playing with Feelings. My understanding of Tomkins and why I think his theory of affects matters for digital aesthetics is indebted to Sedgwick and Frank’s rereading of him. The ‘Shame in the Cybernetic Fold’ essay, in particular, continues to catalyze my thoughts about computers, history, and bodies.”


“I’m reading this book right now. Cohen offers a necessary recalibration of the ways we define the social as it is experienced through digital networks. I’m inspired by how he brings contemporary art into conversation with ubiquitous digital aesthetics and experiences.”


“This is another book I’m reading at the moment. Parisi’s history of how interface designers have grappled with embodiment is fascinating and he says some really smart things about the entanglement between bodies and machines.”

Editor’s note: This work is also recommended by Shannon Mattern in her interview.


“This is a funny book and rather brilliant. Gumbrecht, like many others I’m interested in at the moment, makes a compelling case for why the humanities cannot seem to get beyond the limitations of interpretation. I’m not convinced that we need to get beyond anything, but I’m interested in finding ways to devote more attention to ‘presence’ in my own descriptions and analyses of digital art.”