“A Restless Corpse”: Performativity, Fetishism and Planescape: Torment

Darshana Jayemanne

This paper explores videogames’ aesthetics of performativity. J.L. Austin’s notion of performative felicity is a useful concept for the comparative study of videogames. However, Austin treats infelicity (ie. Failure) simply as a flawed attempt at a felicitous performance. This relates to his conceptualisation of speech acts as units – an assumption that performances occur one at a time, and that it is a simple matter to discern which performance is being attempted in order to dispassionately judge its felicity. Evidently, such a scenario is inadequate to the messy complexities of videogame play. This paper proposes that by expanding the notion of infelicity through accounts of fetishism and potentiality it becomes possible to see particular performances not as aggregates of units but as multiplicities. The problem then becomes accounting for how particular performances arise out of the multiplicity of play. This approach is then tested through a close reading of the game Planescape: Torment, a game which instantiates this expanded notion of infelicity at thematic, structural and narrative levels.