Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

The Reality in Fantasy: A Digital Dialogue

July 16th, 2014 · No Comments

The Reality in Fantasy:

A Digital Dialogue


In David Buckingham’s Media Education (2003), he argues that “media representations can be seen as real in some ways but not in others: we may know that something is fantasy, yet recognize that it can still tell us about reality” (58). Taking Buckingham’s notion several steps further, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek claims that it is only through fantasy that we are able to approach so-called reality (“Slavoj Zizek on the Matrix and Video Games”). To my mind, nowhere is the mediated dialogue between reality and fantasy staged more consistently than in digital gaming. Indeed, digital gaming does not separate fantasy and reality but rather associates them for a tidy profit.

Fantasy, in these instances, has the potential to jump out of traditional categories and illustrates the volatile and productive association between “illusion” and “reality”, one of dependence and solidarity. When we isolate fantasy from reality, we limit a wide range of experience and expression that can arouse activism and nourish new modalities for change – deadly serious ones not because they elude the logic of traditional barriers and hierarchies but because fantasy looks at reality from unique and inverted angles. And it is precisely these angles of fantasy rubbing up against the edges of reality that lets us theorize and try to represent new dimensions and thought.The connection that digital gaming draws between these two categories suggests that, for a gamer, it is not about reaching a condition that no longer requires illusions, but instead imagining a reality where fantasy is possible. And the fantasy that seems particularly impossible to recognize in our present is the fantasy Marx refers to as the “species life” of society – those occasions where individuals regard themselves as members of a community, and, therefore, where their actions are consciously performed as communal beings (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts 33-34). The fantasy we refuse to entertain is the reality of social production: against the backdrop of a global economy (where the pervasiveness of commodification is matched only by its intangible abstraction, where the clothes I purchase (re)produce exploited spaces and lives, where the figures with whom I may identify are “the gamer”, the “blogger”, and “the first person shooter”, and where social relations are virtual but no less concrete for all that) the capacity to consciously reconfigure our relationship to our own labor and consumption has never been more imperative. Ironically, maybe the place to start is in our “fantasies” rather than our “realities”.



Works Cited

Buckingham, David. Media Education. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2003. Print.

Marx, Karl. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” in The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd

Ed. Trans. Martin Milligan. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,

1972. Print.

“Slavoj Zizek on the Matrix and Video Games.” YouTube. 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.


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