Impermanent Aliens – Modifying the digital body in Prey

17. Mai 2023
Abstract: Self-Enhancement is a prominent feature of 'Prey' (2017), as well as of other games within the concept of immersive sim, such as the 'Deus Ex' series (2000-2016) or 'Dishonored 2' (2016), offering complex opportunities for reflections on body-modification and its role for construction of identity. Even though these strategies aren’t exclusively reserved to immersive sims, the principles of the concept allow a direct connection between the enhancement of the avatar and the influence of chosen approaches of playing on the digital environment. Applying cyberfeminist perspectives to the analysis of decision-making for (or against) modifying the digital body within 'Prey', the immersive sim presents itself as potential game concept for reflections on possibilities of queered identities.

Introduction

Within the game concept of immersive sim, body-modification is frequently taking a prominent role in narrative and mechanics. While obviously also present throughout various other genres and types of games, within the immersive sim we not only find a consequential model of implementation, but also narratives, which often address questions of transforming, mutating, and modifying the digital body.

With Prey,1 Arkane Studios presented a further addition to the tradition of the immersive sim dealing with body-modification. Tied closely in both its mechanics and narrative to the groundbreaking System Shock2 and perceived as a “contemporary re-imagination”3 of said game, it not only functions as a recent example for the established characteristics of immersive sims, but also adds its own unique features through mimetic skills and a multi-layered metalepsis. Within the framework of this combination, Prey integrates postmodern concepts of identity and references techno-feminist perspectives on digital individuals and their spatial and social environment. Through the nature of the medium, the game can be read as a simulation of those abstract concepts, building a direct connection between the enhancement of the avatar and the influence of chosen approaches of playing in the digital environment.

Taking Prey as a starting point, this article will briefly introduce the specific role of body-modification as narrative and mechanical elements within the immersive sim. Following an introduction into postmodern and techno-feminist positions as a starting point for theoretical reflections, the potential of the game as an experimental system for these theories and their critique will be examined. The digital game is here understood as a radical experimental system,4 which translates complex structures into “recognisable formal-aesthetic simplicity.”5 Following, this framework and understanding of immersive sim will be used to highlight and discuss two aspects of body-modification within Prey, the use of ‘Typhon Powers’ and the implementation of Mimicry. The examination of these particular aspects will not only show the specific relevance of alienated and queered bodies within Prey, but also the relevance and reciprocal reflective potential of body-modification within immersive sim.

Prey – Synopsis and Analysis

Developed by Arkane Studios in 2017, Prey has a science fiction setting and is conceptually an immersive sim, a hybrid concept which will be elaborated throughout the following introduction of the game. Before the background of an alternative history in which the USA and USSR cooperate on a transnational space program, the player character Morgan Yu is introduced. Initially, the players get to decide whether to play the character as male or female. However, this decision has no further influence on the course of the game, besides the visual confrontation of the player with the character through mirrors and video-recordings within the game. During the first minutes of gameplay, the setting seems to be a series of psychological and moral evaluations of Morgan in preparation for their travel to the space station Talos I, owned by their own family empire and operated by their brother Alex. Implementing the thought experiment of the trolley problem, the game anticipates its following key-narrative. Already during the evaluation process the player is introduced to the main class of enemies, when the test personnel are attacked by a Typhon, a shape-shifting alien. After being stunned, the character apparently awakens back in their apartment, seemingly repeating the same day. Almost immediately, this situation is revealed as a simulation. Morgan has already been on Talos I for several years, as a test subject for experiments on neurological body-modification. The station has been taken over by the Typhons, and the player is confronted with the mission to escape and eliminate the Typhon invaders before they reach Earth, by destroying the whole station if necessary. Here, two ethical main strategies are presented to the player. Alex Yu pressures Morgan to detonate a special device, eradicating only the Typhon and leaving the research on the so-called ‘Neuro-Mods’ intact. On the other side, January, an AI created by Morgan and holding their memories, demands the destruction of the whole station, killing the Typhon and potential survivors. January’s main argument here seems to be the ethical impact of Neuro-Mods, denaturalizing humanity, while limiting positive effects to a privileged few. As the story progresses, however, the player is given the opportunity to abandon both strategies, fleeing prematurely from Talos I and leaving everybody on the station to their own fate.

Only after reaching one of those endings, the whole of the game is revealed as a metagame. Talos I has been completely overrun by the Typhon already. The player character is, in fact, a captured Typhon forced to participate in a simulation of the early stages of the invasion. Similar to BioShock,6 this ending subversively renders any previous ethical challenges irrelevant, leaving the player stripped from agency, but also denies a final satisfactory end. Rather, the labyrinth of Talos I turns into a never ending rhizomatic experience.

The gameplay of Prey is shaped by non-linear movement through the deserted space-station. Sneaking through air vents, hiding under tables, floating through the adjacent space, or openly running through the corridors, the player can take advantage of diverse move sets, adapted to different playstyles and allowing stealth-based gameplay just as much as brute force, as well as hybrid approaches. Spatial obstacles and enemies within the level design can be bypassed by detours, overcome by use of weapons, the use of freely moveable items or specific skills, which transform the digital body and can be achieved by merging with alien matter. Especially this last aspect is of elevated importance for this article, as will be discussed in detail later. While moving through the station, the player is confronted with the mimetic Typhons, creatures of an interconnected biological neuro-network, disguising themselves as mundane objects such as cups or hiding within the corpses of dead crew members. Merging with Alien matter, it is possible for Morgan to adapt those shapeshifting skills of the Typhon, as well as their offensive abilities. However, this process of bio-modification is said to add genetic material of the Typhons to Morgan, leading to security turrets turning hostile, recognizing them as Alien.

Adapting and upgrading those Typhon abilities remains optional, different from the Neuro-Mods acquired throughout the game. Different from the radical bio-modification of the Typhon skills, those modifications represent the rather traditional science-fictional element of technophilia7. Based on refined Alien matter, harvested through and combined with human technology, the bio-technological Neuro-Mod functions on a neural level, changing synaptic connections to receive new skills and enhancing the capacities of the user.

While the narrative introduction of Neuro-Mods appears to be shaped mainly by technological enthusiasm in the first place, the first visual encounter potentially shifts the perception towards an understanding of them as potentially harmful devices, violating the physical integrity. The explicit depiction of the self-induced injection of the Neuro-Mod into the character’s eye, while remaining in First-Person-Perspective,8 recalls the similar reflection “of bio-modification as self-mutilation”9 in System Shock. Still, by being almost a necessity throughout the game, the possibility of using the bio-technical modifications for complex ethical reflections is partially dismissed. The physicality of the process, presented within the cutscene, is only visible when applying a Neuro-Mod for the first time. This detachment of bio-technological body-modification from possible ethical implications leaves a decision-space, which is mainly shaped by experimental approaches to physical impermanence.

This decision-space is literally a spatial one. The focus of Prey on the first-hand experience of Talos I characterizes body-modifications as a tool for moving through its labyrinth, following Janet Murray’s understanding of experiencing the maze as shaped by danger and salvation, as well as the combination of cognitive problems and “emotionally symbolic pattern[s].”10 This specific quality of the spatial experience in Prey as a reflective starting point was noted by critics of the game, probably in most detail in a blog post by author Y3W TR33 that compares Deus Ex,11 Dishonored,12 and Prey.

The best moments of the game are when it gives you space to ponder on, and play with, what it means to see and feel in a digital world. And from there is a philosophical throughline [in] the game, drawing a line between humanity and cruelty, power and weakness, immersion and otherwise.13

Before expanding on the depiction of body-modification as a reactive and alienating measure, it is first necessary to briefly introduce and distinguish the specific nature of modified bodies within immersive sims in comparison to other concepts and genres.

Better, Faster, Stronger? Modifying the Digital Body

Body-modifications as an aspect of game mechanics and narration are obviously not just limited to the immersive sim. Following the definition of immersive sim as a cross-genre concept, various influences from Role-Playing Games (RPG) and First Person Shooter (FPS) can be found. Still, there are significant characteristics of body-modification within games such as Prey which define the potential for reflections on alienated and alienating bodies, shown throughout the course of this article.

Traditional FPS present body-modification as a game-mechanic located in the linear game process, in which a clearly defined goal must be achieved through clearly pre-defined actions. The implementation of technological enhancement of the digital body there typically takes two different forms, the inclusion of the UI into the narration and the optimization of the destructive skills of the avatar. Treyarchs Call of Duty: Black Ops III,14 presenting a Direct Neural Interface as a core-element, can here be taken as an example for a narrative explanation of a tactical HUD. Additionally, all abilities, depicted as cybernetic implants, are solely used to optimize the fights, there is no alternative to the genre-typical combat. A slightly more diverse example can be found within Crystal Dynamics’ FPS Project: Snowblind,15 which as a rebranded result of the unpublished Deus Ex: Clan Wars loosely ties the game to the canonical immersive sim Deus Ex. Here, the player uses various “Bio Mods”, which are unlocked throughout the game. Those skills, as well as the level design of Project: Snowblind, also include support for stealth approaches. But where games like Dishonored or the aforementioned Deus Ex are mostly treating stealth, combat, or the combination of both as equal solutions,16 the body-modifications of Project: Snowblind are primarily functioning as enhancements for combat action. Those skills are automatically unlocked during the campaign, leaving the player with no agency in modifying the digital body, but instead forcing the narration of optimization. The presentation of the benefits of body-modification in FPS can be summed up in the words of Josh Call as creating a "bigger, better, stronger, faster"17 body, which is able to dominate enemies on the linear digital battlefield through various offensive measurements.

Similarly, most RPGs present a vast variety of combat-based skills, often extended by skill-based dialogue options and crafting systems. While there are typically more diverse options of adjustment to personal approaches to gameplay, the use of combat abilities is commonly not avoidable. A major difference in comparison to the described representation of body-modification in FPS is here typically the separation of body and skill, as well as the lack of a narrative integration of HUDs. While achieving abilities mostly doesn’t translate visually or narratively into the transformation of the avatars body, detailed options for visual customisations are characteristic for RPGs. While usually limited to aesthetical measures for modifying the appearance of the character, the changes to the digital body made by the player can be “understood as a mode of self expression”18, rather than adapting to a personal approach to play.

In contrast to this concept of representation stands the depiction of cybernetic upgrades in immersive sims. Within the various possible solutions to the experienced conflicts and challenges, they function as optional individual customizations, with the ability to support individual playstyles. While the linear gameplay and modification within FPS denies agency, the available options of modification or the complete abandonment of the same while playing immersive sims are rendering the digital body a “site of political choice,”19 creating a mutual influence of game and player. Opposed to the linear enhancement of the digital body in FPS, the approach of immersive sims implies also active decisions against specific ways of playing as well as spontaneous adaptive actions. If the digital body is already impermanent in the classic FPS, it additionally becomes inconsistent in the purposeful transformation within immersive sim, based not on a prescribed plan but based on potentially changing environments, challenges and perception of the digital self. This approach to game mechanic narration finds it links within techno-feminist and postmodern theories, which will be briefly introduced in the following segment, before being applied to the examination of Prey.

An Alien Existence

Approaching the modification of bodies within Prey from a theoretical viewpoint, the two perspectives on its narrative genre (Science Fiction) and ludic concept (immersive sim) become important. Usually left out in the examination of immersive sims, specifically with regard to Prey, the narrative genre holds a specific relevance. Not only is the game an immersive sim, but furthermore located specifically within Science Fiction. This narrative aspect is not unique to Prey at all, but appears as characteristic of immersive sims. Examining the narrative tropes, from the representation of cyberpunk in Deus Ex, steampunk in Dishonored, to the cyberspace of System Shock, the broader concept of Science Fiction seems to become an overarching motif throughout immersive sims.

But how does the narrative genre of Prey relate to the theoretical examination of the game?

In his genre debate and analysis of Deathloop,20 Hans-Joachim Backe already argues for the immersive sim being recognized as tied to the aesthetics of post-modernity.21 Backe here focuses on the design ethos and conceptuality, pointing out the hybrid nature of immersive sims within game genres. While within his analysis, Deathloop’s meta-modernism and the post-modernism of other immersive sim are clearly distinct from each other, within the scope of the following argument, the concepts are here understood as source and derivate, starting and carrying on the postmodern deconstruction of subjects through technoscience.22

Proposing a distinction between the conceptual genre (e.g. FPS, RPG, etc.) as examined by Backe and the narrative genre, in this case Science Fiction, allows not only the location of immersive sim as conceptually postmodern, but also as dealing with questions of postmodernity on a narrative level. Veronica Hollinger, in Cybernetic Deconstructions, defines specifically the problematization of the distinction between natural and artificial as a symptom of the postmodern condition of Science Fiction,23 a motif easily transferable to immersive sims. Conversely, she also points out the intensive adaption of science fiction iconography and tropes within postmodern texts,24 creating a reciprocal relation between theory and fiction. This relation is marked by one of the major aspects of both Science Fiction and Postmodernism, the instability of the humanist concept of the self in the face of structural intersections between humanity and technology25.

A central topic of postmodern thinking is how the perception of identity is no longer closely tied to the absolute essential nature of the physical body. It is overturned and replaced by the assumption of “infinitely mutable”26 abstract and physical identities.

This dissolution of the body as continuous matter needs to be understood not as an end in itself, but a forward-looking reaction and adaptation to the surroundings of the individual. Gustave Claudin already in 1867 describes the underlying feeling of alienation as venturing into a new world shaped by science:

Nous voudrions bien nous y aventurer; mais nous ne tardons pas à reconnaître qu'il comporte une constitution qui nous manque et des organes qui nous font défaut.27

Already in the 19th century, Claudin anticipates what later will shape the postmodern idea of the cyborg and cybernetic self-mutation, following Donna Haraway’s introduction of the concept. Within her understanding, the cyborg as the ultimate bio-technological cybernetic being is defined as a positively irrational answer to the rational structure of modernity.28 The concept is inherently anti-humanist, enhancing and replacing Claudins ‘missing organs’ with technological devices, achieving the constitution for being able to venture into a strange world shaped by technology and science.

Even though highly criticized for their references to accelerationism and misreadings of Marx29, it is also worth to here include a critical outlook on Xenofeminism: A politics for Alienation30 by the collective Laboria Cuboniks, at least in regards to their understanding of technophile practices of body-modification as a reactive measure and to specify the alienation shining through in Claudins Paris.

Central assumption of Laboria Cuboniks’ manifesto is the contemporary existence of the individual within “a world in vertigo,”31 an environment shaped by virtuality, abstract structures and incomprehensible technology. While this assumption is not specific to xenofeminism, its unique proposition to counter these mechanics is inherently to appropriate them. Understanding technology as shaped by the risk of exploitation, control, and imbalance,32 Laboria Cuboniks argue for a rationalist appropriation of it as a tool, realizing its emancipatory potential for marginalized groups and embracing the ‘anti-modesty’ of synthetic existence. This ‘anti-modesty’ defines itself through the “monstrous complexity”33 of the surrounding environment, the adoption of the same complexity and making oneself incomprehensible from the outside. Instead of a defensive separation and solidarity with the familiar, increasing the factor of fear, xenofeminism argues for the “outward looking solidarity with the alien, the foreign, and the figure of the stranger,”34 creating the so-called ‘xenofam,’ as opposed to the ‘biofam.’35

Laboria Cuboniks’ theories admittedly lack concretization of the concepts they propose. This vagueness, combined with their techno-enthusiasm, finds its critical counterpoint, besides Annie Gohs contemporary writing36, already in Bruce Sterlings similar critique of cyberpunk in 1987, defining the risk of the genre as prone to the implementation of “Nietzschean philosophical fascism, the belief in the overman and the worship of will to power.”37

Still, xenofeminist readings of Prey in the light of post-modernism can be considered an effective method to examine the creation of embodied identities within the game, especially through the theory’s focus on making kinship with the previously strange and monstrous.

Through the game’s metalepsis, self-alienation is not defined as an accelerationist fantasy, but located within the tension between coping and postmodern questions “about the sense of it all.”38

Mimetic Behaviour, Mutilation and Transgression

Even with the upgrades, though, so far I still feel like I’m constantly under threat as I wander lonely through the now-abandoned space station. Just surviving is an ongoing struggle[.]39

As already indicated, the experience of Prey is predominantly shaped by the spatial encounter of Talos I, filled with carefully placed references and objects of a former lively space station, now abandoned. While the player is reconstructing the stories of former crew members through emails, objects and hidden notes in the now potentially hostile labyrinth of Talos I, not only a feeling of constant threat but also alienation through the abandoned familiar arises. Maze-like from the beginning, the further the game goes on, the more and more complex it gets, opening new ways through new skills, creating the tangled paths, which give, quoting Murray on labyrinths and rhizomes, “shape to anxiety.”40 Gaining new skills to make new paths accessible constantly offers new options to avoid known risks and dangers, while still replacing those with unknown ones.

The modified body of Morgan Yu, in correspondence with the multi-path-environment and the player’s decision, is constituted by specificity, which Haraway identified as a vital aspect of postmodern cybernetic identities.41 Specificity can here be understood as an expression of adaptive delineation of the self, a process based purely on individual purpose and use, rather than classification within identity categories. This correlates with the hybrid playstyles within Prey, as well as in immersive sims in general, overcoming the strict class system of traditional FPS and RPG systems. The possible wish to modify and transform the digital body therefore appears as a reaction, embedded into the spatial experience. The reactive nature is supported also by the aforementioned scarcity of resources and Neuro-Mods, forcing the player to take active and aware decisions for (or against) modifying the digital body.

While the player adapts to the spatial surroundings through the techno-physical modification, the direct threat through the Typhon is not resolved. Even though enemy encounters are rather rare42 and often can be avoided by taking hidden paths, the mimetic nature of the Typhon and the vulnerability of Morgan Yu towards some Typhon-classes still potentially leaves a perception of the surroundings as constantly threatening. Especially in the beginning of the game, the player might feel underpowered,43 which is an incentive to either use heavy weaponry or to adopt the second type of modifications for the digital body, the ‘Typhon-powers.’ Scanning organic alien matter unlocks the ability to appropriate Typhon abilities by injecting alien DNA.44 Most of those abilities are combat-based, allowing to imitate special attacks of the Typhon, to shield against specific types of damage or to create a supporting alien through ‘Phantom Genesis.’ Still, the approach of those combat skills can be distinguished from the earlier introduced examples of FPS45 and Josh Calls understanding of the modified body. The traditional combat skills of FPS, as already discussed earlier, allow players to defeat larger and larger groups of enemies, sometimes tending towards the image of a “super-soldier.”46 Meanwhile, the decision for using the Typhon-skills within Prey is leveling out the danger posed even by single enemies,47 allowing the player to approach enemies as equals through biological familiarization.

Outside the primarily combat-focused alien skills, one Typhon-power produces a feature unique to Prey. Especially from the perspective of body-modification as a reaction, the mimetic skills available to the player deserve a closer look. While mimicry game mechanics are first exclusively limited to the aliens, the avatar can gain those same skills during the game through the available Typhon modifications. The transformation of the avatar's human body into other objects or creatures, as well as the reformation into a human body, renders the individual body impermanent and inconsistent. This impermanence and inconsistency crosses the boundaries of the finite flesh, the traditionally defined body as an “absolute material limit.”48

While initially, the adaptation of Typhon-skills, especially the mimetic ones, seems unequivocally positive, this is problematized quite fast. As soon as Morgan Yu is implemented with two or more Typhon modifications, gun-turrets begin targeting them due to the recognition of alien matter. Additionally, the use of those powers in the presence of human NPCs will turn most of them hostile, too. Still, especially the mimetic skills of the Typhons may remain appealing to the player, not only because they add a new game mechanic that opens new possible routes and strategies, but also because of the option of aligning oneself with the threat posed by the uncertainty of the spatial experience.

The depiction of mimesis in Prey ties into theoretical thoughts on mimetic behaviour and functions once again as an applied example for social theories. Cultural historian Roger Caillois states that Mimesis doesn’t necessarily hold a survivalist quality but might even endanger the mimicking individual.49 According to this definition, Mimesis can be understood rather as an act of modification of the physical self, instead of optimization. So, if Mimicry isn’t necessarily a mechanic for survival, what constitutes its value for the individual? Based on Caillois’ writing, Elizabeth Grosz states that “Mimesis is particularly significant in outlining the ways in which the relations between an organism and its environment are blurred and confused.”50 This implies a partial abolition of the distinction between the spatial and social experience and the individual, merging organism and environment within the Mimesis51. This process isn’t characterized as a solution-orientated reaction, but rather an expression of the confusion created by the perception of the self and the surrounding environment52. The result is the creation of a hybrid self, which is rather focused on coping with the experienced surroundings than dominating them. The attempt of rational understanding of the game space, transported through the animated human body or, in case of FPS, the implication of the same, is abandoned in the moment of mimesis.

Turning oneself into a Mimic thus functions as a mechanism to de-abstract the unknown.

The narrative and mechanics of the game embrace what Sophie Lewis already states in her critique of the earlier introduced Xenofeminist Manifesto, enhancing Laboria Cuboniks’ reductive use of alienation with a re-assessed understanding. Instead of focusing on alienating oneself through bio-technological modification, the body in the beginning of Prey is understood as alienated from its surrounding environment. Picking up Caillois’ theoretical remarks, remaking the physical body through bio-technical modification and mimesis functions as a reactive way of disalienating the self from its surroundings.53 The self, while alienated from its original finite material starting point, gets closer to the previously strange environment. The actual disalienation additionally shifts on a scale, depending on the individual player’s perception of the surroundings. Freely adapting to varying factors of estrangement, the player might relocate themselves closer to the aggressive Typhon or focus on their own spatiality. The qualities of those factors remain the same, creating a moment of participation with the spatial reality.

In other words, we will have, immersed in the game world, a greater feeling of presence […] the more our virtual body is capable of executing […] certain tasks required for his participation into the virtual world.54

Conclusion

As shown throughout the previous segments, Prey becomes a story of alienated existence, presented through the spatial experience of Talos I and its inhabitants. The response to this experience is the physical modification of the body, which is continuously embedded into the play process, and conditions individual synthesis of the digital self. The modified body in Prey becomes a metaphorical tool of adapting and reflecting the game space, a measure of coping and temporarily gaining control through shifting and relocating oneself into the alien.

Especially within the final scenes of Prey, the focus of the narrative on reflecting on the enhancement and transformation of bodies becomes clear, offering a final connection to the introduced theories of Xenofeminism. Depending on the choices made throughout the game, the player might get confronted with the social criticism on Neuro-Mods by January or poetic musings on the end and transformation of humanity after killing the Typhon. At last, the interconnection of body-modification, Xenofeminism and Prey becomes evident in the final scene, revealing any previous action within the game’s narrative as part of a simulation. Alex Yu explains the role of the captured Typhon here as a potential link between humanity and the alien, modified through the experience of the simulation. In the following, the perspective of Alex shows its partial parallels to Helen Hesters notion of the ‘xenofam’, the adaption of the formerly strange and the familiarization with it.

We spent years trying to put what you can do into us. We never tried putting what we can do into you. Until now. You’re the bridge between our species.55

While the reflective potential of Prey for xeno- and cyberfeminist perspectives has become clear throughout the last segments, it is not limited to just this specific example. Placing Prey within the context of examples like System Shock and Deus Ex and pointing out their similarities in the aesthetics and mechanics of body-modification, as well as the concept-typical references to cyberpunk, immersive sim could be considered a concept specifically dealing with modified bodies. Based on the structural findings of Prey, I propose an understanding of play and narration of immersive sim as a potential site for a risk-conscious emancipation through self-modification, aware of closing down specific paths through modifications, while still opening up new paths, which are perceived as the most fitting ones.

Media index

Games

Arkane Lyon: Deathloop. [Windows]. Rockville, USA: Bethesda Softworks 2021.

Arkane Studios: Dishonored. [PS3]. Rockville, USA: Bethesda Softworks 2012.

Arkane Studios: Prey. [Windows]. Rockville, USA: Bethesda Softworks 2017.

Crystal Dynamics: Project Snowblind. [Windows] ]London, UK: Eidos Interactive 2005.

Ion Storm: Deus Ex. [PS2]. London, UK: Eidos Interactive 2000.

LookingGlass Technologies: System Shock. [Windows]. Austin, USA: Origin Systems 1994.

Treyarch: Call of Duty: Black Ops III. [PS3]. Santa Monica, USA: Activison 2015.

2K Boston: BioShock. [PS3]. Novato, USA: 2K Games 2007.

Texts

Backe, Hans-Joachim: Two Ways through the Looking Glass. Game Design as an Expression of Philosophy of Action. In: Proceedings of The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference. Kraków, Poland: 2017. https://gamephilosophy2017.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/backe_pocg2017.pdf [13.10.2022].

Backe, Hans-Joachim: ‘Deathloop’: the Meta(modern) immersive simulation Game. In: Game Studies. The international journal of computer game research. Vol. 22, 2 (2022). http://gamestudies.org/2202/articles/gap_backe [14.10.2022].

Caillois, Roger: Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia. In: October. Vol. 31 (1984), pp. 12-32.

Call, Josh: Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster: Disposable Bodies and Cyborg Construction. In: Vorhees, Gerald; Call, Josh; Whitlock, Katie (ed.): Guns, Grenades, and Grunts: First-Person Shooter Games. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing 2012, pp. 133-151.

Claudin, Gustave: Paris. Paris, France: E. Dentu 1862.

Doane, Mary Ann: Technophilia: Technology, Representation and the Feminine. In: Wolmark, Jenny (ed.): Cybersexualities: A Reader in Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press 1999, pp. 20-33.

Duckworth, A.: Postmodernity and the Concept of the Cyborg. 2009. https://ardfilmjournal.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/postmodernity-and-the-concept-of-the-cyborg/ [14.10.2022].

Gleeson, Jules: Breakthroughs & Bait: On xenofeminism and alienation. 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20230128000250/https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/breakthroughs-bait-xenofeminism-alienation [14.10.2022].

Goh, Annie: Appropriating the Alien: A critique of yenofeminism. 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20230328220657/https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/appropriating-alien-critique-xenofeminism [14.10.2022].

Gomes, Renata: The design of narrative as an immersive simulation. In: DiGRA ’05 – Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference Changing Views: Worlds in Play. 2005.

Grosz, Elizabeth: Space, Time, and Bodies. In: Wolmark, Jenny (ed.): Cybersexualities: A Reader in Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press 1999, pp. 119-136.

Haraway, Donna: A Cyborg Manifesto. In: Haraway, Donna: Manifestly Haraway. Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press 2016.

Hester, Helen: Xenofeminism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press 2018.

Hollinger, Veronica: Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism. In: Wolmark, Jenny (ed.): Cybersexualities: A Reader in Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press 1999, pp. 174-190

Laboria Cuboniks: Xenofeminism. A Politics for Alienation. 2015. https://laboriacuboniks.net/manifesto/xenofeminism-a-politics-for-alienation/ [14.10.2022].

Lewis, Sophie: Cyborg sentiments. 2019. https://www.redpepper.org.uk/cyborg-sentiments/ [12.10.2022].

Moi, Toril: Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. New York, USA: Methuen 1985.

Murray, Janet: Hamlet on the Holodeck. The future of narrative in cyberspace. Updated Edition. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press 2017.

Oleszczuk, Anna; Waszkiewicz, Agata: Body modifications and the limits of gender identity in video games. In: Rees, Emma (ed.): The Routledge Companion to Gender, Sexuality and Culture. London, UK: Routledge 2022, pp. 206-214. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780367822040.

Orland, Kyle: ‘Prey’ impressions: Underpowered and loving it. 2017. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hands-on-in-prey-youll-love-being-weak-vulnerable-and-hunted/ [14.10.2022].

Pitts, Victoria. In the Flesh. The Cultural Politics of Body Modification. New York, USA: Palgrave Macmillan 2003.

Schemer-Reinhard, Timo: HCI und Formgenese. Zur Geburt der modernen Computerbedienung aus Kunst, Arbeit, Wissenschaft und Spiel. Glückstadt, Germany: Verlag Werner Hülsbusch 2021.

Stang, Sarah: ‘This Action Will Have Consequences’: Interactivity and Player Agency. In: Game Studies. The international journal of computer game research. Vol. 19, 1 (2019). http://gamestudies.org/1901/articles/stang [13.10.2022].

Sterling, Bruce. Letter from Bruce Sterling. In: REM. Vol. 7 (1987), pp. 4-7.

Vermeulen, Timotheus; van den Akker, Robin: Notes on metamodernism. In: Journal of Aesthetics & Culture. Vol. 2, 1 (2010). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5677 [14.10.2022].

Y3W_TR33: The Politics of the immersive sim. 22.11.2019. https://longpaleroad.com/2019/11/22/the-politics-of-the-immersive-sim/ [13.10.2022].

Videos

SneakySquidGames: Prey – Installing the first Neuromod. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKdneOpmeQQ [13.10.2022].

VGS – Video Game Sophistry: Prey: All Endings (Good, Evil, Destruction, Nullwave + Secret). 2017. Prey: All Endings (Good, Evil, Destruction, Nullwave + Secret) - YouTube [02.02.2023].

VGS – Video Game Sophistry: Prey: Becoming Alien, Gaining Powers. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzNDjGyp320 [12.10.2022].

Pictures

Arkane Studios: Prey. [Windows]. Rockville, USA: Bethesda Softworks 2017. Own Screenshot.

  1. Arkane Studios: Prey. 2017.[]
  2. LookingGlass Technologies: System Shock. 1994.[]
  3. Backe. Looking Glass. 2017, p. 8. https://gamephilosophy2017.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/backe_pocg2017.pdf [13.10.2022].[]
  4. Schemer-Reinhard: HCI. 2021, p. 206.[]
  5. Leschke: Formen. 2010, p. 297. As quoted by Schemer-Reinhardt: HCI. 2021, p. 206.[]
  6. 2K Boston: BioShock. 2007. []
  7. Doane: Technophilia. 1999, p. 20f.[]
  8. SneakySquidGames: Prey. 2017, 00:00:12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKdneOpmeQQ [13.10.2022].[]
  9. Backe: Looking Glass. 2017, p. 8.[]
  10. Murray: Hamlet. 2017, p. 126.[]
  11. Ion Storm: Deus Ex. 2000.[]
  12. Arkane Studios: Dishonored. 2012.[]
  13. Y3W_TR33: The politics of the immersive sim. 2019. https://longpaleroad.com/2019/11/22/the-politics-of-the-immersive-sim/ [22.11.2019].[]
  14. Treyarch: Call of Duty: Black Ops III. 2015.[]
  15. Crystal Dynamics: Project: Snowblind. 2005.[]
  16. Especially with regard to the Deus Ex-series, it has to be pointed out that even there, the equality of solutions is still limited to regular levels and their multicursal layout, while boss fights after the first installment of the series fully rely on combat.[]
  17. Call: Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster. 2012, p. 133.[]
  18. Oleszczuk; Waszkiewicz: Body Modifications. 2022, p.209.[]
  19. Call: Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster. 2012, p. 139.[]
  20. Arkane Lyon: Deathloop. 2021.[]
  21. Backe: Deathloop. 2022. http://gamestudies.org/2202/articles/gap_backe [14.10.2022].[]
  22. Pitts: In the Flesh. 2003, p. 152.[]
  23. Hollinger: Cybernetic Deconstructions. 1999, p.174f.[]
  24. See ibid., p. 174f.[]
  25. See Moi: Sexual/Textual Politics. 1985, p.10.[]
  26. Duckworth: Postmodernity. 2009. https://ardfilmjournal.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/postmodernity-and-the-concept-of-the-cyborg/ [14.10.2022].[]
  27. Claudin: Paris. 1862, p.73. eng.: We would like to venture in it; but we would soon recognize that it includes a constitution that we miss and some organs we lack.[]
  28. Duckworth: Postmodernity. 2009. https://ardfilmjournal.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/postmodernity-and-the-concept-of-the-cyborg/ [14.10.2022].[]
  29. Goh: Appropriating the Alien. 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20230328220657/https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/appropriating-alien-critique-xenofeminism [14.10.2022] & Gleeson: Breakthroughs & Bait. 2019. https://web.archive.org/web/20230128000250/https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/breakthroughs-bait-xenofeminism-alienation [14.10.2022].[]
  30. Laboria Cuboniks: Xenofeminism. 2015. https://laboriacuboniks.net/manifesto/xenofeminism-a-politics-for-alienation/ [14.10.2022] The following quotes utilize the ordering system of the manifesto, which uses a combination of letters and numbers instead of page numbers.[]
  31. Ibid. 0x00.[]
  32. Ibid. 0x02.[]
  33. Ibid. 0x05.[]
  34. Hester: Xenofeminism. 2018, p.65.[]
  35. Ibid. p.65.[]
  36. Goh: Appropriating the Alien. 2019. https://www.metamute.org/editorial/articles/appropriating-alien-critique-xenofeminism [14.10.2022].[]
  37. Sterling: Letter. 1987, p. 5.[]
  38. Vermeulen; van den Akker: Metamodernism. 2010, p. 6. []
  39. Orland: ’Prey’ impressions. 2017. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hands-on-in-prey-youll-love-being-weak-vulnerable-and-hunted/ [14.10.2022].[]
  40. Murray: Hamlet. 2016, p.129.[]
  41. Haraway: Cyborg Manifesto. 2016, p.7.[]
  42. Orland: ’Prey’ impressions. 2017. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hands-on-in-prey-youll-love-being-weak-vulnerable-and-hunted/ [14.10.2022].[]
  43. Ibid. []
  44. VGS: Prey. 2017, 00:01:08. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzNDjGyp320 [12.10.2022][]
  45. The use of this term here and following is of course reductive and refers to the examples (especially DOOM)that Josh Call uses in his already quoted analysis Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster.[]
  46. Orland: Prey’ impressions. 2017. https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2017/05/hands-on-in-prey-youll-love-being-weak-vulnerable-and-hunted/ [14.10.2022].[]
  47. Ibid. []
  48. Doane: Technophilia. 1999, p.20.[]
  49. Caillois: Mimicry. 1984, p.25.[]
  50. Grosz: Space, Time and Bodies. 1999, p. 123.[]
  51. Ibid., p. 123.[]
  52. Ibidbid., p. 124. []
  53. Lewis: Cyborg sentiments. 2019. https://www.redpepper.org.uk/cyborg-sentiments/ [12.10.2022].[]
  54. Gomes: Design of Narrative. 2007, p.2. []
  55. Arkane Studios: Prey. 2017. Also see: VGS: Prey: All Endings. 2017. 00:18:40. Prey: All Endings (Good, Evil, Destruction, Nullwave + Secret) - YouTube [02.02.2023].[]

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Mayer, Aska: "Impermanent Aliens – Modifying the digital body in Prey". In: PAIDIA – Zeitschrift für Computerspielforschung. 17.05.2023, https://paidia.de/impermanent-aliens-modifying-the-digital-body-in-prey/. [03.03.2024 - 22:19]

Autor*innen:

Aska Mayer

Aska Mayer is a researcher with a background in Fine Arts and Art Theory, focussing on idea-historical approaches to apocalyptic narratives, as well as modified bodies in BioArts and Digital Games. Currently based in Finland, Aska is completing a master’s degree in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art, researching on the representation and reception of crisis in digital games in relation to the concept of Neo-Baroque.