Computer Gaming and Protocols of Improvisation

Social Codes

In his detailed study African Rhythm and African Sensibility, Chernoff describes the profound relationship between spiritual beliefs, social decorum, and concrete performance techniques in improvised communal events: "Those who have pressed us to recognize the achievements of extemporaneous improvisation have often under-emphasized the importance of organization to the critical aesthetic sense" (122). Chernoff describes how the apparently spontaneous and improvisatory music is performed within a set of codes, some related to the aesthetics of performance, some related to social contingencies. Reciprocity and restraint compliment energy and expressivity in framing the performance of music.

"It might be said that the schizophrenic passes from one code to the other, that he deliberately scrambles all the codes, by quickly shifting from one to the other..." (Deleuze and Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, 15).

As Chernoff explains it, improvisation is both vernacular and closely related to cultural codes which frame the performance in a network of social relations. These relations have a profound effect on the aesthetics of performance, the styles of improvisation, and the reception of the performance by the audience.

Computer gameplay also takes place within a network of social relations, especially important to gamers seeking out the lore of their current obsession, strategies for play, or other players. To what extent is the playing of games a performance for others? To what extent is the performance of the game an escape from the restrictive codes of society?