Water, game, power. Biopolitical hypotheses of serious games’ interpretation

This is water is the commencement speech with which David Foster Wallace greeted undergraduates at Kenyon College in Gambier in 2005. It is an insightful speech. It shows on a literary level the dynamic through which biopolitical dispositifs exert their pervasive and ubiquitous power over human beings, reduced arguably to bare life. A power that, on the one hand, promotes and preserves life; on the other, however, it does not refuse to accomplish thanatological outcomes. Biopolitics is probably ambivalent. Various educational devices help to maintain and reproduce this form of governance. Their processes and products are affected, we hypothesize, by the same ambivalence. One example is school assessment. But gaming and, within it, serious games, are paradigmatic examples as well. It is easy to rigorously demonstrate their value. It seems, however, that from the perspective indicated by human capital theory, homo ludens may represent a declination of homo oeconomicus, one of the operators through which biopolitics exerts its grip on human beings.