Our theme of discussion for this past week of class has been largely concerned with the concept of “Time”. As such, my blog post this week will be dedicated to the task of exploring the greater cultural implications of the function and progression of time with Hotel Dusk: Room 215.
This week, I found M. M. Bakhtin’s article, “Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel: Notes toward a Historical Poetics,” to be particularly relevant to my experience of Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Bakhtin complicates the notion of time as he asserts, “In the literary artistic chronotope, spatial and temporal indicators are fused into one carefully thought-out, concrete whole” (Bakhtin, 15). This is to say that Bakhtin suggests that the concept of time cannot be considered separate from the space in which it resides—the two are irreversibly entangled with each informing, molding the other. In our own series of class discussions about the subject, we attempted to reconcile Bakhtin’s concept of the literary chronotope with our respective games. When it came to my turn to speak, I was initially flustered—while HD: R 215 drew from some of the qualities characterized by Bakhtin’s list of generic literary chronotopes, e.g. those portrayed by the provincial town, the threshold, it could not be clearly placed into any single specific category. The hotel, to me, seemed into exist in a sort of liminal state between the chronotopes of the “castle” and the “road”. As such, I suggested that the hotel could be considered its own chronotope. I would now like to take the opportunity to refine this assertion and to explore its potential implications.
Hotel Dusk is very much steeped in a sense of the historical past. The player’s objective in Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is fueled by the desire to uncover the secrets of past events, whether it be Kyle’s own murky life prior to becoming a salesman for Red Crown or the respective histories of the various hotel patrons/employees. The structure of the hotel, itself, is antiquated, dilapidated, further contributing to a sense of the “historicity” suggested by Bakhtin in his characterization of the chronotope of the “castle”. At the same time, however, Hotel Dusk can be considered as much “flowing” or “simultaneous” as it can “historical”. As mentioned in class, there is sense of temporary-ness that pervades the hotel. After all, patrons do not check-in to a hotel to live there for eternity, nor, once checked-in, are they content to do no more than sit in their respective rooms waiting for one to interview them. Within the diegesis of HD: R 215, these encounters with hotel guests are largely presented as “events governed by chance” e.g. Kyle realizing that the bellhop of Hotel Dusk is actually Louie, a recently-released criminal (Bakhtin, 17).The hotel, then, is constantly in a state of flux—a state of “simultaneity” and “chance” best characterized by Bakhtin’s example of “the road”.
Now, if we are to understand Hotel Dusk, indeed, as its own original gamic chronotope—one existing between the chronotopes of “the castle” and “the road”—the question must be asked: “What effect does this sense of understanding have upon one’s actual experience of the game?” Bakhtin seems to suggest that “the chronotope, functioning as the primary means for materializing time in space, emerges as a center for concretizing representation” (Bakhtin, 22). His assertion, however, at least to me, seems eerily similar to the idea of “immersion” in videogames—an idea that I understand to be an unconstructive platitude within the field of game studies. That said, I find myself at a loss when it comes to offering an alternative hypothesis. At the very least, I would agree with Bakhtin’s second assertion, that chronotopes “provide the basis for distinguishing generic types” insofar that the chronotope of Hotel Dusk does seem to distinguish itself from other game “genres” (in ways discussed above).