[-empyre-] Taming the machine

Claudia Pederson ccp9 at cornell.edu
Sat Mar 9 10:31:18 EST 2013

Paolo, not sure what you mean by Newtonian materialism?

I was wondering whether you could speak a bit about your portrayal of the
videogame industry as "the dictatorship of entertainment." What is your
sentiment on the industry, as well as indie gaming? And how do you see
persuasive games fit in?

On Thu, Mar 7, 2013 at 6:35 PM, paolo - molleindustria <
paolo at molleindustria.it> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> A few messages ago, talking about an interdisciplinary collaboration in
> game development, Renate Ferro mentions the clash of culture between
> students from art school, tasked with the conceptualization of new games,
> and engineering students, in charge of their technical implementation:
> "Feedback from the gaming students provided insight that the
> collaborative plans were too "difficult" to realize with their
> relatively new programming skills. I rather doubt that now.  The
> artists gave up disappointed that their collaborative ideas and
> conceptual drawings were for nothing."
> I'd say that the project, from what I gather, was a recipe for disaster
> from starters. Videogame development is an iterative process that requires
> a certain familiarity with computation and game design in general. Fresh
> perspectives from other fields should be encouraged, but setting up a
> hierarchy of artists/ideators and engineers/makers, especially when gender
> divide and different campus cultures come into play, is a really bad idea.
> As permaculture suggests, the most interesting things happen in the
> margins, where different ecosystems collide and mingle.
> We should cultivate these liminal spaces in our institutions and in
> society in general, but this has to involve a certain fluidity of roles.
> Programmers need to be able solve the most peculiar "problem" which is to
> create new and interesting problems. Artists need to get their hands dirty
> with code and adopt a process that is as user-centric as it is egocentric.
> I wouldn't dismiss the possibility that artist-driven designs were
> actually extraordinarily difficult to implement. Media and technological
> platforms are not infinitely malleable. They have structural features that
> can make the resolution of certain problems extremely easy, while seeming
> completely unfit for the resolution of other kind of problems. Technologies
> have a history crystallized in their DNA. The first computing machines were
> invented to calculate trajectories of bombs and to assist the Nazi in
> identifying and tracking Jewish people. It's not surprising that the
> descendant of those IBM punch cards are apparatuses tracking and profiling
> consumers while the history of computer games is mostly a history of
> ballistic. Since SpaceWar!, bastard child of the Cold War's military
> industrial complex, games have been privileging Newtonian materialism, and
> worlds made of objects moving in space and clashing with each other.
> From these early day of computing there has been an accumulation of
> knowledge enhancing certain social functions of software like predictive
> simulation, 3D immersion, long distance communication, cataloging and
> sorting... all of which are driven by military/industrial desires
> (although, obviously, can serve other emerging purposes and are subject to
> hacking and hijacking).
> In a recent talk about procedural representations of sex in videogames (
> http://www.molleindustria.org/blog/fucking-polygons-fucking-pixels-on-procedural-representations-of-sex/)
> I hyperbolically claimed that we created technologies which make the
> simulation of a grenade launcher way easier than a caress.
> It's not technological determinism, but rather the recognition that a
> techno-cultural form like videogames, made by hardware, software,
> protocols, formats, interfaces, algorithms but also tropes and cultural
> expectations, may oppose a good deal of resistance when derailed to an
> unusual direction.
> This is something I often experience. When working on Unmanned, which not
> coincidentally thematizes some of these issues, I was interested in
> complicating the obvious equivalence "drone warfare == videogames". I
> wanted to make a nuanced game about introspection, verbal communication and
> existential dissonance.
> In all its awkwardness, I'm mostly satisfied by the result but I felt
> frustrated and miserable during the whole development process. I felt like
> I was trying to force feed the machine with a terribly unmodular and
> qualitative material it couldn't digest.
> On the other hand, I had a lot of fun developing my latest game (to be
> released soon), which is an ironic take on a top down shooter. I was
> solving problems that have been solved many times before: trajectories,
> movements in space, collisions and so on. Computers and game frameworks
> evolved to deal with them.
> If you are a techno-essentialist, or a game-essentialist, you may be
> tempted to surrender to the medium's destiny: there are certain things
> games just don't do very well, and you would be better off writing a book
> or singing a song. But that would be a rather depressing view. Technologies
> are also shaped by their misuses.
> Paolo
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
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