[-empyre-] Urban games/Mixed reality Games

opensorcery at opensorcery.net opensorcery at opensorcery.net
Mon Mar 25 04:18:31 EST 2013

Dear Empyreans,

Thanks for the invite and look forward to jumping into what have been
interesting discussions this month, which strangely enough (I haven’t been
able to catch up till now) often quite directly intersect with what I have
been discussing in parallel over this last month with my students at the
National University of Singapore, who in my Playable Art class recently
introduced me to Anna Anthropy’s transgendering game (while two other
students chose to do their presentations on Molleindustria—hi Paolo if you
are still reading—havent seen you since Gijon Spain ..many of your games
are very popular in Singapore, and except for Macdonalds game, for the
right reasons:-)) .  And in my other class, Critical Game Design, the
students were surprisingly enthused to read  and critique(surprisingly
because in that class the students are a majority computer science
students) Gonzalo Frasca’s visionary Videogames of the Oppressed on their
blogs, where we are also experimenting with running the class inside
Minecraftedu and thinking about the intersection and tensions between game
design and learning theories..

Anyway, to put the teaching aside which is fun but overwhelming (semester
almost over gasp) let me share a few thoughts on games and art.  I am not
sure whether to take a more personal, academic or somewhere in between
approach to chiming in on the topic. In another recent parallel discussion,
I was chatting with a feminist writer friend of mine on Skype who was
writing an article about the exclusion of women gamemakers from  the recent
Paola Antonelli MOMA show in New York and we sort of went epoch by epoch
over the last 30 years of the games industry
from arcade games to modded PC
games to more recent casual Indie art games, and speculated about why this
continues to happen and also about those brief exceptions (I learned from
Ms. Stratford that the old arcade classic Centipede was designed by a
woman!)..and during our conversation I found I could not even remember the
name of my most recent game I made last summer that was shown in an exhibit
in Mexico (it was late at night for me)—ie I am off my own radar as a game
designer/artist lately. (it was called Colony Collapse Disorder and was  a
serious game about obstacles to bee pollination btw—my first ever game I
made that kids liked—teaching game design these last few years has had some
results—maybe I should go back and redesign my old art games:-))

Recently I finished writing a long distance phd in a Cultural Analysis
program in Amsterdam called “Ludic Mutation: The Player’s Power to Change
the Game” where I tried to take a step back and look at the last fifteen
years of art games and activist games, including my own practice, from a
more critical perspective and to develop a better understanding of both of
some of the tactics available so far for “changing the game”, as well as a
better recognition of the power of the game, whether it is literally a
computer game or something larger, over its players.  Phenomenologist
philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer’s quip, that he actually intended  as a
metaphor for the aesthetic union of an art viewer with an artwork,
describes the problematic that seems to be evident in especially many
activist games where critical distance is lost,  when he says  that the
game plays the player rather the player the game.” Also he  says something
like we lose ourselves in play.  This tendency for the game’s procedurality
and hold (also through gamification schemes of marketing and customer
loyalty) to take over, makes its hard to get that Brechtian critical
distance and alienation Gonzalo identified as necessary in his initial
proposal for Games of the Oppressed, although I do think there are ways to
do this and to break the game’s spell over the player.  (BTW Boal’s Rainbow
of Desire workshops for the affluent world where people have psychological
problems, not economic ones, to oversimplify his logic, reminded me a lot
of Brody Condon’s Nordic L.A.R.P  game performances and self-indulgent
seventies style new age workshop  parodies
some funny game art potential
there too)

To sum up the results of my  phd writing project which went on for far too
many summers and weekends, (but I did learn a lot largely due to my patient
, flexibly minded and brilliant supervisor, Mireille Rosello) I basically
arrived at two different sorts of resistant play—one that steps outside
“the system” and plays a different game, (here I tried with limited success
to see if political philosopher Hannah Arendt's proposal for a “Space of
Appearance” where political action and unfolding aesthetic performances
converge, could be stretched to include games.. but also similar to Hakim
Bey’s TAZ’s and Italian radical exodus..).  An example is Web 1 games like
KiSS free digital dolls where players were free to become other genders,
animals etc because no family or boss on facebook  (or demanding guild in
the World of Warcraft) was watching them online  like nowadays in the more
social sticky realm of Web 2. 

And play tactic number two that surfaced repeatedly was playful resistance
from within, within what could be a system at a variety of scales, from
patriarchal military games to a city or a state.  When I ran into Joseph
Delappe in NY a few years ago for the Returning Fire launch I think I
shared with him a chapter I was writing contrasting military approaches to
“playing the city” in militainment games, which since 911 became about
asymmetrical warfare and  biocontrol of populations centers (cities) vs. a
more culture jamming artistic approach to occupying/hacking the city
following in the footsteps of  the Parisian Situationists to North American
hacktivism to game performances both on and offline ( I wrote about my
collaborative project Velvet-strike in that chapter too--a bit of a shift
to analyse my own work). 
The last part of that writing was a lot about cities as the setting for
resistant play—and here I found it helpful to align myself with a
biopolitical stance that refuses what I see as a false choice between
either a. a leftist critique of capital and neoliberalism or b. a rightist
critique of the state. So in the last chapter I brought varied formulations
of  biopolitical theory (Foucault, Agamben, Arendt) to bear on the analysis
of population control vs. paidic play in to Mitsuo Iso’s Japanimation
series, Dennoi Coil, where mixed reality glasses very similar to Google’s
AR glasses are given away freely to all the cities’ children.  These
children play mixed reality games non-stop around the city--some that
resist—and others that step outside the data cloud and the mixed reality
tagged municipal grid into more old fashioned but liberating “obsolete
space” (makes me nostalgic for  Web 1—I am showing my age), so both play
tactics #1 and #2 in those futureware mixed reality games.

Anyway, now I am trying to find publishers, a bit in negotiation and
uncertain—hard to see if I can do enough revisions to make them happy for a
non phd thesis reader, so in the meantime I started another book proposal
called “Remixing the Game in the Global South” based on a sixth chapter
that never made into the original about ludic artists like Rene Hayashi 
who I have met in Latin America (especially Mexico when I lived there) and
also about Games for Change by (not charities for) people living in the
South ie outside the first world in economically challenged regions faced
with postcolonial inequities and sprawling megacities, and also related to 
the open design movement that is in full swing in Indonesia’s smaller
cities, a country which is right next to where I live in Singapore and has
sort of become my and my husband (game artist Luis Hernandez’)  second
Southeast Asian home these last 5 years while  in exile from the States,
(which is another more personal story related to games and art—btw I think
we can both finally visit back there soon).

Maybe if there is a lull I will post my rough new book proposal that is
finally coming together this weekend.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and by mentioning the people I
know already in this excessively overlong first post I do not mean exclude
the interesting comments so far coming from those I dont!
Anne-Marie Schleiner

Ps. On a side note, we had the opportunity to witness the launch of Tale of
Tales recent Margerite Duras inspired game Bientot L’Ete in Gent, Belgium
this winter—they gave us an amazing  tour in the Gent Cathedral about
spatial inspiration for game design
and Auriea Harvey is another one of
those rare women game designers, though at the time I didn’t think to say
anything of it.

mail2web.com - Microsoft® Exchange solutions from a leading provider -

More information about the empyre mailing list