RND// in which you spent a year or more collating and editing images with what you term ‘that special shine’ – in other words “Hypertography: abstract conceptual images rendering strange the depthless virtual paradise of Global Videogame Capitalism (aka Ludocapitalism) – its hyperreal spectacle, its symbolic fiction and existential threat.”
That is, the threat of permanent, seemingly willing ‘funemployment’ – unceasing hard ‘playbor’ in the service of ‘ludocapital’; an exhibit expressing and highlighting such a state. Ie. “Videogames ARE Capitalism.”
To consider a world wide Plato’s Cave of inherently and irredeemably impoverished virtuality, and its techno-culturally enforced epistemological legitimacy: where videogames stifle critical imagination – that their ideological existence as an apparent new centre of ‘narrative gravity’ only truly allow for false elation and mute, one dimensional acceptance – a destitute, long abandoned Cartesian (desert) Theatre of fully automated, absurdly repetitive, uncomfortable anodyne numbness. A global ‘Dead MMO’.
Some Cyberpunk theory-fiction: looping, conflicting or logically inconsistent, borderline coherent, semi-philosophical fragments / obsidian volcanic (image) shards on and around this area / arena as follows. Fighting mirrors with smoke.
[..] the standardization of our environment, saturation of our consciousness by mass media, and local dislocations caused by the globalization of production have produced a new dominant consciousness: a postmodern schizo-fragmentation characterized by floating emotions, an inability to “organize [..] past and future into coherent experience”
~ (from) Partly Fragmented, Partly Integrated: An Anthropological Examination of “Postmodern Fragmented Subjects” by Claudia Strauss
To keep one fact foremost in mind – that the official (threatening) slogan of the Sony Hypercorporate Playstation 5 is “Play has no limits”. This is where we are now, our existential position – a permanent state of (Ludocapitalist) performance. Where even the people who make the games that play us like fools insidiously call themselves ‘Dream Architects’ *pukes slightly in mouth*
Come to Daddy
~ Jensen Huang, NVIDIA CEO
How can we keep on watching that fucking TV?
We’re so bored we don’t even care what we see
~ Eric Serra, It’s Only Mystery
1348 .jpg images, 2560 x 1140, edited in Gimp. Examples shown here, the rest in zip files below:
Edited and curated via Freelance Internet Theorist Robert What. To consider this project as expression of ‘Big Science’. No Copyright / No Licence / Maximum R&D.
Smoking Snakes: The Mythical Origins Of Hypertography
To consider ‘smoking snakes’ a classic in-scene description regarding what modern Players / Researchers must of smoked, in order to produce such extreme (/hypertographic) images.
Example definition of Hypertography: “Coded symbolic abstractions of image hyperreality regarding virtual social relations – current contested conditions of digital mind seen via modern turbo spectacle; the visual rhetoric of a technological unconscious as synthetic salvation.”
Rather than a representation of virtual objects, consider such ‘Hypertography’ critical theoretical representations of Culturally manifest ideas concerning current, concretely objectified systemic virtualities. Electronic soldiers in a war for reality staring at a digital horse.
On defining “That special shine”
Photographic views that seem strange, despite their already-existing state of photographic strangeness. (This is what ‘rendering strange’ means in the definition of Hypertography given above.) Yet, to consider the sense that the mere existence of the very on-paper notion of ‘videogames’ somehow already means common, everyday reality is obsolete – andor already far more uncanny / alien than suspected.
In which you’d spent and-or wasted a solid year pretending you’d developed an obsession with a specific aspect of videogame images you thought you’d discovered, or identified. (Perhaps you’d merely given an arbitrary name to this quality – Hypertography – that many had probably considered before; that rather than adventerously carving out or identifying some new artistic space, you’d merely made the mistake of treading over ground already know by others with more skill and subtlety – stating you’d made some important, vague intellectual / artistic discovery.)
You eventually found yourself (/burdened?) with over 10k carefully curated and edited images which you then uploaded on Flickr, along with links to a gallery essay. A whole year later, and these images had only received mere handful of views, and no comments whatsoever. Due to this deafeningly silent onslaught of violent intellectual and artistic apathy, you ended up deleting your account and retreating back into the postmodern electronic void. (To note the deadpan irony of wanting previously invisible images to be seen, yet their remaining forever unseen.)
The task is.. not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
~ Erwin Schrödinger
Possible Hypertographic Research Notes For This Study / Exhibit
– Digital Anthropology / art research
– Where code meets representation
– 80s action movie video montage
– Cardboard Potempkin village movie sets
– Zizek’s incomplete reality / ontological gap
– Long abandoned ancient future virtual ruins
– Expansive data array up from basement archives
– Nth dimensional interventions / windows into now
– Brings to mind lab based security monitors, product presentation video walls, cellular facets of insect eyes, photographic contact sheets
– Succession of absurd images too rapid to neurally acclimate to
– Considering modern art forms in terms of principles of insufficiency, not just in terms of descriptive or theoretical or foundational historical perspectives; to construct post aesthetic scenarios based on informal social lifestyle matrices
– Existence of consciousness in the universe as a consequent dimension of reality, a force able to shape material life, rapidly integrating at the cosmological level; whose stated mis-aim is to describe the universe of modern play. Where such B.S (Big Science) theory and it’s substantial global non systemic framework blends with hyper-dimensional physics to unground such modelling.
Example Theoretical Research References
– Susan Sontag: On Photography
– Marc Auge: Non-Places
– Paul Virillo: Vision Machine
– Sean Cubitt: Digital Light
– John Mullarkey: Bergson and the Art of Immanence
– Vilem Flusser: Towards a Philosophy of Photography 0th Edition
– Roland Barthes: Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography
– Buckingham & Willett (Eds): Media Technology and Everyday Creativity
– Andrew Darley: Visual Digital Culture
– Giuliana Bruno: Surface Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media
In which, what’s more actually virtual about Virtual Photography is that it arrives from a (non) place of Spectacle, of raw (always fully cooked) industrial grade Hype – of seriously substanceless illusion forceably made real (ie. enforced, policed via Culture.) The digital pervades the physical to such an extent that identifying clear distinctions between the two seems all but impossible. The simulated environments of videogames illustrate the frictionless interchangeability between the Virtual and the Everyday. To considers that Videogames have long been the ‘New Normal’: all other priorities rescinded. Never mind what the question is, apparently the answer is always and only “Videogames.”
Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation
~ Jean Baudrillard
To consider Photography as always already virtual, in the sense that technology is decidedly not some neutral™ tool, but a bizarre outgrowth of the skewed (Military-Industrial-Scientific-Complex) imagination. Parallel to the way that the uncomplicated act of, say ‘taking a cookie’ from a jar on a shelf involves a entire language of interlocking skeletal and muscular coordination and imaginative desire, the act of ‘taking a photograph’ from a landscape depends upon a whole industrial culture and Cultural mindset. An encompassing worldview. Yet what is taken or removed from us when we take a photograph – exactly whose desires are we enacting?
What do we automatically and unthinkingly assume in the innocent photographic act? What exactly is being swapped out, replaced or displaced, every time the (/Western) photographic gaze ‘shoots something’? Perhaps it’s the fantastic Image that we give up for (whatever it is we think is) The Real – ie. to actually keep ‘the real’ at a safe symbolic distance. Consider the photographic act as a bizarre symbolic exchange which creates and sustains our (Western, techno-scientific) sense of The Real (whatever that might be.)
Videogames as a new symbolic form of subjectivity challenge ideas of what an image is, and in the process change our sense of orientation to Play – our embodied relation to simulated environments, where we now float and glide like hungry spirits, spectral phantasmagoria suspended in hyper-corporate data.
And yet, as Slavoj Zizek states: we don’t have The Real, and The Obstacle [eg. videographic images -Rob] which makes The Real impossible. The Real *is* the obstacle itself. Videogame images often seek to mirror the real world, precisely because the real is the only thing actively preventing Players ascending fully into the excessive virtual fantasy world offered via videogames. Yet the real to which they refer often seems already virtual, hyperreal.
To consider that the symbolic images of Hypertography cuts into the smooth facade of the Real, creating divisions, gaps – sucking it into the videographic symbols used to describe it, and thereby annihilating it, cancelling it out; what’s left is what was (not) there to begin with, a vast Terra Nullius.
However, by accentuating excessively the foreignness of the real, by emphasizing what distinguishes humanity from reality, the responses to the reality problematic offered by the principals of this study run the risk of overcorrection. They too strictly identify the real with what is other than human, and the human with what is other than real. The propensity to over- correct is most evident with Derrida, Baudrillard, and Lyotard, who go to considerable lengths to show that reality is either inaccessible, radically alien to codes of human behaviour, or a threat to our very existence as a species. Even Virillo, who is less culpable in this regard, shows up the uncanniness of reality in underscoring its supernatural origins.
~ Gil Germain, Spirits in the Material World: The Challenge of Technology
Glancing over these so-called Hypertographic images, T.A.G The Average Gamer™ sees nothing special in them. In one sense they’re perfectly correct. Some images display graphical glitches or semi-amusing, in-game chance occurrences or juxtapositions of various kinds, while many show uncommon but otherwise unremarkable ‘off map’ or ‘noclip’ perspectives. Nothing that untold armies of Players haven’t seen literally billions of times before. (Perhaps you were merely imagining and-or projecting your strange televisual desires onto Videogaming’s global screen?)
Maybe that’s the point: perhaps such Hypertographic images appear undecidable – poised between meanings. A (raised cognitive-existential) bioelectric potential, like the sweaty high felt by gamblers – a permanent suspension (also as in suspenseful.)
We find certain things about seeing puzzling, because we do not find the whole business of seeing puzzling enough.
~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Yet, to consider that what makes videogames and their images interesting is precisely the ‘unreality of their unreality’. How does Hypertography help shed much needed dark light on the happy light (‘lite’) of modern computerised gaming? To travel beyond the edge of what is currently observable (cognitively allowed) – to break through the ‘horizon of videographic understanding’, perhaps.
I’m always looking for in-game effects that ‘break’ the rending of the game
~ Petri Levälahti
It’s not that videogames don’t need extensive reform, but that they exist in the same way that asking (for example) “Do gays belong in the military” entirely fails to answer the infinitely more pressing and vital counter question “Does anyone?” It’s not that videogames aren’t almost exclusively white, heterosexual, male, normalized and massively corporatized and therefore need radically changing for the better. Rather, these very aspects represent the highly conservative character of videogames, as defined by their code, ie. the technocratic system of scientific rationality and logic underpinning their Cultural (white cis male) existence.
While necessary and possibly essential, talk such as ‘queering videogames’ too often fails to positively emphasize what is already uniquely strange and potentially psychedelic about Play – and especially play outside videogames; indeed if they were truly queer than would they even be videogames? Why the fuck does everything have to be about videogames? Why is that our impossible-to-transcend existential baseline? We feel free to play or not play videogames, conveniently forgetting that daily as-lived social reality is already structured Ludocapitalistically.
Any medium that is seemingly able to successfully and effortlessly express the character and wishes of anyone who currently commands it is not to be trusted. Better representation of an ever wider spectrum of people and viewpoints does not in any mitigate the essential need to sit (and keep sitting, forever) in front of a screen with one’s forever easily pleased brain permanently shifted into neutral. Soaking in all that useless background radiation, like the leftovers of the big bang. (Freelance Amateur Postmodern Internet Theorist “Robert What” has been watching screens of all kinds most of his life / has been watched by screens most of his life and is in no way essentially smarter or happier than when he begun.) RGB garbage in and out.
Whatever the hell’s currently blaring away on a TV in a by-the-week roach motel by the side of the post-apocalyptic media highway to nowhere could not give two shits about the viewer. (In fact television never seems happier than being alone in an empty room.) The ability to plug in a controller into The Almighty Box does not make it or Player One any smarter – indeed, the added feature of holy Interactivity only ever signifies one has fully succumbed to the logic of the machine, to the heavily codified and policed language of digital play.
Likewise, to consider Videogames as irredeemable, precisely because the synthetic nature of images per se is merely to exist without meaning – andor with any goddamn meaning whatsoever. What only seems to matter is their unceasing proliferation, their endless and violently automatic replication.
On the ideological complicity of modern videogame critics. In which they (and not merely reviewers) too often seem hopelessly, laughably inept at discussing videogames – because they’re already fully inside a videogame. Welcome to the Planet Of The Ludonauts.
I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member
~ Groucho Marx
Oh, what small-potatoes existence is it to be a “videogame critic” – indeed, what is it one also describes while describing a game? What is the game one also plays while ‘playing a game’? How is one already ‘being played’ by the games one apparently critiques? What does it mean to be “Ludonautical” – to what truer extent is being a Ludonaut a dramatic stage show for one – parallel to the way a game is often a stage for an absurd unfolding play?
To consider a random backwater blogger, composing arbitrary thoughts on the troubled / troubling rise of The Modern Video Game Critic or ‘Ludologist’. Watch as they soon realize there’s little to say about this phenomenon of Culture – arguably just a tiny literary offshoot of the AAAA Video Game Industry as a whole (/hole.)
Instead they attempt to think around the subject – to evoke, rather than describe such odd creatures – alone on their small planet, spinning (sometimes merrily) through the depthless electronic labyrinth / void. They try defining a term – “Ludonautical”: of, relating to, or characteristic of imaginary game vessels, online (virtual) game criticism – the bizarre notion of a “Game Critic” generally, of difficult navigation on a large, mostly invisible body of Play – a cybernetic circuit of embodied, contested pleasures.
Introducing “Theodore ‘Sea For’ Miles” – fictional archetypical video game critic (Ludonaut) all video game critics look up to (/unconsciously.) On his merry hat is a flapping bird flying upside down. On his chest is a Super Omega. He is known to carry a well thumbed, lightly stained silk edition of “Unit Operations” in his slightly damp back pocket. Considered a truer form of #fakedev
And something is happening here
But ya’ don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
~ Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
To consider the imaginary concept andor index of “Bogosity”: placeholder stunt philosophy; treating video games as remotely viable ontology; a ideological tendency toward political conservatism; extremely professional (‘strictly academic’) obfuscation thinly masquerading as romantic mystification-fluff; falsely weighty engagement with The Cultural – a placcid 5″ ivory tower of desperate, private in-yokes shared among only ever partially self-critical neophytes.
The danger for Ludonauts and their theorizing lies in developing undiagnosed symptoms of ludocrous Bogosity / McGonicalism – aka Micky Mouse Media Studies Syndrome.
On Ludocrousness / Ludocrousity. Term: “Ludocrous”: pron. ‘ludo-cruss’. A term about (and of*) Game Theory / Criticism – accidentally semi-amusing andor mildly embarrassing comments and faintly vacuous, largely unimportant ideas about / around Games, generated through often obvious non-philosophical absurdity, conceptual incongruity, analytical exaggeration and performative eccentricity for vain public effect and general self-congratulatory cleverness.
Bog Of Eternal Games Criticism smell baaaad
~ paraphrasing Ludo from Labyrinth
* Note: The term Ludocrous appears autological – expressing properties of the Ludocrous which it also possesses itself. (Rather, the proper type and far more pleasant form of Ludocrosity to cultivate seems ‘Cutlarian’, as in Ivor.)
The Bogosan Classic Prize for most Ludocrous games critique
Of all the aforesaid traits, the utmost singularities of this contemplative journey stem from those lavish qualities and quiddities which challenge even the most enlightened report or explanation. The multitude of climatic moments it comprises, evocative as soon as perplexing, do tell of a wealth of potentialities insofar uncultivated at the bosom of this culturally impoverished medium. It is an atypical occasion when a computer user is permitted to engage in so transcendent an excursion, revealing in the rare guarantee that, regardless of forthcoming deviations, its creators can be trusted to possess sufficient sensibility and intellectual acumen to breathe new life into a moribund genre
~ Bruno de Figueiredo – Horse Sense: an annotation on Kentucky Route Zero, Act 1
Give over, mate. To consider videogame critiques can only ever comment on videogames themselves, never explain them but only ever explain them away, make them safe. Yet never once does it seem they can imagine the possibility of life outside games or without them – that this normalization of (apparently) universal and unquestionable Videographic Play is their only (cheap) stock in trade.
It might feel good
It might sound a lil’ somethin’
But the fuck the game if it ain’t saying nothin’
~ Public Enemy, He Got Game
To imagine videogames as an inherently unequal power relations between two bizarre synthetic entities (say ‘hypercorporation’ and ‘prosumer’) that cannot be trusted. A relationship based on unsustainable illusion; where videogame companies do in fact not create videogames, only Consumers and their apparently essential Gaming-multivitamin need. Where the games themselves are often mere afterthoughts, a noisy, garish sideshow.. much like the industry’s Gamers.
The central fact that one sits down, shuts up and keeps playing – ie. keep ‘throwing money at the screen’ (*spits*) – as the only event that matters. Never what one plays, its meaning, but that one simply keep playing. Too often to the detriment of humanity. That this inter-activity, between Hypercorp and Gamer prevents revolutionary collectivism. Divide-and-conquer into Gamers and Everyone Else. (Except that, when everyone is always already a Gamer in a System that is always thoroughly gamed from the very outset, what is there to revolutionize and endlessly update except one’s engine code, the outer design of one’s avatar or one’s graphics drivers?)
Did you get your precious photos?
~ Roy Batty, Blade Runner
There seems a forceful element to (the will to) modern visualization; the need to push ‘seeing’ ever further; ever higher resolutions, detail, colors, contrast – to see beyond the invisible, to the very ends of the universe and beyond. What world is sustained by this aggressive seeing, this endless image hoarding? What are we afraid of missing – what do we imagine we’ll find? (Perhaps we’re only ever trying to re-find proof of ourselves / the self.)
I’m a man in search of his true self. How archetypically American can you get? Everybody’s looking for their true selves. We’re all trying to fulfil ourselves, understand ourselves, get in touch with ourselves, face the reality of ourselves, explore ourselves, expand ourselves. Ever since we dispensed with God, we’ve got nothing but ourselves to explain this meaningless horror of life.. Well, I think that that true self, that original self, that first self is a real, commensurate, quantifiable thing, tangible and incarnate. And I’m going to find the fucker.
~ Eddie Jessup, Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)
(Pfft. Good luck with that.) Despite this, the attraction toward and fascination for specific videogame images with ‘that special shine’ continues. But what exactly is this shine – how does one even go about identifying it? Videogames seem an elusive and slippery process of Culture. Perhaps it concerns one’s own slippery state of mind, as much specific perceived qualities in the images themselves; a proactive alienation from the mainstream, from videogaming. An unconscious desire for entirely new forms of artistic expression which make what most (/think they) understand as ‘videogames’ look perfectly antiquated and hopelessly conservative and reactionary.
Even more Madden copypasta, you schmucks? What about another vacuous Open World, featuring endless, spurious grindy tasks and bullshit collectables? How about yet another populist (read: far right) Call Of Duty: Press X to Xerox – with even more eggy ‘surprise mechanics’? ‘Gaming As A Service’? Yeah – to the fucking Industry! LOL
~ Default AAAA Games Industry attitude
[A little known gaming fact: if you climb up certain towers in Assassin’s Creed franchises and zoom in on a nearby luxury toilet, you’ll see that greasy fat pig Bobby Kotic doing a Korporate Goatse right in your too often wilfully native face. -Robert]
The visual experience of videogame images and the resulting effects on human consciousness are embedded in the historical development of various types of industrial-scientific imaging methods – ie. ‘imaging’ as in ‘ways of seeing the world’. Back when this site was called Alien Fiction, you termed this approach to videogames ‘Abstract Encounters’. (The term itself is an alternative to ‘videogame.’) A cognitive shift [see: Decoherence Theory], resulting in a more genuinely bizarre, left-field form of conceptually explorative play. But that was long ago, and you continue to lack the cultural / financial resources to fully realize your odd vision.
“Abstract Encounters” – Alternative Play Systems development concept:
Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting
~ Ivan Illich,1972
To consider “Abstract Encounters”: toward an informal, virtual, drop-in-and-design Play Systems research space and open game development concept / framework (v1.2)
Examples of Abstract Encounters
♫ Slap, the blessed Gamedev
Because the games that they constantly make
Say nothing to me about my life.. ♫
~ paraphrasing Morrissey, Panic On The Streets Of Ludotown
A Game Systems Design Framework Or Approach
In the handling of Chaos, one must understand the art of the abstract. Being highly limited, all games are abstractions. Yet rather than being concerned with eg. primal geometric forms per se, one might consider encouraging neurally stimulating forms to appear that, by their abstract natures and contemplative fictional spaces, carry or indicate subtle / philosophical ideas
~ paraphrasing volume 10 page 44 of Art Criticism
While all games may be considered experimental systems, the term Abstract Encounters implies conceptual, somehow more mysterious and liminal psychological states and moods of Play, embodied and induced by evolving, open-ended ‘games’ with more truly Emergent properties.
It’s a little as if I were leading the reader to a deserted laboratory, and that I put a collection of specimens and all the necessary equipment at his disposal. It’s his job then to relate these elements together and create reactions from them
~ JG Ballard, interviewed by Robert Louit, 1974
To consider completely bypassing most conventional game practices, methods and institutions, in order to create odd, intensely abstract / ‘theoretical’ and unpredictable compositions, unfettered by traditional gaming (/industry) concerns.
The conclusion, then, is simple: it is possible to consider any of these games as the very first, for the birth of the video game is a pure abstraction, or a heuristic event, which depends on the premises one brings to it
~ Marco Benôit Carbone
‘Chance meetings with unexpected views of alternate worlds’:
Conceptual DNA of Abstract Encounters
I like systems that make use of the brain – the watchers brain – as part of the process. The notion of art not being a quality in things, but the name of a type of interaction between you and something, or you and an event. If you start thinking of it as an interaction, it frees you from a lot of aesthetic problems and you don’t have to decide whether something is or isn’t art. All you have to know is whether it does that for some people
~ Brian Eno, Imaginary Landscapes: A Film on Brian Eno 
Here are some possible / example conceptual elements underlying Abstract Encounters:
– Human centred design: experiences which complement human activity, rather than seek to dominate it.
– Traditional methods of game space design need to evolve faster – that is, on the fly, realtime.
– An emphasis on ‘play from the outset’, rather than the old false gamedev duality of ‘prototype vs. polished’.
– A need for simpler (virtual) gaming toolsets – see GMod’s Tool Gun.
– The feeling of non-teleological “Paida”.
– “Computers should do the heavy lifting”, ie. Procedural / Emergent everything: “If it looks like a computer made it, then why shouldn’t a computer actually make it?”, ie. a matter of more fully trusting computational aesthetics.
In terms of organizing production, most Developers still operate in a ‘Pre-Internet Mode’ (according to big AAAA Videogames Industry cat Gabe Newell.)
– “Realism Denies The Impossible”, that is encouraging experiences which could *only* happen in profoundly non-real / irreal spaces with oddly postmodern / hyperreal flavors; consider non-photoreal rendering.
– Term: “Carmack Inversal”: the *inverse degree* to which strictly ‘smart’ nerdy focus on technical development makes for philosophically challenging opportunities and delightfully unforseen play-potential.
– Term: “Technically Impressive Isn’t”: ie. stop showing off with your bullshit tech demos. We’re not so auto-impressed as we used to be. Where’s the Human Meaning among all these worthless shiny surfaces, dammit?
– In order challenge gaming conventions, one has to understand their ontological basis / bias.
– The subtle difference between games / systems that just ‘do weird’, andthose which more truly emanate strange / philosophical ideas andor moods.
– In which Game Studies / Critique – aka Ludology – has not resulted in *any* significant evolutionary gaming leaps, or even punctuated hops; perhaps this is because Game Criticism might be just another (/abstract) meta-Game layer (/of The AAAA Industry.)
– Meta-Gaming as Game: reconsidering *all* in-gamespace activities of Players as important, realtime elements / processes.
– Developer Robert Yang’s notion of “Tools, not values.”
– Too many video games feel arbitrarily different; their basic structural and stylistic elements almost randomly interchangeable – like Hollywood movies / stars.
– To make game spaces / game-like systems whose styles and modes and details are fully interchangeable and exchangeable at will – “The active creation of game types and modes suited to one’s immediate changing tastes” – “Games Just Waiting To Happen” ie. Play-By-Demand.
– Evoking moods and atmospheres rather than specific places; more direct congruity between hyper-stylization, and movement rules / game mechanics.
– “Maps as Obsolete”: moving away from inherently Static maps to Dynamic (holistic) game-spaces where *everything* is ‘alive’ ie. usable and inter-related through feedback.
– To think in terms of ‘Scenes’ / ‘Scenarios’; a sense in which Maps are too often a mere backdrop for Action, when they could be another true dynamic play-space enabling Process.
– To onsider the Kobayashi Maru and individual, standalone Scenarios for Play.
– Feedback: the video game equivalent of a Centrifugal Governer.
– “Mutable Everything”: in which *every* in-play object / process is playable and can inter-act (/semi-expectedly.)
– “Primitive Extracts”: functional simplicity (akin to ‘functional strength’ in humans); not just what you have, but how it’s used – how much is actually usable to express meaning.
– “Looks nice.. but what can you do with it?” ie. less static, ‘dead untouchable museum (tech) exhibits’.
– Single rapidly sketched pieces of Concept Art by single artists usually contain more immediate interest, imagination and intelligence than entire games bloated with millions of dollars and as many lines of code; less concept art and more the art of Conceptual Gaming.
– The idea of sketching (Design) as direct Playing: artists that think like coders; coders that art.
– The development / emergence of elegant prototypes: S.I.S.I (‘sissy’): “Single Ideas, Simply Implemented.”
– Optimal play-space / systems development philosophy: the minimum number of core ideas / gaming axioms that provide more direct pathways between challenging, expressive play and players.
– To think in terms of near-immediate implementation or emergence of engaging play, rather than waiting years (years!) to develop unnecessary elaborations – especially art assets – and other allegedly essential, industry over-hyped ‘features’.
– Social Design As Play (“Galapagos”): the idea of the Editor as not separate from the (realtime) Game.
– The evolution of a ‘Visual Language’; gaming grammar; rapid prototyping of Ideas rather than just games (eg. ProBuilder or Future Perfect as metaphor.)
– To fully play with the more basic fundamentals of gaming communities as play expressions (??)
– Hot Coders Wanted: “It’s all in the Code” – C.A.D. “Computer Aided Daydreaming.”
– “Brian Eno” as the answer to every important question still not being fully asked eg. about Game Design (ie. “It’s all in the interface / at the surface”; a return – again – to cybernetic systems theory; of far less and more interesting / ‘alive’ options.
– “Turn up the janky quirkyness”: deliciously uncanny, uncertain, delightful.
– “Source=Open: a freeware attitude from the very outset; just because you’re online, doesn’t mean you’re truly sharing.
– “Holographics”: Transparency – truer Modularity – Exportability – Recycling – a sense of Infinity; all features and elements embedded into a ‘modeless game interface’.
– Decentering Players; a de-emphasis of the boring Human Form.
– ‘Maximum Fun’: decreasing the novelty-factor in favour of Disquiet.
– ‘Playspaces’ as improvisational theatre- inferring meaning-potential through semiotic game mechanics; Jonathan Blow’s “Dynamical Meaning.”
Dynamic gamespace elements for Abstract Encounters
– Notgames and altgames: sensitive social reasoning, not spatial reasoning.
– Controlling the Uncontrollable.
– Live Streaming / in-game internet cameras.
– Integrated Game Server Hosting as simple as uploading to LOLtube.
– Free-switching between personalities / viewpoints. Hypernovelty: ‘providing sensation through play’; a truer nonlinearity.
– “Strange Ongoing Relationships”; forced drama; the mis.relationships between the ‘characters’ / world-processes – incongruity between immediately perceived and internal meanings; programmable interlocking irrealist / absurdest narratives. A near absence of normal understanding / repeatedly re-undermining expectations.
– Feedback loops, potentiality and consequences: ‘eno-ambient’ slider bars; basically Generative-Everything; extreme sensitivity to initial starting (ie. ongoing) conditions.
– Decidedly Notreal ‘Physics’ / visual scripting as the game mechanic (like Source Filmaker); rather, make the /social spaces of video games Real.
– Summaries of on-screen action via Natural Language Processing – and visa versa, translating Words directly into Games / Play.
– To evoke feelings of an undefined presence of the past or of a larger world still to be discovered – eg. behold Elite: the beauty of entire universes on a 3.5″ floppy diskette:
[..] It was as though the world was unable to be set apart from the game. Just then your synthetic eyes encountered a field of digital wheat whose limits you could not see. That yellow vastness, dazzling in the artificial sun, bound up with the 8bit song playing in background, filled you with such joy that you wept. Homesick for unfamiliar places, you accessed your imagination garden and began to ‘continue making strange things appear as they are usually not’ – to fully remain in this irreality. It was the first appearance of those elements which were always present in later sensations of hyperreality: illimitable vastness, brilliant light, intense colors, and the shimmering, frictionless surface gloss of a disconcerting and profound immateriality
~ Paraphrased from “Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl” by M. Sechehaye
Videogames as they are however continue to exist unabated and unchallenged – their domination as Culture ever more colonially expansive with each passing moment. (Indeed, videogames are themselves are raw Cultural-Finance – the very thing which makes them problematic.) It’s not that the world has become a giant (darkly-laughably shit) AAAA videogame overnight, but rather that “because videogames” has apparently become the de facto mode of approaching or understanding the entire world. The prime sense-making processes. No other possibilities and priorities allowed – an apparently all encompassing model of understanding. Videogames über alles, a violently synthetic commonality – “We’re all Gamers in here!” Now what exactly is up with that shit?
The Spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. The relation to the commodity is not only visible, but one no longer sees anything but it: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship extensively and intensively
~ Guy Debord
In such a freakish situation – what is called ‘the experience economy’, perhaps videogame images always exist as oddly contextless. Modeless. Free floating signifiers, signifying that there’s nothing significant here being signified. In the same way as being in a car can means one is somehow ‘outside of the outside’, existing in a global state of Videogaming one is always on the outside, staring out at the outside. That is, we are continually displaced, despite being fixed in place – in the bizarre ‘third place’ (thanks, Sony Playstation) of Ludocapitalist Culture.
On The ‘Awesomepocalypse’ of Sunset Overdrive
Fun is good
~ Dr. Seuss
There can be only [Maximum] Fun!
~ paraphrasing Connor MacLeod, Highlander clan
A Scenario of Now: in which the true terror is that it’s seen as a severe Cultural punishment *not* to get game states such as “Sunset Overdrive” permanently installed inside your franchised cybernetic eyeballs.
Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements?
~ Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
Achtung! Spaß Ist Pflicht! [Translation from German: Attention! Fun is your duty / is compulsory!] To consider Sunset Overdrive by Insomniac Games an imposed Apocalypse Of Awesomeness that redefines what it means to be a laughable Try Hard – like your dad Fred Durst / Dave Matthews became a ‘mallternative’ / ‘rock star’ game developer by switching to Unreal War Engine, and was trying to impress the crowds at a eSports championship by doing ‘aggro’ nu-metal headspins at half time while spittin’ badass jive about ‘Velocity’ and ‘Getting Amped’.
Old fashioned science fiction apocalypses used to be naively seen as mere warnings; nowadays, apocalypses arrive in the happy violence of unavoidable Forever-Fun™.
Sunset Overdrive’s conceptual ideology is expressed in its total freedom from justification – its overarching ‘dystopia lite’ design mantra “Fun trumps realism” – that is, the very reality and truth of the human misery of / caused by such uninterruptible, synthetic digital joy.
As creator Drew Murray clearly states through his design mantra:”We don’t care if it makes sense. If it’s cool and weird or unique, but it’s awesome, just do it.” That is, there’s no time to think or dream of alternatives – only ever time to Play. A delirious spinning in ecstatic fucking-idiot infinity.
Sunset Overdrive: like being woken by a Fun Counsellor at at an Eternal 3AM with a Fun Firehose while trapped inside a universal, politely barb-wired Camp Wannagohome of the mind for the next ‘high-action, fast-paced’ round of Directed Fun and games. Howdy, campers!
Yes, this indeed is the game that Mainstream Post Industrial Gaming has been building up to for 20 years – a ‘Blink-182 flavoured Jet Set Radio you never knew you needed in your life’: there’s now seems a “Sunset Overdrive” event horizon of creative artistic integrity, beyond which it’s impossible to feature more shrink-wrapped Korporate Zany® – be more derivative, more removed from the source, more thoroughly devoid of soul. (Note the similar, corporate ‘rebellion’ behind and within the alt right crunch fest Cyberpunk 2077.)
The future as a dumb, smiling face of a willing member of the Permanent Youff Demographic, stamped on by an almond scented fair trade beach sandal worn by a hip, focus-group tested drone repeating “Hey You Guys!!” with an omnipotent, endlessly upbeat vibe of ultra-contrived cool – forever. Sunset Overdrive: an utterly undead conceptual space colonized by stunningly fake-ass, self hi-fiving bro-dudes.
Chugging corporate cock so hard that its alveoli are tickling the bell end
~ Zero Punctuation review of Sunset Overdrive
In which videogame images appear in the gap between emptiness and the digital, arriving not merely from the void but being comprised of it (ala Funchi’s classic existential biocosmic horror The Beyond?), forgotten andor abandoned nowheres, allegedly free of all socio-political narrative. Where the depthlessness of such spaces reinforce and intensify the myth that there are no hierarchies of power to challenge, only other bullshit ‘achievements’ to grind for. A slave in the classic apocalyptic Sci Fi movie Planet Of The Apes, asks “What other way would it be?” That is, the apparently permanent, universal state of Videogaming; Homo Ludens. It’s the horrifyingly awful and amazingly shit book / movie Ready Player One considered as an entire (inescapable, decidedly Trumpian three ring circus) universe. It’s like being born as a tie-in product.
The choice between the blue or the red pill is not really a choice between illusion and reality. Of course The Matrix is a machine for fictions, but these fictions structure our reality. [..] I want a third pill.. which would enable me to perceive, not the reality behind the illusion, but the reality in illusion itself. Our delusion.. is not believing in what is a fiction – on the contrary, it is not taking fictions seriously enough
~ Slavoj Zizek on The Matrix movies
To consider that Videogames do not merely play games with reality, but rather through a ‘pure’ opticality and the instant (synthetic) nature of visability, symbolically displays / displaces interactive play as a weightless, depthless reality; one is shot out into a continual present, an eventless Nowness. (“Now = Wow”, you krazy kidz. Keep it real.. keep Playing.)
In which Hypertography indicates an aversion to standard mediocre promotional games industry tourism style ‘bullshots’; such images should not appear staged or forced – even though the global videogames industry itself is the very deliberate, plastic stage we find ourselves upon, forced to perform as Professional eSports Gamers. The only thing natural about videogames is the degree to which they’ve conveniently naturalized themselves, colonially become the very virtual blandscape beneath our feet. This bizarre, ritualistic electron dance however seems to take place mostly in our unconscious – even as we interact with(/in) its very cultish (financial) mechanisms.
All the world’s an eSports stage
And all the men and women merely Players
~ Bill Shakespeare
To consider the bioelectrictrical pulses surging through someone when they allow videogames to play them like a videogame as the flow of global capital. In this sense, all videogames images are always merely promotional branding narratives – from the outset they proudly (aggressively) state “Capitalism Rules!” Anything that ‘shows the global videogames industry off at its best’ is a sick joke at everyone’s expense. The only thing it seems best at, is being the worst it possibly can.
Let’s put it this way: some gaming fanbois appear so emotionally, financially and conceptually invested in these friendly, evil hypercorporations that when such massive companies fart, if they’ve had eggs for breakfast these wilfully uncritical Stans know if they’ve had one egg or two. Go on, get another deep huff of what’s making you as inhuman as they are.
Why is next to nobody remotely questioning the unstoppable cultural rise of a multi-billion dollar industry? One that, time and time again has proven itself as run by a gang of utter assholes, that pays next to no tax, treats its employees like shit and has little but outright contempt for its audience. When it comes to digital interactive entertainment, droids desperate for batteries from their owners display more critical self awareness.
‘The charm of the real’: perhaps such videographic images display the charm of an actual, long forgotten Strangeness which, due to its modern ubiquity and holographic transparency, is now forever merely mundane and therefore somehow utterly ignorable. (In fact, it is videogames which ignore us.) Previously, such images could appear without context, generating a fresh artistic experience – but since ‘Videogames won the Reality War’ all such images appear contextless. A holographic prism (/prison.) That is, they merely represent the entire modern (neoliberal) worldview of The apparently “Universal Gamer.”™
The first generative aesthetic of a counterfactual world is the discovery and elaboration of a geometry of escape
~ Cointreau and Contrepeau
That is to say, ‘videogames display a hallucinatory resemblance to themselves’.
One key conceptual idea behind Hypertography is that “Videogames won the Reality War.” To consider the notion that there was such a thing as a vast, global battle – an all out assault on andor for Reality, that Videogames won long ago – effortlessly, silently, without anyone even noticing or really caring. Silent drops of bittersweet poison for the eye. Fellow Big Scientist Researcher Dr. Brian O’Blivion calls this ‘the battle for the mind of North America’ aka the “Videodrome”, but more accurately it was the battle of the global North American videogaming mindset on reality.
Fellow ‘Big Scientist’ Snake Pliskin terms this a ‘Dark Paradise’ and seems to be referring to the inverted light spectrum enacted via contemporary Global Ludocapitalism – a permanent 60’s style ‘Black Light Effect’ in which the world spins on its malformed head, in freefall through the airless atmosphere of contemporary ‘permanent global videogame R&D’ (in which everyone on post apocalyptic Anthropogenic Climate Change Earth is forced to EMP [Enjoy, Make and Play] games at all times. Does that sound a little too far fetched? Perhaps we just need to stop and check how far humans have actually shoved ourselves down this freakish virtual road already.
There’s that word again, actually – as apparently opposed to virtually. Hypertography suggests that the two are hopelessly burred, entangled (as in quantum physics?) But then maybe the true relationship between two, between Reality and ‘The Video Real’ has simply been techno-romantisized to the point of total normalization.
On games and virtual reality prisons: when insidious two legged slime molds like Elon Musk suggest there’s a good chance ‘we are all living in a computer simulation’, he really means “Welcome To Our Permanent Hyper-Capitalist Videogame Industry VR Hell already.” (If there’s anyone living in a hermetic digital bubble, it’s lizard faced Guy Smiley motherfuckers like him, or that dead eyed, artificially intelligent bot Mark Sugarborg.) It’s not a choice to live here, but rather it’s the only game in town. You think that’s free air you’re breathing, citizen-convict? That’s raw financial data. Turns out John Romero really did make you his unironic beeyatch. It is your duty to be forever videogame-happy. Now fucking smile harder, citizen.
Virtuality; what happens when you let soulless white nerds loose on a planet’s imagination.
Frozen inertia, a rising potential – where such Hypertographic images always appear on the edge of meaning, existing as a broken, impossibly intricate and seemingly useless mechanism from an ancient civilization, only of interest to dimensionally passing alien anthropologists. Yet such psychedelic spiritual insectoid entities understand such images are cursed, and treat them as dangerous; it’s these image’s ability to charm with their unique shiny reality, which enthrals and mystifies – not those who gaze upon them, but rather all those their gaze penetrates, makes zero degree cool and silent. A bright, impossibly hard glaze, a shimmering energy field. The videogame-image future really doesn’t need you – not even as a battery. This is about total image dominion; this simply isn’t your reality any more, little Player.
In which videogame images, specifically those in noclip mode, somehow link to what Freelance Internet Theorist Robert What terms “Decoherence Theory: the idea-space that you don’t have to travel to (say) Mars.. because somehow you’re always already there.” Basically a modern equivalent of Dune’s notion of Tey Al Ard (‘travelling without moving’), conceptually involving Edwin A. Abbot’s “A-Square” and higher dimensions – penrose triangles and Slavoj Zizek’s notion of Parallax View. A (dark) matter of radically shifting perspectives. In a centreless universe of strange light, one is always somehow already absolutely everywhere. Videogame’s nowhere as everywhere.
In which Psychology’s (dubious, ideological) notion of Derealisation in the context of Hypertography means ‘the sleeper must (fully) awaken’ – to the bizarre new reality imposed by such global images and the Ludocapitalism from which they manifest; that is, awaken into the full ultra high definition realization of the true extent of Videogame’s brilliant, spectral utopian daymare. It’s all so very clean and bright here – for shiny, happy people only.
To consider virtual tourism – “Voorism.” What such travellers in search of the Hypertographic perform while travelling. Not exactly ‘taking’ snapshots but ‘city experiencing’ like Walter Benjamin style Psychogeography – going on feeling (mostly lonely and strange.) Remembering brilliant novel “The Search” by Geoff Dyer. Perhaps in the same way real (Capitalist) world tourism is about wrecking the environment and destroying local cultures, maybe virtual tourism shares the same mindset, implicitly allowing evil global videogame industry hypercorporations to colonize the imagination; that is, the very lands we think we explore ‘freely’ are always already theirs. Our ordinary, everyday visual environment is the product of hidden (market) forces.
In which gamer’s aren’t intrepid Amazonian explorers, traversing the hot, damp underverse of interactive digitality while sporting pith helmets, but first and foremost mere Consumables – consumed and absorbed, Borg like, by global Ludocapital. Disposable, interchangeable data nodes. Perhaps it is the photographic videogame object which takes the subject and not the other way around, only ever proving their own absence.
Abstract Encounters with The Video Real
The following Hypertography gallery includes the following videogame spaces or approaches: 1187 Mod, Air Control, American Truck Simulator, Arma 3, Beginner’s Guide, Black Mesa, Call Of Duty, CS:GO (various), Chaser, Contagion, Control, Day Of Defeat Source, DayZ, DCS World Steam Edition, Death Stranding, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories, Doom 3, Doom Eternal, Dying Light 1, Earth Defence Force, Echo, Empyrion Galactic Survival, Estranged Mod, Euro Truck Simulator 2, Fall Guys, Farcry, Farmers Dynasty, Farming Simulator, F.E.A.R, Fistful Of Frags, Flight Club, Flight Simulator, Games On TV Screens (various), Ghost Recon Wildlands, Gits First Assault, Garry’s Mod, Goat Simulator, Gran Turismo, GTA III, Gta San Andreas, Gta Vice City, GTFO, Half Life 1 BSP, Half Life 2 DM, Half Life 2, Homefront Revolution, Hunt Down The Freeman, Out Of Hell Mod , Infestation New Z, Infra Mod, Insurgency, Intruder, Jalopy, Jurassic World Evolution, Just Cause, Kart Kraft, Katamari Damacy, Killing Floor, Left 4 Dead 2, Life Is Strange, Mafia III, Manifold Garden, Mario, Mass Effect Andromeda, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Survive, Microsoft Flight Simulator, Minerva Mod, Mirrors Edge Catalyst, Miscreated, Neotokyo, Nether, New Media Shark, Next Day Survival, Night Of The Dead, No More Room In Hell Mod, OMSI 2, Aeon By Orihaus, Pamela, Payday 2, Planet Coaster, Prepar3D, Prey, PUBG, Pure Farming, Quake 4, Rage, Rage 2, Rainbow 6 Siege, Red Crucible Firestorm, Remember Me, Remnant From The Ashes, Ride To Hell Retribution, Rules Of Survival, Sailaway Simulator, Satisfactory, Scum, Serious Sam Bfe, Session, Shattered Skies, Ship Simulator Extremes, Skater XL, Snakeybus, Sniper Elite, SOS, Spider Man, Splatoon, Squad, Sven Coop, Syndicate (2010), Tactical Invervention, Takedown Red Sabre, Terminator Resistance, The Division, The Evil Within, The Isle, The Sims, The Surge, Time Ramesside, Tony Hawks Pro Skater, Tourist Bus Simulator, Train Sim World, Transport Fever, Ultimate Epic Battle Simulator, Umbrella Corps, Uncharted, Underhell Mod, Warframe, Wipeout, Wreckfest, X17, Z1 Battle Royale, Zombie Panic Source.
A vast pseudo-diversity, in the same way that Amerikan supermarkets have several hundred types of breakfast cereal on display – yet all these are based on one or two mutant frankenstrains of evil-hypercorporate owned wheat or corn (also as in corny.)
It just takes a practised conventionality, a cliched conscience, emotional conformity, susceptibility to small-scale bribery by salary, goods, and/or status, a sense of isolation, and distrust [..] It just takes, that is, much of what in better times keeps a society provided with reliable and ambitious workers, status anxious consumers, polite neighbors, agreeable team players, and citizens who make no waves: an ability to go along thoughtlessly, to play the game.
~ Elizabeth Minnich, The Evil Of Banality: Arendt revisited
On finding images for this exhibit. Valve’s Community Screenshot browser blows dead goats. It took you an hour or so after deleting your old Flickr Pro account to realize you did not have a backup of most of the images. Flickr Pro did not make Sempai notice you. So much for that old perfumed ‘build it and they will come’ horse shit. Over ten thousand images and a pathetic handful of views. (Would uploading ten thousand billion images of helped your Social Media Credit status, and therefore your debts? Would it bollocks – because you’re not a rich, white and famous image to begin with.) Some motherfuckers got the game all sewn up from the very outset.
All this concerted (/misplaced?) effort, and you’re still in that cramped, frozen and airless suburban shoebox with a leaking radiator and silverfish under the sink. The invisible labor behind the production of such images almost always goes as unnoticed as the images themselves. All those countless solid months of carefully curating, resizing, polishing. You might as well be (as you usually put it) ‘pissing into your own stale digital wind’.
(The time spent searching and sorting 10K images, multiplied by the following actions in Gimp image editor: open, sharpen, smooth bilateral, chromatic abberation, pyramid processing, constrained sharpen, add grain, white balance, equalize, color grading, saturation adjust, save. Polish, sharpen, flatten, close all – finally sent back out into / as the world. And all for what, exactly?)
And so you sadly turned once again to Valve’s bullshit ‘community’ screenshot brower. The glacial pace with which it refreshes new images at the bottom of the page makes you grind your teeth. (The best time to browse seems Saturday morning.) You always set it to ‘view most recent’, as ‘most popular’ contains the most predictable and generic screenshots – they often look like mainstream AAAA industry ‘bullshots’ – perfectly lit, perfectly poised and predictable. ‘Pure’ marketing, somehow wilfully without substance.
What the videogame crowd finds fascinating is too often almost always exactly whatever the industry currently wants them to gawp at, pecking crows conveniently and willingly distracted by shiny strips of tin foil dancing in Ludocapitalism’s silent, dark storm. (Note the foil is perfectly raytraced in real time, and reflects cool neon lighting FX.)
We are spirits, in the (im)material world
~ The (/Videogaming) Police
While endlessly scrolling down, sometimes for an hour or more, you have to endure the same damn images showing up again and again.. probably something to do with Valve’s shitty display algorithm. Yet often the deeper you explore, the less the screenshots have that glossy, tiresome and blindingly obvious “Dead End Thrills” look about them. The more casual and unscripted they get. Off the cuff and imprompteu. Accidental – a odd, non logical consequence of a game’s expected possibilities.
The closer he came to this deceptive image of the island’s shore, the more this image receded; it continued to flee from him, and he knew not what to think of this flight.
~ Fénelon, Adventures of Telemachus
There are more glitches and oddities on display down here, scenes where nothing itself is happening – an active voidness. Fewer explosions and contrived ‘cinematic’ motion and more liminality, strange silence. These are often where the Hypertographic often shows its face, in Baudrillard’s ‘desert of the real’. You wonder how many countless days you’ve spent, like some loot box gambling addict, free falling through the browser, ‘skydiving onto a fractal island’ that you’ll never quite land on, continually hoping for that next big dopamine-potential spike to temporarily hotwire your game dulled Player brain, waiting expectantly for some ‘perfect’ image / scene / scenario to arrive, its cheap vision searing your empty skull.
There’s nothing special whatsoever about so-called Hypertographic images, only their potential symbolic meaning as Another (/better? Truly stranger?) World outside mainstream Videogaming. Except there is no damn outside. There is only The Video Game hyper matrix – and “Neo never left.”
The Matrix is surely the kind of film about the matrix that the matrix would have been able to produce
~ Jean Baudrillard on The Matrix movie
High On Dead End Thrills: A Remix
Consider Games not merely about realistic, high fidelity graphics or frozen ‘epic moments’ – but about living people; their dynamic relationships and their strange ideas. In which anything else seems a dead, dry end.
The fundamental qualities that make a good game have remained unchanged and elusive. Consumers still flock to buy original, addictive, and fun™ games, leaving many flashy products with million-dollar budgets languishing in the $9.99 bin. These costly failures demonstrate that the consumer does not desire a cinematic experience, but rather a quality gaming experience
~ Sid Meier, game designer
Consider Dead End Thrills a mere, slick propaganda website for Cinematic Realism – encouraging the default hollow ‘passion’ and continued lack of imaginative talent behind the world’s most generic video game products. (Drinking Game: throw back another shot every time another unctuous Games Industry figurine talks jive about “Passion.”)
Its ideological mission is to consider the essential elements of Play and Players a mere ‘distraction’ and instead provide ‘lovingly captured’ snapshots of often startlingly empty virtual worlds and their blandly beautiful inhabitants – where even the designer dirt is clean. Where all of its screen shots seem to come from the same (ideological) engine – an engine that can only render clones and cookie-cutter blandscapes.
It might accurately compared the work of a lost “unit stills photographer” on a dull movie set: its job is to falsely flatter and mis-translate “video games” yet (allegedly) without any presence of ownership. To somehow provide a visual document that isn’t diminished by technology – yet which is in fact nearly entirely defined by i.t.
Consider Dead End Thrills another overt attempt to further confuse vitally important ‘games as strictly big business’ debates. That is, its only true interest is in the heavily sanitized (corporate) ‘art’™ that exists within what it regards as An Dumb (Entertainment) Medium Only.
In a paradoxically sly bid to validate games or win approval from an otherwise intelligent jury of game critics, Dead End Thrills is falsely inspired – primarily by ‘the journal of cinematic illusions’.
Its choice of games is decidedly discriminatory; even worse, it patronizingly states ‘even the most rushed or underfunded games can dazzle and inspire’ – as though “Hotline: Miami” wants or needs anyone to give it a makeover.
The site has gone through few changes over the years, and has settled on what it regards as its ‘purest’ format to date. Images are downloadedable at high rez and are available upon request at ‘extreme rez!’ suitable for print by the hip.
Yet while it maintains it’s not a simple wallpaper resource, all of its disturbingly samely snap shots have been taken with that precise use in mind.
Dead End Thrills as expensively cheap Videogame Tourism: unconsciously, it loves ogling video game landmarks with a virtual Instamatic – and even ridiculously states this is actually ‘the job of the game itself’ (indeed Rock$tar Games would agree.)
Its central underlying ethic is that of Work: to confine and isolate video games from wider cultural questions. Indeed, its contributors discard hundreds more shots than they post in an all out effort of deliberate selection, design and cultural decontextualization. That is their challenge, their hobby and their only source of fun.
It’s also why games only tend to feature there if they allow an inherently limited pseudo ‘freedom’ of control over camera and game events. While there’s little ‘photoshopping’ beyond subtle tweaks to gamma common to online publishing, a self-perceived ‘straight white male (gamer) gaze’ is full effect.
Games are heavily modded and made exactly similar because it’s The Serious Business Of Gaming, and not games that Dead End Thrills enjoys. It’s all about ‘Downsampling’ – rendering at hi-rez and then shrinking to ‘improve the quality’ (of the modern image of what it thinks games should be.)
In many cases, capturing what makes these games live and holding them inside dead images is only possible thanks to the per-arranged generosity and understanding of developers who provide unlocked or early builds of their games.
Failing that, if the retail version doesn’t allow shots that are ‘worthwhile’ – according to its narrow definitions – the game doesn’t feature. ‘Credit’ should go to the hackers and modders who enjoy truly opening retail games up so that anyone can explore them – but it doesn’t; Dead End Thrills only seems dedicated to them.
Indeed, it gives clear and outright thanks to the giant hardware corporations whose sole job it is to promote and further the environment destroying technology of games.
For seekers of dead end graphical thrills, this is merely a capitalist ‘win-win’ scenario, as one is provided with equipment ‘to crash and burn on a regular basis’.
The entire site is proudly powered and indelicately perfumed with the alarming corporate cloud of Intel, Corsair and Nvidia. Images are hosted by the MaxCDN ‘content delivery network’.
Note: interesting how the games industry often talks about the millions of hours, the tears and sweat poured into video game art in terms of mere “content” – like styrofoam packing peanuts.
How Does The Site Work
If not for the living players which inhabit them, videogame worlds are soulless and dead. The empty spaces visited by Dead End Thrills are explored repeatedly to find what it safely regards as ‘the best possible quality’, the most ‘appropriate’ formats, and the most generically ‘exciting and evocative’ moments.
Each game has its own gallery which can be found via the Index; the front page of the site displays a fixed number of the most recent snaps, the number depending upon platform. Image count, thumbnail quality and loading chunks o’ content vary.
Passing viewers hover or tap on an image to display information about game and shot, together with icons for sharing on social schmuck networks like Twitts, Disinterest and FakeLook.
There’s also a handy cornflower blue icon for downloading the full Rezzz version of an image – though ideological resolutions are somewhat lower than the “original 4K” – apparently the new benchmark for ‘standard, sub-standard’ gaming blandness.
Video Game Culture For Hire
Dead End Thrills has produced marketing and production assets for companies such as Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane Studios and Crytek under strict contract – and that doesn’t fucking seem to bother anyone?
It’s worked in an entirely voluntary capacity under NDA with companies such as Epic Games, Remedy Entertainment, Avalanche Studios, Crystal Dynamics, Rocksteady Studios and Funcom. Professional work is tailored to their unique requirements of branding and PR teams, and uses years of useless experience in wrangling game engines, shamelessly liaising with developers – and (shock horror) even playing games themselves.
If one wishes to enquire about ‘rates and availability’ then they may use the site’s handy contact form.
To consider the mighty Jim Sterling on the delightful ugliness and the thoughtful lo-fi aesthetics of Horror Games.
On chromatic abberration: lossy jpg compression techniques on the images shown here has lessened the applied chromatic abberation effect – used to not only smooth out jpg compression artifacts seen in original files, but to enhance the feeling of being ‘at once removed’ from what’s on screen. A sheen – a soft bright gel glaze, a strange shimmer at the digital surface of things. This ‘at-once-removedness’ seems akin to the feeling of lo-fi VHS glitch culture, of the attraction of early / retro computized screens as a child, of being watched by television in forever lonely 3am by-the-week motels by the side of the Paris-Texas superhighway to videogame oblivion. The silent howling moon high overhead in a barren data sky.
Look carefully. Sometimes it almost appears like the sky is somehow painted on, that it even has corners – that you’re actually inside a vast box full of hollow data where we skim, drift, glide and coast – aesthetic reflexes of the rationality aspired by the depthless prevailing system called Economics. Yet despite this, patterns of cultural history remain which can be read and deciphered, in the form of coatings, film, stains – surface ripples and eddies.
Derealization is the phenomenon in which things appear strange and unfamiliar, serves a critically productive role in the creative process of Hypertography. It’s core estrangement, altered body image, obsessional scepticism and prolonged observation combined into a method of visual inquiry- a process that entails the deconstruction of habitual and routine perceptions associated with day-to-day Gaming reality. Seeing things as unfamiliar, unknown, or even as meaningless confers an advantage on the player, both loosening the constraints of corporate pre-conceptions and supporting alternative, fresh perceptions.
To consider aesthetic derealization as a common dissociative mechanism separates perception from cognition or seeing from knowing. While sometimes crude and disorienting, such an aesthetic approach or mode is often flexible and enlightening, employing an intriguing mix of sophistication and naïveté in seeing things strangely.
Derealization as an experience is both striking and enigmatic. While nothing new (especially in a Trumpian universe) the sense that the external environment has become strange or unreal belies an inherently complex, often poorly understood mechanism that cuts across multiple perceptual, affective, and cognitive levels. Cultural objects may separately look strange, feel strange, or lose meaning entirely, symbolically suggesting that our subjective experience of a seamless reality may be an illusory construct of multiple (even violently conflicting) elements. It is derealization’s propensity to invite such questions that give it an intriguing quality and attraction to interdisciplinary R&D investigations ranging from the clinical to the philosophical.
Conceptualized as a dissociative symptom often triggered by the trauma of living in a thoroughly postmodern century, the diagnostic and functional status of derealization remains uncertain, in the sense it presents itself in altered states like meditation. Its function (if any) is generally construed as a defensive mechanism – as the mind’s natural way of coping with the overwhelming shock or stress of the unreality of modern (/digital-Capitalist) existence.
The notion that derealization might be useful for its own sake receives almost no attention. It’s often argued that its direct behavioural and subjective effects are largely ‘negative’, with Cultural objects appearing odd, flat, dull, and devoid of any personal, emotional, or cognitive significance. Framing the question from a cognitive perspective, if derealization is defined as the loss of familiarity and meaning, what productive purpose could be served in experiencing familiar objects as strange, unfamiliar, and even meaningless?
The Russian word ostranenie, or defamiliarization, denotes the artistic technique of forcing an audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way. The strategy is a literary device, whose employment is deliberate and often satirical. Hypertography’s focus is on the actual experience of derealization as part of the creative process of self-reflection and detailed observation, integrated by the larger aesthetic context: the systematic deconstruction of the seemingly familiar process of global Capitalist Gaming (Ludocracy or Ludocapitalism), the standard behavioural patterns associated with this conventional reality and the dismantling of its apparent but illusory unity.
The capacity of this process to isolate features and relationships otherwise unseen or unappreciated suggests a critical distinction between a Player’s often fruitless existential exercise of gaming and a rigorous, philosophical method of intense visual analysis (ie. an analysis of the very notion of the visual itself.) The very features associated with this disintegrated experience of reality in this setting are used as a ‘big’ scientific device to explore and dissect the sensory, affective, somatic, and cognitive components of modern Play.
This involves a wrestling with how knowledge in the form of preconceptions shape and even bias the perception of Ludocapitalist reality, which sets the stage for interpreting derealization within a broader cognitive framework. This raises the issue of how top-down cognitive processing informs our misperceptions of Ludocracy and routinely directs them to what’s expected and familiar, as opposed to what seeing and feeling what’s more actually there; dissociating knowing from seeing may be one of the potential benefits of Hypertography’s aesthetic derealization.
The dissociation of the meaning of videogames from their common perception may be disorienting and anxiety producing for the modern player, but it offers a fresh look at an overly familiar and pre-conceived scene. For this reason, Hypertography might at least suggest the existence of a more flexible and nuanced form of play.
The focus, intensity, and content of such a Ludocapitalist Derealization can be directed externally toward intangible digital objects, and inwardly toward aspects of self such as identification as a ‘Gamer’. One of the more common descriptions of the onset of Hypertographic derealization is the re-emergence of a screen between subjects and their playful surroundings. There is a renewed sense of a veil – that one can’t seem to get hold of the world of digital play (that indeed it has hold of oneself.) It is as if one walks toward oneself from opposite ends of a virtual street, suddenly feeling an odd sense of estrangement, as if one had never seen one’s own face before.
The more one looks at the modern model of reality offered by global videogaming, the more the screen between its reality and one’s own grows. One starts by seeing the person who plays videogames, but little by little all the possible forms of him outside play start to intervene. The more a real vision of oneself outside gaming appears, the stranger one becomes. One is no longer sure of one’s appearance, or of anything at all.
From an aesthetic perspective, this disintegration or unravelling of components that are usually bound together in a singular, unified image intimates a plasticity of digital form; that there is no single correct view in the photographic sense and references a simultaneous multiple-perspective approach common to art movements such as Cubism. It highlights a counter-intuitive relationship between duration of observation and degree of familiarity / reality. It’s as if the various identifying qualities of the model offered by Ludocapitalism can be successively peeled away or dissected, one plane at a time.
If the final assembled product is conscious experience, then deconstruction pulls perception apart from cognition, and prolonged examination and study make things less, not more, clear and comprehensible. The result is an often striking sensory alteration. Objects and people in videogaming may not just feel different, but can literally look distorted. One can even argue that the feel of estrangement is to some degree separable (or again, dissociable) from its accompanying perceptions. (Distinguish, for example, between factual or visual familiarity with the warm glow of emotional familiarity.) A scene can appear strange and unfamiliar without any change in its physical attributes. Conversely, appearance can be visually distorted apart from derealization or loss of familiarity.
Such a re-focus on the relationship between sensory features and how they are bound together, assume a strangely visceral quality. The sudden lack of fit between appearance and meaning is not just intellectually strange, but can even be unbearable. Elements are suddenly not just separable, but in conflict and even violently incompatible. Boundaries and connections become blurred not just within, between. The concerns of Hypertographic derealization often center on weightier, existential issues. What is normally a joke or a tautology – ie. ‘being a Gamer’ because one cannot imagine anything else, or better, suddenly takes on renewed significance because of this feeling of strangeness – that is, the mere notion that is in fact entirely possible to question such an identity.
In what can be characterized as an epiphanous moment, perhaps the process of Hypertographic defamilization outlines a fundamental transformation in one’s perception of (apparently universal and unquestionable reality offered by Ludocapitalism – essentially equating the familiar view of the world with banality. Shedding the conventional view then becomes a necessary prelude to seeing things, not as they “really” are but more simply as they might be (that is, outside Videogaming.) Before, the reality of global videogaming had been something familiar, banal, or (let’s say) ‘stable’. Now, there might well be a complete change in reality – a chance for the unseen, the altogether unknown, the marvellous and fantastic.
At its most primordial level, the familiarity of reality is associated with survival and integrity, which explains why the sudden absence of videogames from one’s life feels so distressing. Derealization may literally mean abandonment or personal dissolution. Hypercorporate gaming sempai may no longer love us.
Perhaps the symbolic role of the Hypertographic is to challenge the status quo, not to maintain it. Familiarity and predictability actively threaten and stifle novel interpretations. Like a good or bad hallucinogenic trip, the determinants of the experience often depend on its social and emotional setting. Ironically, what is always imposed and arbitrary for players – gaming itself – is to be willingly encouraged for those undergoing Hypertographic derealization of the global state of modern corporate videogaming.
Such a state of detachment translates to player’s sensory experiences, rendering the world of videogaming colourless, flat, and unmovie-like. The extreme detachment in the derealization of the apparently endless positive qualities of Ludocapitalism generate a desperate search for meaning, raising existential quandaries for those confronting themselves as determined explorers of the more essential meanings of self outside ‘being a Player’. That is, the central concerns of the videogame-derealized are primarily philosophical, clarifying fundamental epistemological and creative issues through a radical and self-critical re-evaluation of the damage done by videogame images.
Such contemplative detachment retains and even enhances sensory precision and vibrancy. In this respect, it may resemble other healthy detachments, like that of the scientist, whose methods employ selective, measured, and complex mixtures of empathic distance and cognitive precision; processes that stress the problem of familiarity and preconceptions in diluting the immediate unfiltered sensory experience of modern play. It suggests that in contrast to unhealthy memories that automatically integrate sensory data to fit within a convenient narrative framework (eg. the ‘natural’ story of oneself as a Gamer), traumatic memories (ie. those questioning the reality of global videogaming) remain fragmented, isolated, and constantly revised.
Indeed, it’s the absence of immediate (Cultural) context and meaning that accounts for their quality. When players receive sensory input from videogames, they generally automatically synthesize this incoming information into a narrative form – “I am playing a videogame and isn’t it great” without conscious awareness of the processes that translate such sensory impressions into a personal, believable story. This is the (instant) failure of information processing on a symbolic level, and exists at the very core of the pathology of Ludocracy.
Memories of videogaming consist of images, sensations, affective and behavioural states, that are invariable and do not change over time and are condensed in order to fit social expectations. What is intriguing is that Players consistently claim that their perceptions are exact representations of sensations at the time of the trauma imposed by global Capitalist play. It is precisely in its apparently unedited, ‘original’ qualities that such memories might be said to resemble the kind of perceptual experiences that hypercorporations favour. One can argue that while symbolic representations, like narratives, names, and labels are more efficient and concise, it is this revising, and interpreting – mostly preconscious – that an aesthetically deliberate process of derealization might effectively undo.
Perhaps, it is these concerns that propel many scientists to direct their focus not on the exotic but the most commonplace of objects and experiences, which in effect has become obfuscated by familiarity. The usual artistic technique is to alter a familiar and expected context, thus forcing us to see the preconceived object in a new way – in essence to remake it strange, unreal, and unfamiliar. Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans are precisely not a good example of this, and in fact represent videogaming at its best (ie. it’s default worst.)
Perhaps the peculiar tendency of the Hypertographic is to see in a way free of the normal conceptual adjustments and to react to what is strictly invisible – a narrow focusing upon a compact form out there in (inner) space, an attentiveness to apparent size at a given distance, producing the hallucinatory sense of hyperreality which is probably its most characteristic feature. This form of awareness might help explain the heightened, strangely vacillating quality of such images and their unique space. Such a subjective seeing experience resides neither on the retina nor in the external form of the image but in the complex interrelationships between player and seeing.
The objective is not to attain some purer, unfiltered, and unrevised sensory registration of the world of global videogaming (a fictional tabula rasa regularly attained by gaming) but rather to reintroduce flexibility into the very process of perception. The aesthetic derealization possible within Hypertography suggests a symbolic suspension or relaxation of pre-existing meanings or habitual modes of viewing that permit the introduction of radically alternative cognitive models – that is, alternative to globally imposed videogaming reality.
To tacitly acknowledge that such virtual “worlds” are worlds seems a distinctly anaesthetic construct – ones that appear real, simply and precisely because they’re so visually compelling. We almost always tend to trust forms we find appealing – especially (and non-ironically) optical illusions. Yet it has not been nearly enough to say videogames like The Sims are mere replacements for actual Real Life for some time now; rather, it’s about the (market) relations Hypertographic images symbolize – enable and maintain. (Who needs The Fucking Sims anyhow, when we already have showers of shit-brained, undead Golgafrinchian rectums like The Kardashians strutting around inside our empty, gawping, forever easily pleased skulls? Who can even tell them apart?)
In which the existential threat of videogame images is not their vague relationship andor dubious claim to truth (as in verisimilitude), but the possibility that Truth per se has no relationship whatsoever with images – dynamic (videogame based) static (photographic) or otherwise.
Immense energies are deployed to hold this simulacrum at bay, to avoid the brutal desimulation that would confront us in the face of the obvious reality of a radical loss of meaning
~ Jean Baudrillard
On The Lost Art of Noclip: Abstract Virtual Game Photography Technique
To consider a rapidly dying, if not by now all but entirely lost art called Noclipping – the exploration and exposure of unusual and uncommon videogame perspectives and ‘angles of final approach’ (to what Robert What terms ‘The Video Real’) via the use of a videogame engine developer debug mode.
According to the Quake fandom Wiki, Noclip is a command that prevents the character from colliding with other objects and permits the camera to move in any direction, allowing it to go through such things as walls, props, and other players in a movement similar to the ‘fly’ cheat. The player can travel into usually hidden vacuums, voids, or undeveloped areas.
On Final Approach to “The Video Real”: a (deadpan) bizarre non-place nobody ever quite gets to land on, or arrive at. The (affectless) effect is often best and most clearly seen – or rather remotely experienced / experienced-by-proxy via watching scan-lined video footage of ‘games on TV’. (Or by watching Stephen Soderberg’s “Sex, Lies & Videogames.”)
Noclip as an important tool for videogame archaeology – a performative act of philosophically critical, political curation where unexpected juxtapositions seem positively sculptural, conceptually running parallel to historical Dada, Cutup and Montage art.
Memory Fragments: Where Noclip gives visual voice to previously undocumented (/sub) Cultural architectures. Nowadays, to go deep off-map into officially non sanctioned and anti-designed space seems a positively political act of explorative rebellion. (This cannot be stated enough. In the Near Future Now, people who even have the remotest desire to travel ‘off map’ within virtual videogame worlds will be labelled criminal hackers, and severely punished.)
Videogame warriors escaping game grid. This is an illegal exit – you must return to game grid.
Problematic ‘4th Wall’ removal: in which the technique of Noclip does not necessarily remove the 4th wall. Perhaps there is no 4th wall or any other kind – everything is always already fully exposed, andor rather the player is always themselves totally naked before Videogame simulation space.
* Noclip: somehow one possible visual metaphor for the Bundle Theory of consciousness?
* Noclip: restates the imposing (Ludocapitalist) reality of the actual, illusionary synthetic nature of video games and their virtual architectures.
* Noclip: not about finding an odd (photographic / conceptual) angle for the sake of it, but rather about exploring proto or ur-space. ‘Electrovading’ ideological spaces. Gaps in contemporary digital void architectures.
To consider however you’re not quite some digital Indiana Jones, digging in the dusty ancient online meta-archives with the beaming, overly confident, faintly smug colonial mindset of that long dead father figurine, but rather more akin to a passing alien anthropologist from the ‘Near Future Now’, manifesting in local wired spacetime as the avatar spirit version of Alien Faith Connors from Mirror’s Edge – a hyper intelligent Asian post-cyberpunk A.I on a sociocultural mission to deconstruct interactive architectural play (paida) from its current undead industry desert ruins.
Where, just like Faith Connors armed with the ancient art / technique of ‘noclip’, you will often find yourself repeatedly falling / failing through long-abandoned fractal records of (the faint signs of passing of) megastructural videogame architecture-systems, and “Your death will be like Bad Science Fiction™.”
A Contextless, Self-Bootstrapping Systemic Dis-Function: despite the convenient myths it loves to tell itself, the hyperreal matrix of modern global Videogame Capitalism (Ludocapitalism) does not exist as a solid impenetrable whole; while the effect is certainly that of a dead-lead anvil repeatedly dropping on the head of contemporary electronic Playbor (ie. Players) consider i.t formed of functionally-infinite overlapping two dimensional sheets, each as sharp as ceramic medical scalpels – with the ability to warp and distort over strange, deformed ideological shapes which pass in the theoretical night and give the idea of philosopher Walter Benjamin acute arcadian visions, as if he’d prosumed one too many cheesy snacks and hypercorporate energy drinks before bedtime.
In which there is no ‘lost art of noclip’: because noclip has long been the new default ontological state of videogame void architecture and interactive digital play; rather than some special mystical secret state one enters through ‘hacking teh Gibsons’ via l33t console commands like some muscular, permanently erect version of John Carmack, noclip is the standard mode of interfacing with digital image flux and flow – a NPC ghost in the undead machine with no voice that makes no sound, and only leaves minor traces of its nonlinear pathways through the temporary constructions and disjointed backwater edifices of holy Interactivity.
Remember, rather than indicate a potential epistemological gap for radical critique or accidental opportunity for collective reinterpretation, the glitch – the image of the glitch – has long since merely indicated a symbolic reinforcement of the dominance of the image over social relationships, a state of permanent crisis of These Financial Times; in actuality glitches merely indicate The Game’s smooth functioning, of millions of players in retro-fitted Cyberspace all simultaneously screaming ‘this is fine’ while the AAAA-Industry [say it like Jim Sterling roleplaying Skeletor] continues to chew itself and vomit forth more games-as-service Content, as perfectly interchangeable and dull as a billion solar tons of burning beige styrofoam packing peanuts.
In which Noclip is a lost art, precisely imprecisely because the player who plays (inacts) their pretty path-traced game is willingly lost in/as its glimmering spectacle – has already ‘amused themselves to undeath and Beyond (like the two characters in Fulchi’s cosmic horror-gorgonzola masterpeice “The Beyond”) and is already way past reproach, care or rescue – an atomistic nomad freely conversing in the garbled nonsense ‘visual language’ of what might be termed the ‘Big Science’ of strange digital play – as much imaginary as pained, desperate, lonely and malignantly useless (ie. its ability to make lizard owners of the means of plastic production ever more bitcoin zeros.)
Player X: We’ve been on this server a while.. hey, ever considered you’re just a dim, two dimensional gamer skin that’s just popped out of a cheap 1eDollar lootbox brought by some toxic trilby doffing squeaker on his mom’s maxed out ass-implanted eCredit bitcoin chip?
Player Y: Oh yeah, always. You?
Player X: I’ve come here to reclaim your post humanity in the horrible, unblinking and violently bland uncanny-valley face of ultramodern Ludocapital and will not be leaving until microtransaction exchange rates on your favourite R&D playspace of choice fall below a critical threshold, directly index linked to your pre rendered post-E3 trailer heart rate of Raw Hype!
Player Y *sighs*: One just can’t talk to you when your like this.
Player X: Like what?
Player Y: Edgy Degree Zero, virtual and pumped.
Videogame Criticism as an empty, lightly blood spattered White Cube gallery in the Cthulhuscene: wandering through the digital architectural spaces of the twilight Noclip realm reveals as much empty space as it does brightly colored form – one soon daydreams of ecological catastrophe, cosmic horror and the biopolitics of Doom eternal; of course, in more actual fact there’s no ‘there’ there – no dark side of the moon (or force) exists – “it’s all dark” – consider whatever bizarre eternal 3am eternal glow projects off the abandoned lunar surface of your deliberately oldskool 360hz@8k virtual retrogaming popover holomonitor merely the visible aspect of z_totalizing electronic void, paradoxically forever invisible precisely because its constantly being made visible through the ideological (war) rendering engines of the lousy gamespace your currently engaged with / hooked up to.
Current game critic ideas concerning videogames are too often passive and videogame industry-(/as)-Culture normalising. With their default mode of genial, slightly stoned amazement, game critics place too much trust in our apparent intuitions (including theirs) about the way things unalterably are vis-a-vis Gaming, and are not nearly self-conscious enough about the constitutive role of language, representation and ideology in making things how they are today. As a result, loose videogame talk cannot lead Players anywhere but back into their own warm, wallowing-in-the-game-world selves, and does not offer any prospect of collective transcence or transformation. To the degree that videogames may appear merely to accommodate Players to the way things appear necessarily to be (ie. consistently game-like), they – games and their critics – can be said to be quietist, naturalist, antihistorical and antihumanist.
In which Videogame Images (specifically Hypertography) are interesting, only to the degree to which they draw attention to the already existing organic strangeness of pre-videogaming consciousness / reality.
The eye as a portal to the bizarre alien reality of the (forever missing) present defined by Gaming. Perhaps Hypertography signals the emergence of a ‘visual language’ – an actual (post human?) sign system of ‘super surfaces’ and depthless Branes – holographic projections, z-buffers, a certain (uncertain) depthlessness – of ontologically incomplete universes and Zizek’s cosmic disjunction. One could term this ‘apparency’ [insert cool sounding definition here, which makes you look clever thoughful and hip.. and therefore worthy of vast swathes of money making attention on global Social (Videogame) Media.]
Videogame Realism as Ideology. In which there seems a direct link between Nvidia’s (/ideology of) ‘realism’ and Mark Fisher’s notion of Capitalist Realism. To note how game engines literally render Ludocapitalist ideology – make it visible, enable it in / as the world. In the Near Future Now, everyone is always already a full time Gamer, Prosumer and Designer of AAAA multiplayer Videogames. A modified version of Highlander’s call echos throughout the vast, hollow golden digital canyons where Players eek out a meger (virtual) existence streaming, laughing, screaming on queue and shouting seemingly veiled alt right hate speech down our studio quality wireless headset microphones. That is, the notion of ‘cinematic photorealism’ in videogames as raw techno-cultism.
Can you imagine what games we would have if John Carmack decided he wanted to create a believable character as opposed to a believable gun? [..] Stop rendering!
~ Warren Spector, game designer
On The Ideological Aesthetics Of The Light In Battlefield
Weapons are not just tools of destruction they are also tools of perception
~ Paul Virilio
To consider that even the light in the Battlefield videogame franchise directly signifies a gleaming surface – ideological – reality [Photorealist Work Ethic]
The Ideology Of Realism: Battlefield Of Light
In which light itself appears as an information channel, imparting specific ideas – in case of Battlefield, ideas about War – which have direct efficacy in the real world.
Battlefield, an important cultural commentary and propaganda statement on modern warfare – its alleged social Darwinian naturalness and unquestionable inevitability.
The idea being that War – now with improved destructibility – is both exciting and manly – that ‘playing war games’ makes one more alive.. though anyone who needs to live through uninterrupted death and unlimited destruction might mean they’re already fully paid up members of The Living Video Dead.
To these unspoken ideological ends, Frostbite Engine (for example) gives its full graphical support – directly providing an ‘epic feel’, direct access to a far right, ultra conservative political worldview though advanced ‘Natural’™ lighting – creating soul stirring spasms of shocking, awe inspiring power and totalizing destruction.
Game Engines, not as ‘neutral’ tools, but as systems directly helping (literally) ‘render’ or directly manifest on screen and-or in eyes of players the toxic ideology of Militainment. Ah, those fresh beautiful – dead – Battlefield mournings; note however how effortless it all is – the normalizing dance of the light in the clouds – why, one can almost smell the refined (canned) ozone of Raw, All-Amerikan Airdropped Freedom™. (In which there are never really any humans in such videogame system spaces, only mindless drones, darting about on fully automatic – headless and insanely Logical. “He rationalized himself to death.”)
Multiplayer game servers as abandoned near future dystopian Megacities, lifeless and silent, exposed as another manifestation of the insanity of the G.W.E Great War Engine – now always live and direct, online – rendered realtime as just another brainlessly enjoyable eSport from abominable global (Big Business) theater – the absurdly deadening third (world) order of Baudrillardian Simulacra. Warning: such freakish non places are not safe for work – or play.
To consider Unreal Engine now officially a literal War Engine.
Style is the answer to everything.
~ Charles Bukowski
Lament; to consider how it might seem some modern game developers still need reminding that ‘Unreal Engine’ is not a fucking art style; that, in the blind uninterrupted pursuit of every increasing graphical fidelity levels – some dimly attendant Cinematic™ Realism – a keen sense of art style andor direction are too often bypassed entirely in immediate favor of an often subtle, yet essentially simplistic application of colored lights, ‘gritty’ metallic surfaces and textures.
That is, gamedevs using such engines seem too often to be merely intent on displaying the innate, pre-packaged light rendering qualities of the engine, and little else – what the engine does anyhow by default, ie. show off ‘nice’ or ‘cool’ lighting effects.
While every choice one makes in-engine can conceivably considered ‘artistic’, they’re often entirely free of far more expressive styles expressed by game spaces like, eg. Team Fortress 2, LSD Dream Emulator, Killer 7, Thumper or Return Of The Obra Dinn.
Virtually nothing in terms of actual art direction seems to be happening at Unreal’s Outpost 23, it all seems to be about bowing to the empty spectacle of Tech, an endless fawning to the (neural) computational expense of everything else.
Yet as Robert What’s so-called Abstract Encounters group correctly states with their one word manifesto against Realism – “Technically Impressive isn’t.”
If one drags oneself away from the apparently overwhelming majesty of how ‘cool’ everything looks for a second, it’s easy to realize that such video space is almost entirely devoid of actual style – hey, maybe it doesn’t actually need any, but it’s often still cause for artistic concern, considering the amount of gamedevs which often ‘switch to (/the) Unreal’.
Dig Unreal’s obsolete multiplayer level Outpost 23 for instance, where style got wrapped in shiny plastic – “High Tech Uber Alles; all other artistic priorities rescinded.” The only message to gamedevs and players being shouted by such scenes is “Cool huh? I know, right! Right? Anyone?”
Just take look at poor old Malcolm Mcflak in the scene above – imagine what he remotely thinks he’s doing. Very little as it turns out; notice how Malcolm is dressed in the latest active Deathmatch arena armor, which shows off some very pretty highlights, complete with his warm green woolen cap and his incredibly detailed, massively oversized personal over-compensation weapon. Malcolm looks ready for anything.. except for the immanent threat of actual style.
For despite his slick look, Malcolm’s as goddam hyper-generic as the techno blandscape which – literally – spawned the poor dim schmuck.
Rather than surpassed, unfortunately it seems “Brown Games” have been merely been sublimated, the conceptually dubious torch of ‘technical sophistication and fidelity level in service of cinematic realism’ merely passed on to the next new generation of rendering engines and gamedevs which use them (andor get used up by them.)
Yet, something about rendering engines ideologically pursuing photorealism – the ideological rendering of the concept of Home in, eg Allison Road feels disturbingly real. Uncanny.
Congratulations to Epic Games, which has long been a literal Gear Of War – its Unreal Engine the official engine of death and destruction:
On Graphical Fidelity Generally and the Blind Pursuit of T.C.R Total Cinematic Realism
Rather than reproducing the “world” spontaneously and automatically, as the ideology of realism would have the spectator believe, the cinematic apparatus always operates selectively, limiting, filtering and transforming the images that are its raw material.
~ David Rodowick, The Crisis of Political Modernism 1994, p77
In keeping with Boing Boing’s strict classic Attention Economy injunction “Just look at it!”, consider an environmental concept of the game Deus Ex, as rendered in Unreal Engine – just look at it, for what exists™ is always good – and now here’s even more of it, you poor fools:
Ideal / Idealized price for such a concept as this: £20k – contact Robert What today for details
Regarding Unreal Engine’s realistic aesthetics; it’s like a prison environment that one looks out at with the usual passive disinterest – but what one sees might belong to the prevailing I.O.R ‘Ideology Of Realism’. To consider what being manifested on screen or ‘rendered’ as a virtual set of cultural ideas regarding the distinct non playability / non interactivity of a cold, hard symbolic environment of massive Control.
Such video game spaces featuring incredibly detail (scientifically accurate lighting effects) are often referred to as ‘tech demos’ or ‘barely interactive screen savers’ since they only allow strictly limited sets of predefined interactive possibilities, eg. ‘WASD while shooting brown foreigners in the face’.
One loud, unspoken assumption being stated in this scene, in and through every pixel concerns how things are, and how they should be – but according to who?
Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real
~ Niels Bohr
It’s almost as though the reason such a world displays such a precise, high degree of graphic fidelity is precisely because it does not want anyone or any force to change it; such a world exists in a state of total, permanent lock down.
Such an environment appears one of control, or precise mechanical movement and security; a player’s modern alienation is built into the scene, is reflected back in their exact lack of genuine options for meaningful interaction.
Consider the modern, blindly aggressive pursuit of T.C.R Total Cinematic Realism in/as videogame spaces, and what might be called their ‘graphic’ fidelity – that is, the unquestioning loyalty to the violence of Cinematic Realism.
People’s concept of what’s real is almost always that which is most convenient for them to believe at the time
~ Brian Eno, Imaginary Iandscapes documentary, 1989
Perhaps the aesthetics being rendered in this Deus Ex Unreal Engine scene are the ‘realistic’ aesthetics of prison environments in the robotic name of prevention of non official player meanings. Only the cult of T.C.R is able to be known, or directly seen in this Scene.
Remixed screens of most excellent article about graphical realism – Parallax View by Real World Mag
On Feeling High On Dead End Thrills: consider advanced Research & Development, not merely about realistic high fidelity graphics or frozen ‘epic’ moments – but about living people, their dynamic relationships and strange ideas; indeed anything else seems a dead, dry end.
[..] the fundamental qualities that make a good game have remained unchanged and elusive. Consumers still flock to buy original, addictive, and fun games, leaving many flashy products with million-dollar budgets languishing in the $9.99 bin. These costly failures demonstrate that the consumer does not desire a cinematic experience, but rather a quality experience of what it is to be human.
~ Paraphrasing game designer Sid Meier
To consider Dead End Thrills as a slick propaganda site for Total Cinematic Photorealism – encouraging the default hollow ‘passion’ and continued near total lack of imaginative talent behind the worlds most generic videogame spaces.
Indeed, try throwing back another shot of cheap rye, every time another unctuous games industry figurine talks jive about ‘passion’ in videogame spaces – as though on an ideological mission to consider the essential elements of play mere distraction; along the way, provide ‘lovingly captured snapshots’ of often startlingly empty virtual worlds and their blandly beautiful inhabitants – where even the designer dirt is clean.
Virtually all of Dead End’s screen shots seem to come from the same (ideological) engine – an engine that can only render clones and corporate cookie cutter landscapes.
One might accurately compared such work with that of a lost unit stills photographer on some dull movie set, whose job it is as to falsely flatter and mis-translate videogame space – to somehow provide a visual document not entirely diminished by technology – yet which is in fact nearly entirely defined by I.T. Another overt attempt to further confuse vitally important ‘play’ as strictly big business debates.
The modern videogame realism equation is as follows: where “polish” signifies more effort (work) equals higher ‘Worth’ (ie psychological / consumer sunk-costs justification) = mo profit$!! That is, the only true interest is in heavily sanitized (evil hypercorporate) Art™ which exists within the dumb ‘entertrainment’ medium only.
In a paradoxically sly bid to validate it’s own R&D or win approval from an otherwise intelligent jury of videogame critics, Dead End Thrills is falsely inspired primarily by the ‘Journal Of Cinematic Illusions’ – nice name.
It’s choice of research is decidedly discriminatory; even worse, it patronizingly states that even the most rushed or underfunded games can dazzle and inspire – as though Hotline Miami wants or needs anyone to give it a graphical upgrade or makeover.
The site has gone through few changes over years and has settled on what it regards as its ‘purest’ format to date. Images are downloadedable at high rez, and are available upon request at ‘extreme’ rez, suitable for print by artful hipsters. Yet, while it maintains it’s not a simple wallpaper resource, virtually all of its disturbingly samely snap shots appear to have been taken with that precise use in mind.
Dead End Thrills feels like expensively cheap videogame tourism, that unconsciously loves ogling videogame landmarks with a virtual Instamatic camera – even ridiculously states that this is actually the job of Play itself; indeed Rockstar Games would agree.
It’s central underlying ethic is that of work; to confine and isolate videogames from wider cultural questions. Indeed, its contributors discard hundreds more shots than they post in an all out effort of deliberate selection and design – ie. Cultural decontextualization. It’s also why games only tend to feature there if they allow inherently limited pseudo-freedom of control over camera and game events.
While no photoshopping is allowed beyond subtle tweaks to gamma, a distinctly self-perceived male player gaze is in full effect. In order to produce such images seen on site, the games themselves are heavily modded – made exactly similar because that’s the ‘serious’ business of games. To display / represent the global AAAA Games Industry proudly.
It’s often all about ‘downsampling’ – rendering at hi rez then shrinking to quote improve quality (of the modern image of what it thinks games should be), in many cases capturing what makes these games live, holding them inside dead images, only possible thanks to the per arranged generosity and mutual ‘understanding’ of developers who provide unlocked or early builds of their games.
Credit of course should go to the hackers and modders who enjoy truly opening retail games up so that anyone can explore them – yet Dead End Thrills only seems dedicated to giant hardware corporations whose sole job it is to promote the environment destroying technology of games (For seekers of Dead End graphical thrills, it’s merely a capitalist ‘win win’ scenario as long as one is provided with necessary equipment to crash and burn on these games-as-services on a regular basis.)
The entire site is proudly powered (indelicately perfumed) with the alarming corporate cloud of Intel, Corsair and Nvidia, it’s images are hosted by the ‘content delivery network’ (wow, how Super Generic. This mirrors how the AAAA Games Industry often talks about the millions of hours, tears and sweat poured into videogame art in terms of mere content – like styrofoam packing peanuts.
If not for the living players which seek to inhabit them, such videogame worlds seen on Dead End Thrills appear soulless and undead. The empty spaces it visits, are explored repeatedly to find what it safely regards as ‘best possible quality’ and most ‘appropriate’ formats – that is, the most generically ‘exciting’ and ‘evocative’ moments – that is, which appear just like advertisements for the AAAA Videogames Industry. Indeed, Dead End Thrills has produced marketing and production assets for companies such as Bethesda game studios, Arkane studios and Crytek under strict contract – a fact which doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Almost like Ludocapitalism has become the very virtual air we breathe.
The Undead Realism of Nvidia’s Ira
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities
To consider that Nvidia’s “Ira” FaceWorks tech demo represents what might be termed Undead Realism. The idea that the by now long rotten concept of Realism in video gaming is a particularly insistent form of Zombie that just won’t die, and keeps on raising it’s dumb, ugly head.
Ira’s ugly ‘realism’ ruins chances for true artistic creativity by denying the impossible: it’s the “Impossible” players also seek – and not the Merely Realistic.
The ideology of Realism: that you already think you know what ‘Reality’ is and can successfully render it.
To meditate on the seemingly inevitable artificial nature of aggressive technological development.
Compared to the forever-creepy “®ealism”™ offered by Ira, going in any and all directions other than his as a positive, healthy thing for Play.
Consider “Ira” an evolutionary dead end: a blank, soulless, dead-behind-the-eyes automaton who spews hateful, unquestioning phrases like “Take my money!” on queue whenever it’s demanded. There’s just nobody at home there, volks.
It’s babble about “HALF FRUIT / HALF YOGURT” merely indicates what passes for brains in an otherwise frozen, empty skull: Ira symbolizes the condition of beings willingly afflicted with profound, perhaps even evil and inhuman Stupidity.
Note the degree to which other disembodied, white, wired jive-talking heads online are also too often automatically impressed by such conceptually dubious – too often merely Technical – demonstrations of empty-headed nothingness.
Consider the Unreal Engine “Elemental” Demo as a good example of this high fidelity, block-headed thinking.
Note the total lack of lighthearted joy in such scenes of technical video gaming proficiency; there’s only the slow decay of empty eons, as an undead king rises from his Realist slumber in his hollow fortress of barren data; this dude’s so old, he farts pixellated dust. (One wonders at what percentage of this untouchable dead museum exhibit / space is completely off limits to players.) And what of poor fellows in company adverts extolling the empty / Realist virtues of Unreal Engine v.N in unconvincing, deadpan tones to – what appears to be the silent Computer in front of them?
Even the computer needs convincing just how automatically wonderful and obviously-necessary it is to have “Real lighting FX!”*zzzzzzz* As though that which is ‘correctly rendered’ automatically correlates and directly maps onto ‘interestingly rendered’.
In giving our tears to these fictions, we have satisfied all the rights of humanity without having to give anything more of ourselves; whereas unfortunate people in person would require attention from us, relief, consolation, and work, which would involve us in their pains and would require at least the sacrifice of our indolence
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
In addition to already being singers, dancers, actors and ‘Internet Gaming Personalities’ *pukes slightly in mouth* , videogames idols now became advertisers appearing in commercials for everything from anal purifiers to fried hiphop chicken. Conversely, videogames themselves are advertisements for external products. Videogames have ended up influencing not just pop music but advertisements, consumer products, movies, TV shows, fashion – and they in turn loop back create an entire Culture that’s mainly run by just a handful of Post Cyberpunk Hypercorporations. With the iron hold of a domestic game economy, these companies are able to manufacture Culture globally, defining what the masses deemed to be popular and therefore what money is spent on.
The commodities circulating in such market gain their significance not from their inherent qualities but from their relations with each other; no reality exists outside of these relations, nor needs to. The entirety of Culture is fully manufactured because videogames influence what is popular. Individual labourers / Players have next to zero autonomy, having already been swept up in the production process of games themselves. This division of labor is extremely strict and disciplined with each Gamer constantly trying to push their limits. Such a way of making / marketing / playing / earning a living from Games can only be achieved by almost inhuman levels of calculation and technicality, and this is why videogame Culture appears to be so overproduced. Videogames are brighter, more saturated, the advertising budgets are larger, and the emotional hooks sharper than daily existence. And all of it all delivered with extreme forcefulness.
Genres, fashions, colour schemes and even dance styles are crammed into single, world spanning games, fitting the visions of a multitude of different people. Everything is characterized by excess – an excess in the visual and the sonic, an excess in the corporate structures and an excess in uninterrupted colonial expansion of the public imagination. Such excess however can only be built on inherent contradictions: the contradictions between cheerful, carefree appearances of Gamers and strict discipline and restricted freedom of the games themselves; contradiction between confident and dependent attitudes and complete dependence on the global finanancial gaming system (Ludocapital); contradictions between political objectification and innocent appeals to traditional gaming values; contradictions between friendship and the Gaming’s complete disregard for human relationships.
And finally the contradiction between the Gamer appearing as a godly, almost all-powerful cultural icon and the reality of their near complete lack of actual creative autonomy from Maximum Fun. Knowing the suffering that underlies Videogame’s bright and glamorous appearance makes it morbid, revealing the total incongruity between Ludocapitalism’s appearance and the poverty of its as-lived reality. The immaterial basis that underlies something this excessive could only be bleak in the extreme. What the multi billionaire CEO assholes of videogames succeeded in doing is replicating the kind of Playbor (work-as-play) ethic found in sweatshops or heavy industrial labor and applying into the industry of Games. Perhaps nowhere else will you find the (dead and dying) ‘stars’ of Gaming so openly characterized by complete reproducability and disposability.
Are Videogames Art?
Too often entirely / deliberately the wrong question. In the context of world spanning Ludocapital, the whole ‘are videogames art?’ debate sure seems an undead end – to which one can reply ‘How is even art, art?’ (Indeed, one might argue that the truth in art is only precisely when it does not and cannot conform to standardized art-industry definitions.) What’s so special about art that videogames / their images have to be ‘brought up to it’s level’, legitimed? Who are those who get to officially pronounce its beauty and meaningfulness, if not its owners? If one considers what the massively circumscribed Capitalist horizon of understanding considers ‘art’, then yes – videogames are fucking indeed art, ie. an emanently tradeable commodity, where talk of aesthetics becomes another mere material cost-factor analysis, part of the global algorithm where surface beauty directly maps onto sellability. The sheer quantifiability of individual pixels, index linked to bitcoin trades, passed from ignorant, blind buyer to buyer like silent, unloved sex workers.
On the illusion of depth in games
Via Ludonaut Theodore Miles
“Illusions of Depth” (in all senses) : in which it’s all about the Boundaries → Ballard’s Death of Affect → flatness as depthlessness / → considering video game graphics as (somehow always) two dimensional → oldskool Shaded Polygons → Bilateral Filtering / No noise → that dry light in Half Life 2 → experimental simulations in/as the deep Ontological Desert → ‘Edge Detection’ / X-Ray vision → Emergent Gameplay / Procedural play → everything within the frame (existential coordinates) as an interrelated (objectless) system → extreme ‘Z Buffering’ / Hidden Surfaces
To consider many modern players have at some nodal point felt everything on-screen suddenly without depth or substance – no objects, just a single airless plane of strange existence
The listless boredom of a hot afternoon, watching the interfaces between – fully absorbed by light, dusty asphalt
The ideology of concrete: an endless road trip desert sense without emotion, far outside dissecting analysis and common knowablilty
No symbolism → zero time → quiet dissolution → to imagine more intensely / strangely-abstract andor theoretical game spaces
Gabe Newell’s Computational Neurocapitalism
“I ask you, what greater endeavor exists than that of collaboration?”
~ Dr. Wallace Breen, Half Life 2
Consider Big Gabe’s classic LBJ School talk as more truly about what might be termed “Computational Neurocapitalism”: how pragmatic heuristics may interpret how Crowds (as forms of Emergent Computation) psychologically define and evolve ‘Meaningfulness’ – and how this directly relates to Evolving socio-cultural forms and units of Exchange (‘Value’)
As for the future of Corporations, just check out Gabe Newell; a private, internalized corporation – with the face of a big friendly bear
What i.t$ all about – 02:17: “We tend to make people very productive and they add a lot of Value”
Note the importance of “Heuristics”: ie. consider Valve is as a Realtime Computing Experiment. Some 404 dead links:
– Gaming: too much like Work
– Snow Crash Franchising
– Yanis Varoufakis on TF2 economy
– Ian Bogost on Gamerfication
– Is Valve too good to be true?
On Minecraft’s Digital Feudalism
Summary: consider Minecraft as U.G.E user generated exploitationware.
In which “Gaming” is just another word for “Work” and gaming as a whole is now too often Just Another Job.
The countless unpaid ‘man hours’ sunk into Minecraft and its fan made ‘User (dis)Content’ shares common underlying features with modern wage slavery and digital feudalism.
There seems a sense in which Hard Working Players (H.W.P’s) need to wise up and demand to be Paid In Full (P.I.F) by the large video game companies which casually exploit their endlessly creative imaginative efforts on the sly.
Games: Who’s Playing Who?
[..] in which Minecraft is a Good Game, only because of the boundless creativity of the unpaid gaming serfs working incredibly hard on, and for Notch’s Little (Cash) Farm – and not because of any intrinsic qualities of its own. Kinda like Soylent Green – perhaps Minecraft is made from the blood and sweat of People.
Consider ancient Feudalism at work. Compare and contrast with Minecraft:
Ask: who is actually *creating* the real game here?
Note the similarity with Microsoft’s “Where do you want to go today?” That is, go anywhere you want, do whatever you feel like – except that wherever you travel and whatever activities you plan take place on lands owned by the fat Feudal Lord. Sure, you’re ‘free’ – but only to move (literally) someone else’s Turf – and act for someone else’s profit – like certain kickable little nerks:
Minecraft’s basic message: “Shut up and keep digging” (for me).
Merely ‘having fun’ or playing for / with ‘social props’ is, and perhaps should no longer be enough for the modern player, who is rapidly becoming more savvy about their rights to be “Paid In Full” for the real, hard work and countless hours they plow into Grindy video games – especially those like Minecraft’s cheerful little Skinner Box.
For example – say you built a replica of the entire Mines Of Moria inside a video game. That’s pretty awesome and must of taken absolutely ages to complete, right? But so then why aren’t you getting a fair share of the game’s (huge) profits? Players Of The World, listen up: this is the new quest – into cold hard “CA$H4GAMING”: That is: “PayB4P”: you want us to play? First hand over the cheddar – then we’ll talk Innocent Gaming Fun.
After all, it’s creations like yours that are directly selling the game to (and for) other people. Indeed you’re the one really making ‘the game’ – building its very structure – as opposed to these fat cat land owners, who after all don’t even provide you with a pickaxe.
Difficult to imagine the billions of times people have hacked away at the hard digital wood and stone of Minecraft’s Happy Feudal Kingdom.
Yet the reason they aren’t they sitting pretty in their own luxury offices like Markus Persson is because The Industry mainly sees players only in terms of cheap labor, the free Art they make (sorry, user generated ‘content’ – like styrofoam packing peanuts) and perhaps their blind willingness to Click Cows all day long in an act of selfless voluntary suffering.
Cube Processing Units. Creepy grown men / greasy bearded necks, playing around with cubes. Perhaps it’s high time for a few more Revolting Digital Peasants / Player Serfs to rise up and refuse Work aka totally awesome, permanent Enforced Fun.™
Dead MMO World
To consider the sense in which the shimmering virtual photographic surface of videographic images, rather than merely betray reality, needlessly and even purposefully obsfucates and mystifies the truer, even more illusionary relationship between observer or Player and global Ludocapital. In which the common result is a deadening feeling of existential condemnation and abandonment to a ‘Dead MMO‘ world – a lifeless server, full of cosmically obsolete objects. A patient on life support, it requires regular shocks of electricity to keep the parodic appearence of decaying half life in place. Keep it all nice and P.C. The interactive digital art peice Pagan Autogeny by Oleander Garden typifies this undead movement from nowhere to nowhere. Wandering among the polygon ruins in desperate, fruitless search for meaning. Dead non-places, haunted by the living.
– Inconsequential puzzles
– Listless fetch quests
– Arbitrary stealth sections
– Endless crafting (note: fuck crafting)
It’s a lifeless universe of drudging routine and pointless vaguery
~ Top Ten Shittiest Games Of 2019 (The Jimquisition)
Such worlds are most clearly symbolized by the (by now bizarrely common) gaming trope of an abandoned stage set prop, a form of virtual Set Construction used for old movies or long forgotten tv shows. Does this not say something about the actual naked poverty of these worlds?
Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Gaming
A playabe scenario via Theodore Miles, based around Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination Of Television. In no particular order:
Argument One: Games, Games Everywhere, Nor Any Space To Think.
To paraphrase the good Dr. Thompson – “Video gaming is what the whole hip world is doing, now that big (gaming) business has won the war”:
Consider video gaming as a normalized and seemingly universal (and therefore strictly Culturally-enforced) ‘hobby.’
The ideology of modern video gaming lies not in suggesting some b.s near-future sci fi dystopia where everyone is forced to play video games might, or could not ever occur – but rather in constantly stating that this very reality isn’t already, and never could already be an dystopian video game circus, run via / played by fully automated human parodies inside a dumb electronic simulation.
Modern Gaming Propaganda
That is, the situation today is already one of the following aggressive cultural injunction, disguised as an innocent question: “Who *wouldn’t* want to become part of our friendly global video gaming community?”
Argument Two: Games *as* Time / Waste.
Regarding the tautoillogical argument that ‘video games are a waste of time’:
Rather, consider the possibility that any reality that permits, allows and actively encourages ‘video games’ is already one based entirely on nothing but hollow excess and waste; video games do not ‘waste time’, but might be expressions of the excessive waste that is Time.
To play video games is perhaps to crap out (eliminate) time; perhaps all that happens when we play is that more wasteful Time gets generated – time spent gaming.
Argument Three: Games as Violent Symbolic Split.
Regarding the false argument that ‘video games make you violent’:
Rather, consider the possibility that violence is already present in the very concept of Video Games – the ‘brutalization of the pursuit of sensation’ as Ballard says – which is also a real violence against people and their environment.
Maybe gaming essentially represents and enforces a terrible symbolic split or dualistic disjunction; that is, even to engage with the notion of “Video Games” is to separate oneself away from the truth of the greasy lie that video games somehow bring us all together – when in fact they simply bring us all under the same corporate umbrella.
Perhaps to treat Games as Ontology (as a seeming way of knowing the world) is already to lost in their steamy cloud of bad ideas, posting as inevitable progress.
Argument Four: a scenario in which “Video Games Are Art” Isn’t Enough.
Even if video games are art – so what? A friend of writer David Shields argued that “Literature never saved anyone’s life” – perhaps he’s right, but perhaps the problem is that video games permit, allow and encourage people’s lives to remain exactly the same; stuck at an infantile level – that of ‘play’ itself.
Even by being art, perhaps games can’t ‘grow up’ because they’re always made and played by people who are themselves ‘Kidults’, willingly caught in a disturbing digital Peter Pan playground of inherently limited Video Imagination.
Consider the single truest apocalypse of Video Gaming now a deliberately exciting Sunset Overdrive to nowhere.
Objectively, videogames are built with metals mined by slaves in countries marked by endless civil war. Those metals are refined by exploited labourers working in unsafe conditions and encased in plastics that poison ecosystems and contribute to an over-reliance on fossil fuels. They are developed by armadas of overworked temps conditioned to lay-offs after every project. Games foster addiction until they are discarded to repeat the cycle of waste and spending. Videogames are marketed as masculine power fantasies to an increasingly hostile homogeneous group of insecure men and, when criticized, the monied few that truly benefit from the industry retreat into dismissive irreverence. Objectively speaking, videogames are evil. The only reason they are worth spending any time on is that they might bring joy and encourage thought, and neither of those virtues necessitate the evils that currently define their culture. None of that is necessary. Gamers aren’t necessary.
– Mark Filipowich
// how to play big science