Codes of Honor

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Jon Rafman, Codes of Honor, 2011


Chinatown Fair arcade closed down on February 28th, 2011, after over 50 years. Gamers are still in mourning. CF, as it was known, was one of the last video game arcades in America where one could count on finding top-level competition.  I spent the better part of 2009 in that dingy, dim-lit arcade at the end of Mott street, which was the battlegound for the best players in the history of pro-gaming.

The first Street Fighter release in a decade —Street Fighter IV —just came out, sparking a short-lived renaissance in the fighting game community. I got to know the regulars at the arcade and began conducting daily video interviews, asking them to recall their greatest memories at the joysticks. I set up a YouTube channel, which was widely followed and the comment section became a major forum for debate in the community. During that year, I learned that to be a top-pro one could not simply master the technical aspect of the game; to compete at the highest level one needed to have a strong character and a deep understanding of human psychology. I learned that pro-gamers ascribe to the values and virtues of the classical archetypes of yore: honor, respect for the other, and excellence. Hardcore gamers have an experience of acheivement so intense that, although limited in scope and time, it is forever difficult to equal. Although nothing can rival the high they get from defeating a worthy opponent or the reputation during their reign, the fame is as fleeting as the high of the win. And so I learned of the tragic element that is inherent to the experience of video gaming...

 

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Developer Diary (2010) -- Robby Rackleff

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RECOMMENDED READING: Understanding Pac-Man Ghost Behavior

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Excerpt from Understanding Pac-Man Ghost Behavior by Chad Birch on GameInternals:

Each of the ghosts is programmed with an individual “personality”, a different algorithm it uses to determine its method of moving through the maze. Understanding how each ghost behaves is extremely important to be able to effectively avoid them...

The key to understanding ghost behavior is the concept of a target tile. The large majority of the time, each ghost has a specific tile that it is trying to reach, and its behavior revolves around trying to get to that tile from its current one. All of the ghosts use identical methods to travel towards their targets, but the different ghost personalities come about due to the individual way each ghost has of selecting its target tile. Note that there are no restrictions that a target tile must actually be possible to reach, they can (and often are) located on an inaccessible tile, and many of the common ghost behaviors are a direct result of this possibility...

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Big Reality

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Eddo Stern, Creative Anachronism, 2004

“From Nethack to play-by-post forums on the WWW,” an Ars Technica blogger wrote in 2009, “the first thing that computer geeks do upon inventing a new medium is play Dungeons and Dragons with it.” With this half-joking riposte to conventional wisdom that new communications media are appropriated first by pornographers, the blogger introduced a roundup of instructions for adding dice rollers to Google Wave to make it a platform for turn-based role-playing games. Of course, links between computing and RPGs predate networked technology. Some of the earliest computer games were made by programmers who played D&D; and saw the connection between dice and digits. Another parallel might be drawn between the do-it-yourself culture around computing in the 1970s and the amateur storytelling demanded by RPGs. Even while computer use leaves less to the imagination today than it did thirty-five years ago, it still shares more characteristics with RPGs than older forms of entertainment do. The creator(s) of a novel, movie, or drama have combined details into a whole by the time it reaches an audience; those media come with spatial and temporal guidelines for consumption. But just as network connections are constant and pervasive, RPGs are open-ended, played with regularity and long-term commitment. Gaming (like, say, tweeting) doesn’t have the same distance between medium and audience as reading or film-going – there is a constant awareness of the self’s participation in a bigger system, and a feeling of contribution to it. RPGs, like internet use, move at the speed of life.

I think this affinity is what has prompted many artists to include allusions to RPGs in their works. Whether they adapt the forking structures or the surface details of fantasy and science fiction, whether those references are direct or oblique, references to the culture around RPGs can be shorthand for reality’s mediation by immaterial systems. Some examples: Brody Condon’s remakes of medieval paintings with game graphics, Eddo Stern’s animation of a gaming-forum flame war, Deb Sokolow’s choose-your-own-adventure drawings, the arcane protests of the Center for Tactical Magic, Sterling Crispin’s scrying devices, and the occult forms behind altar .gifs on dump.fm. These artists a have relationship to fantasy that’s distinctly different from ones who make monster portraits and fantastic battle scenes – a genre that’s also become more visible in contemporary art the last few years. (That trend, I’d say, comes because popular and critical approval for Peter Saul and Tim Burton has emboldened a younger generation of “outsider artists” who grew up with RPGs.) Indie fantasy art, like the illustrations in novels and gaming manuals, that inspire it, is about virtuosic draftsmanship and imagination. It showcases fine renderings of dragon scales and weaponry. The examples I listed above have rough edges where processes of imagination and play visibly collide with other frames of reference. Often, they achieve this by bringing technology to the foreground.

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Hot Throttle (2011) - Mark Johns (Doomlaser) and Jonathan Soderstrom (Cactus)

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[PLAY]

Hot Throttle is a new game on Adult Swim from indie game designers Mark Johns (Doomlaser) and Jonathan Soderstrom (Cactus) which features scantily clad men racing around, throwing knives and pretending to be cars.

Note: We mentioned some of Adult Swim's other games by Mark Essen here on the blog a few weeks ago.

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Interview with Zach Gage

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Zach Gage, Hit Counter, 2009

“Between the ubiquity of Internet access and the fact that data has no objective tangible form, internet users have long been plagued with the problem of determining the value of the content they are ingesting.” - Zach Gage

Seen in a certain light, the core of technological mediation has always been presence, absence, and distance. Writing established the possibility of presence during absence, arrows and gunpowder created force at a distance, the telephone created presence at distance, and network computing fundamentally altered the nature of being “absent” or “present” to an almost unrecognizable degree. No small surprise then that contemporary “media art” practice seems to return to these questions as being fundamental investigations. The question of what “presence” could be was explored and expanded throughout the dawn of the internet age: Ken Goldberg’s TeleGarden, Eduardo Kac’s concept of Telepresence, Sven Bauer, Heath Bunting, to grab but a few names. Each possibility of a new field of entry, a new method of retaining, mapping, signifying, and storing, opened a rich possibility. Now fast forward fifteen years and ever-presence is exhausting, a nuisance that forever asks and returns only the vague rewards of a slot-machine and seems to fray our sense of privacy, meaningfulness, boundary, and perhaps even self. So how then to artistically respond to this? Exhibit: Zach Gage.

His works are at once sophisticated and remarkably simple, both in presentation and concept in a way that might be recognizable to Joseph Kosuth or Lawrence Weiner, rather than the Baroque conceptual complexity on display in much media art in the 90’s. Computational art or interactive art has generally taken two tacks in dealing with the complexities of technology itself -- unabashed celebration and dystopian anxiety. At either extreme is the grandiose challenge of prediction: this possible or actual relationship to technology will lead to this consequence or benefit. The reality of living with technology is not only simpler but is often much more banal. The most refreshing element of Gage’s work is how it asks us to do nothing more than consider what is. Working with the instantly familiar data sources, Twitter, Google, chat servers, at their simplest, his work often resembles a refreshingly sharp Occam’s Razor taken to notions of the richness of data and networked experience.

His thesis show, “Data”, is an extremely visually and thematically understated installation comprised of several pieces. Small wooden boxes, wires, and simple placards: none of the forced estrangement, hand-waving interactivity, or spectacle that one associates with computer arts. In particular, one of the pieces in the show, Hit Counter stands out as particularly poignant: a simple measurement of the number of times someone has stood in front of the work. Face recognition software is used to keep track of the actual viewers and the number is displayed on an old-fashioned mechanical counter. Gage states “with no other means to judge it, Hit Counter demands to be assigned a worth based solely on its popularity.” But then, Hit Counter is not merely asking to be judged on popularity. It, like so many things in our media culture, is popularity. It’s nothing else, and it’s not any kind of popularity other than actual physical presence; a sharp reminder of the relationship between presence and popularity. No matter how many people hear about it online, what is written about it, what buzz is generated, it’s a simple box that generates a number based on how many unique people have stood in front of it. I’m not sure whether I’m more struck by the concept itself or that I am so struck by the concept as an ontological exercise: something that simply is actual physical presence. It’s odd that it is odd and, in that oddness, it is a stance closer to Sol Lewitt “Sentences on Conceptual Art” than many other re-interpretations of his legacy and ideas. Reformulating the simplest data object imaginable in the simplest terms has a markedly clarifying effect and in clarification is a rare kind of beauty. I spoke with Zach Gage about Hit Counter, as well as his larger practice.

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BNPJ.exe (2011) - Jon Rafman and Tabor Robak

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A virtual environment, with multiple levels, produced for Philadelphia's Extra Extra Gallery.

Tip: Also see Tabor Robak's Mansion, another virtual environment created by the artist.

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Darkgame (2008-Ongoing) - Eddo Stern

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Darkgame head gear

Currently in the prototype stage, Darkgame is a sensory deprivation computer game. The user wears custom made head gear, which triggers sensations. For more information about the project as it progresses, check the site.


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Originally via CreativeApplications.Net

iRiS (Immediate Remote Interaction System)

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By combining a recently developed mobile software application with the multimedia facade of the ARS Electronica building we intend to lower participation barriers for end users when interacting with such facades. We developed two prototypes: in the first application, users can paint interactively on the building using touch input on the mobile device. In a second application, users are able to solve a jigsaw puzzle displayed on the facade. iRiS (Immediate Remote Interaction System) is a joint research project from the University of Saarbrücken, Germany and University of Munich, Germany.


-- FROM THE PROJECT SITE


Originally via Mediaarchitecture

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Voice Operated: On VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media

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VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media, a new anthology edited by Norie Neumark, Ross Gibson and Theo Van Leeuwen from MIT Press, takes stock of the voice’s various transformations in the arts in the wake of the technological innovations of the digital age, and the ways in which artists anticipated these changes. One might expect musings on Barthes, man vs. machine, hauntology, linguistics or body politics, and those are all here; but there is also a refreshing and suitably wide-ranging cross-section of pop cultural examples and namechecks (Wolfman Jack, Portishead, Winnie the Pooh, BioShock, Meshuggah). Beyond its interdisciplinary parameters, the more theory-oriented papers are counterbalanced by an experimental essay (Theresa M. Senft’s “Four Rooms”, which juxtaposes phone sex, cancer care tapes, a voice recognition program, and Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room”), a poem (Mark Amerika’s “Professor VJ’s Big Blog Mashup”), and a meditation (Michael Taussig’s “Humming”). The multiplicity of forms and inclusion of writerly as well as scholarly voices create an appropriately reflexive resonance.

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