Italian artists Molleindustria promise "radical games against the dictatorship of entertainment," and their latest effort may be their most direct statement against the pleasure industry to date. Touted as "playable theory," the Free Culture Game offers a ludic metaphor for the battle between copyright encroachments and the free exchange of knowledge, ideas and art. A circular field represents The Common, where knowledge can be freely shared and created; your job is to maintain a healthy ecology of yellow idea-bubbles bouncing from person to person before they can be sucked into the dark outer ring representing the forces of The Market. Your cursor, shaped like the Creative Commons logo, pushes the ideas around with a sort of reverse-magnetic repulsion field (a clever alternative to the typical shooting, eating or jumping-on-top-of-and-smooshing actions of many other 2-D games). People who absorb free, round ideas stay green and happy, while those who only consume square market-produced ones become grey and inverted. The game never really ends: you can only do better or worse, suggesting by analogy that the fight for free culture will be an ongoing struggle without end. For those who wish to kill additional worktime minutes, Molleindustria's site includes an archive of past games, which take on topics such as the clash of religions, the Catholic Church pedophile scandal, flextime, labor and their notorious take on McDonald's, a cute simulator that takes you from slaughterhouse to boardroom. - Ed HalterImage: Free Culture Game (Screenshot)
As we hit the slower weeks of summer, take five minutes to play Jason Rohrer's Passage, a contemplative art game created for last year's Gamma 256 competition in Montreal, which challenged indie designers to create games with tiny, irregular aspect ratios of no more than 256x256 pixels. In its half-year of existence, Rohrer's entry has become a micro sensation on its own, garnering kudos in scads of the most widely read games blogs as well as mainstream press. In Passage, you play a character who travels across a narrow horizontal corridor representing nothing less than the passage of life itself, from childhood to old age. Since it's very much a game about exploration and discovery, to say any more about what happens would spoil the impact -- so with that in mind, don't read Rohrer's heartfelt statement on the game until after you've played it. Rather, prepare for ingeniously low-res visuals and minimal but meaningful interactivity that maximize a miniature platform in terms of the metaphoric potential for gameplay. After Passage, Rohrer created something of a sequel with Gravitation, a slightly more complex game about creative inspiration and a father's love for his daughter. Or, as Rohrer puts it, "explores how a particular corner of my life feels, as only a game can." - Ed Halter
Tonight at Exit Art in New York comes a bevy of performances as part of the space's current potpourri-style exhibit Summer Mixtape Volume 1: the Get Smart edition. Critic and artist Nick Stillman will present a slide lecture on "the best art today," accompanied by sounds from noisemakers Knyfe Hyts and artist Corey D'Augustine. But afterwards some mysterious darkly-glowing strangeness will emerge with "A Network of Love," an event by Donna Huanca (aka RUA MINX), the duo of Daniel Keller and Nik Kosmas, better known as AIDS-3D, and dancer Helga Wretman. Hard details are slim, but according to the trio's own statement, expect a futuristic post-apocalyptic scenario in which "the last children of Eve struggle to maintain their digital lifestyles" after "the old systems of power have collapsed." An earlier blurb from Huanca stated that the show may include such items as drum machines, videos, sewing machines, and animals. Exit Art curators promise us there will be lasers involved; we strongly suspect there may also be black lights and phosphorescent paint. What we do know for sure is that Rhizome's own Ceci Moss will be participating in the sonic aspects of the happening, nicely rounding out the inclusion of Rhizome team members Marisa Olson and Tyler Coburn in the exhibit itself. - Ed Halter
Image: AIDS-3D, Untitled, 2008
Indie gaming has been the hot topic in the videogame world in 2008, but even the most erudite and well-informed game bloggers have smashed into an impenetrable wall of critical stupefaction when attempting to grapple with the strange and unheralded wonder that is Fruit Mystery, a ultra-low-fi flash challenger created by something named Brett Graham. TIGSource proves speechless, Play This Thing! attempts an intelligent exegesis of its procedural rhetoric, but ends up saying it's a kind of game that "should be put in the dumpster and ignored after use, like disposable diapers," and a commentator at Rock Paper Shotgun simply asks, "What the utter fuck did I just play?" Set to the incisively irritating rhythms of the 80s' worst song, the garishly-colored Fruit Mystery enjoins you to feed a variety of badly-drawn edibles to zoo animals, represented by a marquee procession of stock photographs; each food-plus-animal combination elicits a unique edugame-style tidbit of rude, poorly-spelled nonsense. At the end of this cross-species gastronomic adventure, (spoiler alert!) you are assaulted by Zookeeper Steve. Thanks to his huge resume, which is posted to his site, one would be led to believe that Mr. Graham lives in Australia, where he works as a web designer. He also provides free advice for dog owners, does not like white rice, and may still live with his mum and dad. - Ed Halter
Image: Fruit Mystery (screengrab)
This summer, the Whitney mounted a major exhibit on Fuller's life and work, Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe, on view through September. The show features a variety of Fulleriana, arranged in chronological order, allowing for a roughly biographic experience: sketches, architectural models, concept designs, numerous looped clips from the 1971 documentary The World of Buckminster Fuller, maps and diagrams, original publications, and a 12 foot high cardboard geodesic dome built for the exhibit. Though largely a show about architecture, Starting With the Universe presents Fuller as a revolutionary and visionary thinker who worked, as he put it, "comprehensively," across disciplines, and a forerunner of 21st century environmental design and networked culture.