Mezzanine, a game by Inpatient Interactive, is a psychotronic multimedia office adventure set on the eve of the new millennium. Make coffee, send layoff notices, and confront the digital demiurge in this exploratory point-and-click critique of the California Ideology and the false promises of our networked future. Mezzanine is presented as a part of First Look, the ongoing series of digital projects copresented by Rhizome and the New Museum. Inpatient Interactive will perform a special IRL playthrough of the game on October 15 at the New Museum.
From the artists’ statement:
Mezzanine is a first-person point-and-click adventure that traces the origin of the modern web and takes you into the heart of San Francisco’s Multimedia Gulch on the eve of Y2K. The player assumes the mantle of HR admin working late into the night at Zentropy, a buzzy up-and-coming multimedia startup. The game is ostensibly an office simulator; you can read emails, send layoff notices, drop off reports, and make coffee. In the process, you may encounter hidden puzzles and uncover sordid details about the company and its operations. But beyond this ludic veneer, Mezzanine is a reification, a summoning of the fallen world of the Gulch, an era where there was still, apparently, a future. Now, the promises of multimedia and the internet have resulted in widespread alienation, anxiety, dissociation, severe wealth inequality, and colossal levels of psychiatric medication prescriptions. As a forged artifact, whose very form evokes Myst and what was once considered the bleeding edge, Mezzanine explores the lost potential of multimedia and how our current societal psychosis may have always been by design.
In the late 1990s, Multimedia Gulch was the site of a revolution. Or, perhaps more accurately, a coup. From warehouses and garages across a bayside swath of San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood, a bizarre menagerie of artists, coders, venture capitalists, hypertext theorists, and techno-lysergic mystics sought to topple the Mass Media regime and immanentize an Aquarian information age. For netizens of the Gulch in those heady days, the solution to the end of history was an interconnected global village fueled by an infinite stream of Multimedia content, a community where enlightenment could be achieved via interactive CD-ROM experiences, video clip sharing sites, binaural beat generators, nootropic smart drinks, and web-based alternate-reality raves all proffered by a legion of startups funded by obscure backers vying to own the next means of digital expression and determine the discourse of the new millennium.
The Gulch itself is, of course, gone but in the ashes of the dot-bomb implosion we can scry its prophecies. All media is now multi; a bewildering combination of interactive text, video, and sound is the baseline online experience and the normative mode of information consumption. Content is king and the converted loft spaces have been exchanged for collaborative creator mansions, but the spirit is the same: a distraction economy predicated on the monetization of interaction, a rent extracted on the intensity of our desire to be connected. Community is promised as a product, attention is arbitraged, and atomization is the externality. Decades after its demise, the political ghosts of Gulch ideology—a miasma of free market libertarian ideals emphasizing the empowerment of the individual above all else—still haunt us, stalking the contours of a world hollowed out by NAFTA and trillion-dollar Bay Area tech behemoths: their Global Village was always a company town. The Gulch may be gone as a place, but it lurks on every screen.
—Mitch Anzuoni and Peter Christian
This First Look exhibition premieres the first chapter of Mezzanine, now available on Steam. Inpatient Interactive is an independent game development studio founded by Mitch Anzuoni and Peter Christian that builds alternative multimedia experiences to inspire players to find inner peace and new perspectives.
Cover Image: The view from your desk as the HR Administrator of Zentropy, screencapture of Mezzanine by Inpatient Interactive.
Images: screencaptures of Mezzanine by Inpatient Interactive.
The Rhizome Commissions Program is supported by Jerome Foundation, American Chai Trust, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York legislature.
Major support for First Look is provided by the Neeson / Edlis Artist Commissions Fund. New Museum Digital Initiatives are generously supported by Hermine and David B. Heller.