Monday, August 30, 2010

Video games and person

This morning I read Alexander Nehamas' opinion piece about Plato and popular media. The piece was comparing the critical analysis of video games to the same sorts of analysis in ancient times. He lumped in video games with other popular media in a way I found to be typical of someone who doesn't play video games. As analysis by non-game players tends to, it failed to note important differences between video games and other forms of media. The most important of which is, IMHO, person.

All traditional media no matter how they are painted, written, acted, or performed are actually in the third-person. Only a psychotic person confuses actions written in a novel as "I ran" or "I said" as actions they, the reader, actually took. No matter how you try to frame a book or movie, you are not confused by who actually took the action. They took the action -- you observed it.

In all video games the opposite is true. No matter how the fiction is presented, it is actually in the first person. Only a psychotic person would say: "And then Pac Man decided to turn left". A rational person says, "I made Pac Man turn left" or more usually, "I turned left" because Pac Man is not your agent but rather your avatar.

Of course literature, movies, etc. can induce sympathy and strong emotions as if the scene were happening to you. Indeed, they are surprisingly capable of making you feel those emotions more intensely then if the situation had actually happened to you. And conversely, just because some video game is in the first person doesn't mean that you must have a deep emotional connection to it -- many video games try and fail to create such a connection.

But that said, there's a dramatic difference between games and narrative. Analysis that doesn't bother to note that games are real actions taken in a simulated world while narrative is simulated action in a simulated world is missing an enormous piece of the critical puzzle. Play is a complicated emotional state where you are taking real (but possibly attenuated) actions while staying aware of the fact that your motivations are pretend.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of video games as art, if one is going to analyze their role in society one one should at least be familiar enough with them to understand that they are a profoundly different form of art. As in the article in question, I find direct comparisons to literature and literary criticism tend to be overly simplistic.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Upstairs tree mural

With some help from Michael and Rechelle, I started on the tree mural for the upstaris landing. I've had this planned for some time and finally got around to it this weekend. There's still work remaining but pretty good for a few hours work.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Several old videos

I just discovered that someone taped my 2005 talk at the Austin Museum of Art for their 22 to Watch show. It's a 5 minute explanation of the piece I made for that show "Moderation".

Here's another art talk from a show in Sao Paulo, Brazil around 2004. This one also features my friend Adam Chapman talking about his art at the same show.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Gate support v 1.2

I had still more left over material and I felt like it needed a little more so I'm up to v 1.2 on this thing. I threw out the rest of the wood to stop the temptation of adding more!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Radio Interview on Studio 360

My friend Lindsay Patterson produced this really nice piece about my work for Studio 360 this week. Thanks Lindsay, sounds great!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gate support v 1.1

I thought it needed a little more and I had some leftover material so I added this spiral-y bit.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gate arch

The gate I made for the side is so heavy that it was causing the post to lean inwards making it hard to open. I couldn't put a tension wire on the opposite side because of an adjacent driveway so my only solution was to add a compression element pushing the post away from the house. To keep with the tree and vine theme I built this from a glued up laminate of 2x2s.