Play Cultures, The world of digital games in contemporary art and culture.

Play Cultures

Play Cultures photo set

The so called ‘game culture’ is becoming a vast cultural territory spreading from its pop origins to the growing academic studies. “Play Cultures” was a properly named exhibition, symposium and workshop held in Novi Sad (Serbia) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina. Passionately supported by the Kuda crew, it was a mind-opening event ranging from the development of games through Open Source software (including the Ludex Open Source Game Operating System) to the social, political, aesthetic and educational potential of videogames. In the exhibition twenty acknowledged game artists were selected with some of their finest works: AES + F, Alon Tzarafi, Afkar Media, Fiambrera, Gonzalo Frasca, Jodi, Molleindustria, Personal Cinema, Persuasive Games, Robert Praxmarer, Serious Games Interactive, Tale of Tales, Vladan Joler, Vladimir Todorovic and Urtica. The symposium lasted two days and it started different collective discussions, triggered by the different stimuli every lecture brought. Ilias Marmaras, part of the Greek Personal Cinema artist and curators collective (and one of the finest cultural videogame connoisseur around) explained how videogames are also reflecting the “post political situation”, and both liberalism and chaos. One of his works is a videogame placing YouTube video full of national prejudices in conflict situation (Greece-Turkey) on a large map, trying to cover every empty space as soon as possible. More controversial than anybody else Konrad Becker gave a lecture/performance in the form of a business presentation on a new firm “Global Security Alliance”. It was fast, provocative and hypnotic with an abstract soundtrack. Disturbing and mesmerizing as always he posed serious question at a too fast pace: how security has become a necessity and how it can be treated in the perspective of risk management, starting from the implemented fear control… Curator Daphne Dragona posed also an uncomfortable question but on a different question: who’ll support the Indipendent Game Scene? After recounting her Mediaterra 06 and Laboral exhibition experiences among her strategies to succeed she proposed a “call to arms”. A personal cultural path was drawn by Martin Pichlmair, outlining a possible game art taxonomy, including narrative, perception, exploration and history as some of the categories. On a different side Alessandro Ludovico analyzed Molleindustria radical works, their unwritten rules and their peculiar use of time. The provocative speech of Péter Fuchs then went on first quoting Lukacs “in art people express identity” and then analyzing how functional and decorative arts go together in online games, especially in dresses (reflecting the ego) and in weapons that more than conceptual are revamping neo romanticism and neo classicism aesthetics. Margarethe Jahrmann then argued about the relevance of games for society, starting with a brief excerpt from the Society of Spectacle and continuing explaining how transformative play would mean an incorporation of games, characters and set of rules in the reality engine, ending with a very interesting cosplayer investigation and how there’s a power in their aesthetics and how play is a performance strategy into realities. Moral issues about creating games was the main topic of Vladan Joler and how he faced it developing a recreation of a military building with personal surveillance (that would have been circumvented once the game would have been published). Kristian Lukic rooted in the 60s and 70s conceptual art and their (failed) dematerialization of the art, then moving to how online mass multiplayer game are a revolution, having solved the physical distribution (no cd anymore), copying and piracy, so switching the strategy in a way that everybody on the planet has the same version and the same “rights”. Gordan Savicic then during a complex and structured talk pointed out how the gamer wants to be grasped by the game engine in a thought/action/re-action triad. Finally Predrag Nikolic gave an interesting report on Halo3, one the most expected commercial titles, how it defines the Xbox platform and the viral communication strategies that seem to be really effective judging the absolute records of sales. The long discussion ended talking about the new conceptual and commercial game “Echochrome”, another hybrid challenging product…