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Posted inBooks

Reading Kill Screen #2: Back to School

Kill Screen is a highbrow magazine about video games. If this strikes some as a bit of a contradiction, I wouldn’t be surprised, but it certainly makes sense to me. Being a young’en, I didn’t exactly grow up during the heyday of print journalism. There were no magazines or newspapers or any kind of periodical that defined my childhood, that I felt close to. The internet, with its forums and blogs, came to take that place. Then I found Kill Screen, a magazine that, against all my preconceived notions of print, feels like it was edited and written for me alone.

Posted inOpinion

Can Video Games Be “As Glorious as Chartres Cathedral”?

In the Guardian, Sam Leith writes an essay on the online multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, comparing the free experience of wandering through the game’s created universe to “a medieval cathedral, and a magnificent one: it is the Chartres of the video-game world.” Video games are often compared to narrative movies, controlled trips through a written plots. But Leith turns that on its head, suggesting instead that games are better characterized by the slow structural growth of a building.

Posted inArt

The Benefit of Virtual Living? Reality Doesn’t Last

If a meteor destroyed all of Queens, we’d probably be pretty freaked out. But might a virtual dragon destroying a virtual city ultimately upset more people? In an article entitled “Cataclysm Coming…” author Tom Chatfield explores what the update means to the denizens of World of Warcraft (WoW), the popular multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). To the inhabitants of an enormous virtual world, population 11.5 million, the coming update, called Cataclysm, will be a revolution. Sure, the game isn’t actually real, but aren’t there ways in which living virtually surpasses physical reality? To start off with, everything makes sense and nothing dies.

Posted inArt

Online Social Sculpture: On the Internet, We’re All Artists

One of protean German artist Joseph Beuys’ most famous quotes runs, “Everyone is an artist.” Framed within the artist’s idea of “social sculpture,” a conceptual practice in which our lived world forms a gigantic work of art and individuals become artists in its context, the quote makes sense. The wandering artist spent his time creating sculptures out of society, reshaping thought structures through performances, lectures, and physical objects, working with his fellow human-artists to remake our universe moment to moment. In the present day, I’d rephrase Beuys’ maxim: On the internet, we’re all artists.

One particular online video game, called Minecraft, brings to mind for me the essence of being an artist in the world, presenting a chance for everyone to fulfill Beuys’ definition of Social Sculpture. Where does Social Sculpture meet Social Media?

Posted inArt

Representational Politics, Video Games & War

When it came to light that the newest release in EA’s Medal of Honor video game series contained a mode in which players could choose to fight as a group named the Taliban, and the US Army was understandably not too happy about it. After all, they had previously been cooperating on developing the game, allowing EA access to military equipment for rendering as well as aiding in the recording of sounds for the game. Yet the thinking behind this pressure from the Army and EA’s final decision to remove the game mode is more complicated than it seems.

Posted inArt

Katamari Damacy’s Keita Takahashi Turns From Video Games to Playgrounds

As auteurs of the video game world go, Keita Takahashi is pretty far up there. The biggest game-changer of video games as of late isn’t the advent of 3D or the latest advance in the bloody realism of the latest first-person shooter, rather, a good argument could be made that it’s Takahashi’s Katamari Damacy, a quirky game that became a cult classic. Now, the designer has found himself too constricted by the traditional video game business, and with it, the company that helped bring him to fame. Along with wife, composer Asuka Sakai, Takashi has opened his own creative studio, called Uvula, and launched a blog to go along with it.

Posted inPerformance

Art of Video Games: “Theater of the Arcade: 5 Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage”

Video games appear to be making oddly pervasive cameos across fields as varied as architecture, art, cinema, criticism, and now theater. Theater of the Arcade: Five Classic Video Games Adapted for the Stage is exactly that, a series of five plays that Jeff Lewonczyk wrote and Gyda Arber directed at the Brick Theater in Williamsburg through July 25.

The premise of Theater of the Arcade is to take the characters from an iconic video game — let’s say “Frogger” — and insert those characters into a world that operates according to the logic and stage vernacular of an equally iconic 20th century dramatist — let’s say Samuel Beckett à la Godot …