social sculpture

[giantJoystick] by Mary Flanagan (2006)

Video of the Joystick

For the past few years, computer games have become one of the most fertile grounds for artistic exploration in new media art. Ranging from games developed by artists to mods (modifications of existing games), the spectrum of “game art” has critically examined the architecture, politics, and aesthetics of its commercial counterpart. (Massive) Multi-User games, in particular, have increasingly gained attention and, intentionally or not, have nurtured the emergence of new forms of collaboration, governance, and economy in their respective virtual worlds. Yet the hype of collaborative endeavour surrounding the buzzword ‘multi-user game’ tends to distract from the fact that the ‘territory’ one occupies in playing the game is characterised by various disconnects. As opposed to the good old board or card game, which is framed by shared physical space, the communicative exchanges and group experiences occurring in computer games take place in virtual worlds that are (a few exceptions aside) accessed by individual players from the privacy of their home through the use of devices such as game controllers, mice, keyboards and joysticks. These interfaces themselves exist on the periphery of perception, as translators that extend users’ hands and movements into dataspace.

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