Paul Verhoeven’s latest film is about the struggles of a female videogame CEO

Warning: the content of the video included is NSFW and contains references to sexual violence. /// At the start of Paul Verhoeven’s latest film Elle, a woman is violently raped. The rest of the story is about how that woman, a French videogame executive played by Isabelle Huppert, deals with her relationship with the rape and the rapist himself. If the Verhoeven films you’re most familiar with are RoboCop (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997), Elle will surprise you. It’s perhaps a better fit in the realm of Verhoeven’s psycho-sexual thriller Basic Instinct (1992). That it is not immediately what it seems—a drama about…


Short sci-fi film written by an AI is absurdly human

Artificial intelligence is a common topic explored within the science-fiction genre. Sunspring, a new sci-fi short, instead of using the theme of artificial intelligence in its narrative, used AI to actually produce the narrative in the first place. The film, which had its online debut on Ars, had its screenplay written by an AI which goes by the name of ‘Benjamin‘. The film was submitted as part of the 48-Hour Film Challenge at the Sci-Fi London film festival by Oscar Sharp, a BAFTA-nominated filmmaker and Ross Goodwin, a creative technologist and former Obama administration ghostwriter. Sunspring comes to life through the acting and production.…


Overwatch and the pleasure of transmedia narratives

Before Winston, a glasses-clad gorilla scientist, was leaping across maps to crush his enemies in the chaotic multiplayer battles of Overwatch, he was merely a young ape with big aspirations and an affinity for peanut butter. But you wouldn’t know that from merely playing the game. You’ll find no calculated, story-driven campaign in Blizzard’s competitive team-based multiplayer shooter. Overwatch’s character-driven narrative is instead trickled elsewhere: in genuinely endearing animated shorts, character-focused one-off webcomics, and short website-bound character biographies. The latter-most isn’t uncommon within videogames, the second less so, and the first is the most uncommon of them all, the three…

swiss army man

Here it is, the farting Daniel Radcliffe game that dreams are made of

When the flatulence-filled Swiss Army Man screened at the Sundance Film Festival, it was polarizing, to say the least. It even prompted a multitude of disgusted filmgoers to leave the theater, what Variety described as “could win the festival’s award for the most walk-outs.” The divisive Swiss Army Man is the feature film debut from the quirky filmmaking duo Daniels. The film itself stars Daniel Radcliffe (another Daniel) as a farting corpse with strange magical abilities, and Paul Dano as his suicidal, but very much alive, companion. As a part of the film’s marketing, an interactive version of Radcliffe’s ragdollian,…

Camera lens

The prison of the videogame camera

Techniques such as lens flare or liquids splattered on the camera (usually blood) have become so commonplace in videogames that we no longer pay attention to them. This indifference is a bit disquieting. After all, with videogames, we play two roles at once: the character on the screen, and ourselves in our own body viewing the screen. We act by pushing buttons and at the same time passively watch those actions performed by somebody else through the distancing filter of a camera lens. We accept this double perspective so wholly that in our minds it seems to become one. When…

The Sprawl by Metahaven screen capture

Online art installation examines propaganda in the Internet age

The first few moments in the online version of The Sprawl can best be described as overwhelming. Videos with bizarre eye-catching graphics shift around for just a second, there’s a moving shape in the background. The text that appears would seem to be an explanation, but explains very little, saying, in part, “pixelated illusions replace our faith in information, ideologies collide in chasms of uncertainty and hope.” This is Dutch design collective Metahaven’s latest project, The Sprawl (Propaganda about Propaganda), a film/installation examining propaganda, its usage, its prevalence, and how it affects our view of information and truth. simulates the…


Hyper-Reality imagines the hell of our Augmented Reality future

Augmented Reality (AR) is the mixing of the world as we know it with the digital world. Fittingly, it has long blended with videogames. In the popular rhythm game series Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA, if playing on a PlayStation Vita, the player can enable an AR Mode and carefully orchestrate where Miku and her Vocaloid pals are placed in the “real world.” But know this: Miku is not a person. She’s a purely digital pop star, and even plays live concerts as a projected hologram—what some might call the ultimate AR experience. Alongside some odds and ends in miscellaneous Nintendo 3DS…


The software behind Lord of the Rings’ giant battles now has a playable demo

There’s a reason The Lord of the Rings film franchise took home the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects three years in a row. While many films fall flat in a matter of years, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and it’s approach to CGI still stand firm more than a decade letter. While there were many breathtaking moments throughout the series, the enormous battles with armies thousands strong were consistently glorious, thanks to the simulation software Massive. And now that very same software is available to anyone for a 30-day trial. Watching a short demo video quickly illustrates how…


High-Rise; a very British psychopathology

The first time I saw the Barbican Estate in London I was entranced. The layered terraces of pitted concrete, the crisscrossing walkways, those monolithic towers that seemed—as with Petra or Al-Hijr—like they might have been carved out of natural stone. It is rare, especially in a city like London, as layered and complex as a geological event, to walk into such a large space that feels so designed, so ordained. Yet, setting foot in those 20 acres of roughened concrete, I somehow felt that I was stepping into an idea, or an ideal, and out of reality entirely. Even now,…