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A game about pretending to play chess is all about performance

It really is as if you were playing chess, except Pippin Barr’s newest game It is as if you were playing chess doesn’t include a chess board. There are no pawns, Kings, or Queens. No pieces at all, really—just instructions. Move this dot here. Look here. Now here. Tilt your head and cringe. Move again. It is as if you were playing chess makes a game of pretending to play a game. “To the observer, it should look as though the player is genuinely playing some kind of game,” Pippin Barr writes. “In this case, the idea is for them to…

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A new game pays tribute to the many unfortunate deaths of Oregon Trail

Juegos Rancheros’s Mystic Western game jam, held between June 16th and June 30th, was a beautifully prolific two-week international event that gave birth to 50 games about the West and the weird things that happen within it. Alongside projects like Black Gold and To West was Independence, Missouri, an off-kilter prototype from Pippin Barr, previously known for experiments like Game Studies and Sisyphus: The Game. A retelling of an unsuccessful session of the classic educational game Oregon Trail (1971), it’s appropriately mystic, and definitely Western. Now Barr’s releasing it proper. Independence, Missouri, for the purposes of the game, is a tiny…

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New videogame asks: do we really need academics to study videogames?

When I was born late into 1990, the Super Nintendo had already been released in its home country of Japan. Over here in the States, Super Mario Bros. (1985) had already been entertaining my parents for years. Pong (1972) had entertained my pastor, and Tron (1982) had already hit theaters to the collective “meh” of audiences worldwide. As such, I have only ever known a world with videogames. But it’s worth pointing out that, relative to text or music or even film, videogames are still a fairly new medium. And as with any new medium, its invention has lead critics and academics to…

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The hell of finishing a game and having nothing else to do

My grandmother cannot be seen. She is in the room but hardly visible—consumed by the beige. Her gradual decline into camouflage was incidental; the result of years spent sunk in her yellowed sofa, watching afternoon quiz shows and staining the walls with a million cigarettes. “Nan?!” I call out into the void. “Yes?” comes her throaty reply. I sort of see her: all that’s left is a plume of blue-rinsed hair and a set of white dentures hovering like some demon among the brown. This is what retirement looks like. As with most things in life that are promised to us when we’re older,…

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V R 2 asks how much faith you’re willing to put in game makers

The town of Marfa is a repository of modern art and little else in the middle of the Texan high desert. “Whether you aim to remember history or forget it,” reads the first line of the welcome message on its website, a blockish, primitive piece of Internet. That is not the most promising of taglines, but the widget to the right of that text nevertheless advertises a stocked cultural calendar. And why shouldn’t it? Since the late 1970s, Marfa has been home to a series of installations that achieve their potency by appearing on the edge of the world. Among…

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It’s time to confront the uncanny potential of virtual architecture

A room enclosed on all sides sits naked in grayspace. Inside is a trunk, a bed, a tube, a radiator, a light, and little else. A sharp sound swells and suddenly the room snaps out of place. Now it is upside-down. You can’t even enter through the open doorway, barely able to peer inside through the window, the objects once sat neatly now thrown into disarray across a ceiling that is now a floor. The sound comes again and the room changes, again. It sits as it did before, at the center of a square cut of rock floating in a…

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FPS has something to say about videogames and guns. But what?

Hugo Arcier’s FPS is about last year’s attacks in Paris, though it is not immediately clear in precisely what way. We know this because the artist says as much on his website: “FPS is a post November 2015 Paris attacks art piece. The artist deals with blindness hijacking video game codes, in particular of first person shooter game. The only visible elements are pyrotechnic effects, gunshots, muzzles flashes, sparks, impacts, smokes.” In practice, what that means is that a black space is lit up by flares from something vaguely resembling a videogame gun. They linger in the air, like lasers at…

Post-Apocalyptic Abramovic Method Game
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In the post-apocalypse, there will still be performance art

Back in 2013, Lady Gaga quit smoking by employing the “Abramovic Method” during a three-day retreat in New York. It led to this extraordinary (and NSFW) video, in which Gaga is seen chanting into an empty room, stood blindfolded in a river to feel the rain drops against her skin, and getting intimate with a big block of ice while completely naked. The video achieved what it was supposed to: encouraging everyone who watched it and the public-at-large to question what this peculiar Method she went through was. The “Abramovic Method” is named after its creator, famed artist and self-proclaimed “grandmother…

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A videogame that tricks you into reading literature

The puzzle island of The Witness, released back in January, contains a theater in which you can unlock and watch movie clips. Among the documentaries and interviews about science progression and spiritual awakening is the last 10 minutes of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia (1983). Since it’s been discovered, chatter has spread across the internet from people first discovering the Russian film-maker, not just hoping to discuss what the Nostalghia clip could mean in the context of The Witness, but also showing an appreciation for the artistry of the film’s ending too. In this case, the game has acted as conduit, introducing its players to…