Gadget on Tue, 20 Jul 1999 20:38:29 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Announcement: Switch V5n2 and Cracking the Maze

The new issue of Switch, the new media art journal of the CADRE Institute
of the School of Art and Design at San Jose State University, is now

This Switch, "Art and Games" issue, also contains the "Cracking the
Maze--Game Patches and Plug-ins as Hacker Art" On-line Exhibit

Editorial notes by Anne-Marie Schleiner, editor and curator:

Forums of public intersection between computer games and art have surfaced
with accelerated frequency over the course of the last year. To briefly
chart some of the recent terrain, "The Doors of Perception Conference" in
Amsterdam took place in the fall of 1998 with its focus on "Play" and
included some games by artists, the "Synworld" conference and exhibit at
Public Netbase in Vienna occurred in May of 1999, the "Interactive
Frictions" conference and exhibit met at USC in Los Angeles in June of
1999, the "Game Over" exhibit was presented at the Institute of Design in
Zurich in July and the upcoming on-line "Play Panel" organized by Eyebeam
Atelier and TechBC is scheduled for July and August of 1999. Computer
gaming is emerging as the dominant form of media interpolation into shared
social apparatuses even at the expense of television and film. As an
entertainment form linked to on-line network data flow, computer gaming is
at the present time more open than television ever was to reinvention and
rearticulation of its genres and modes of interactivity, sign systems and
politics of representation. The time seems ripe for critical intervention
from artists and theorists, who follow in the wake of the fervid cultural
sabotage and shape shifting of the game fan players and hackers
themselves. Equally imperative is an examination of the historical
underpinnings of given computer gaming tropes in military and filmic
simulation technologies and early computer programming. 

The "Art and Games" issue of Switch and the hosted (nested) exhibit,
"Cracking the Maze--Game Plug-ins and Patches as Hacker Art", offer a
variety of perspectives on issues pertaining to computer games and art,
gender, game hacking, game interface history, networked game play and
opportunities for new modes of game interaction, navigation and narrative. 
Marsha Kinder describes the extensive research and thought processes that
went into the creation of "Runaways", a narrative, soon to be on-line role
playing game, that incorporates the melodrama of real life stories of
teenage runaways into the driving narrative structure of the game. 
"Runaways" offers teens (and other aged players) from a variety of
ethnicities, genders and gender preferences an opportunity to relate to
one another in a game environment. Norman Klein's and Lev Manovitch's
accompanying text to the "Freud/Lissitzky Navigator" game/artwork traces
the genealogy of the "Freud/Lissitzky Navigator" with the device of a
historical fiction that reveals convincing linkages between architecture,
20th century theoretical frameworks, the simulation technologies of
fantasy theme parks, military simulators , film and computer games. 
Interestingly, the dualistic character of Freud's and Saussure's
theoretical mappings seem to echo the secondary signifying systems of
simulation technologies in the "Freud/Lissitzky Navigator" text.  At the
increasingly fuzzy border between computer games and film, Jason Brown's
"Paranoid Machines: Conspiracy Games and Desire Control in Tron" probes
the hermeneutic apparatuses of this 1980's game/film. An interview with
Vangie Beal of GameGirlz by Switch's co-editor Geri Wittig and Switch's
network Quake aficionado Max Hardcoreis an expedition into the rough and
ready world of female gamers, who dont waste much time on chatting while
 they are busy fragging their opponents asses. GameGirlz and their
associated gaming clans like PMS (Psycho Men Slayers) present a model for
how women gamers can network with both female and male players and
participate in violent on-line game play on their own female friendly

In the "Cracking the Maze" on-line exhibit, besides my own curatorial
statement, are two articles which pertain more specifically to game patch
art by Erkki Huhtamo and Sandy Stone. Game patches, (or game add-ons,
mods, levels, maps or wads), refer to alterations of preexisting game
source code in terms of graphics, game characters, architecture, sound and
game play. Game patching in the 1990's has evolved into a kind of popular
hacker art form with numerous shareware editors available on the Internet
for modifying most games. In "Game Patch--Son of Scratch?" Erkki Huhtamo
contextualizes computer game alterations within the historical framework
of the 1980's subversive media art interventions of the British scratch
video artists, whose re-edited, re-dubbings of broadcast television
constituted an ironic critique of mainstream broadcast television. 
Similarly, game patch artists often subvert prevailing gaming genres and
character stereotypes, although Erkki Huhtamo is careful to delineate how
the parameters of the computer game industry differ from the one-way
character of broadcast television. The game patches included in the
"Cracking the Maze" exhibit are both patches created by game patch artists
who circulate their patches through on-line gaming venues and by artists
from outside of the usual game culture enclaves. From Josephine Starrs'
and Leon Cmielewski's "Bio-Tek Kitchen" killer vegetable patch for the
Marathon game engine to jodi's abstracted black and white hack of
Wolfenstein 3-D, all fourteen game patches represent a provocative array
of literal and cultural hacks of prevailing game interface and spatial
semiotics, of game scenarios and environments, of game character identity
and gender configurations, and of gaming modes of interactivity. "Cracking
the Maze" initiates a discourse at the point of intersection between the
hacker, the avid gamer, the artist and the cultural interventionist. 
Situating itself within the network arena of game fan homepages which
offer shareware game patches along with gaming news, cheats and guides,
"Cracking the Maze" is a solely on-line network art exhibit with all of
the patches available for download or network viewing from the "Cracking
the Maze" site.  _________________________

Geri Wittig
Contributing Editor

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