Mediamatic Magazine vol 5#3 Bilwet 1 Jan 1990

After Nature = Homo Shit

Adilkno the player and his media

Time, in and of itself, is a first application of Space, it seems to me. - Mik Ezdanifoff


Adilkno -

The game consists of substantial pieces and a playing Held. The immateriality of the rules makes if possible to play. Since the dawn of culture, this distinction between hard- and software has been taken into account with great precision. Down through the centuries, hundreds of different software packets have accompanied the hardware of card and ball games. The hardware has endured in direct proportion to the extent to which it was derived from the simplicity of the game of war. Just like its military counterpart, the hardware was ready to undergo any sort of innovation without ever changing its function. The player stands, looking through whatever form his medium has taken in the present, regardless of time or place, face to face with the basic patterns of the archaic program. The game has a fascination all its own. The player is tuned in to the thousand wonders which the game offers within the boundaries of its hardware. There's no place in the player's involvement for the non-committal attitude which accompanies perusal of the open media: as long as the game continues, no escape is possible.

However subtly the assortment of software has managed to adapt Itself throughout the millenia to the hie el nunc, it never succeeded in escaping Kai Wall's classic division into the four categories of agon, alea, mimicry and ilinx, or games of competition, chance, dressing-up, and intoxication. This author believes that a game is always bipolar: on the one hand, the paideia, the unhindered improvisation, pleasure in playing and, at the other extreme, the ludus, winning through effort, patience or dexterity. In the lightning acceleration of the development of the image-games today, we once again find this dichotomy. The intoxication or narcosis (In Han) which results when the acquaintance of a new medium is made, provides the paideia which keeps the game boy rooted, night after entire night, to his electronic playing field. But, as soon as he's comprehended the roles and thoroughly reconnoitred all the cunningly concealed corridors and narrow pathways to success, the dizzying shock of the destruction of the imaginary T on the screen is postponed, for a longer and longer period of time. From that moment on, the player's pleasure is no longer derived from the thrill of self destruction, but from the control (Ke Sei) which he wields over the elements of the game. The playing of video games in fhe post historical era didn't have to force a break with fhe archaic program fo create its own kind of fascination.

The advent of the solitary video game rang in the end of the era of passive tv. Reception of the fwo dimensional condemns the consuming spectator to give an aesthetic opinion. Painting and writing don't allow positive participation. The physical reception of the picturesque takes place with the aid of a Stanley knife and hydrochloric acid. The critical spectator is only able to make his existence known to this art by destroying it. The other options which this kind of artwork leaves open to him are inertia and instrumental use (painting out, rewriting, quoting). Contact between art and body is to be made by storing the perceived object among the cultural goods stacked in the brain. Only in the twentieth century would the grasping (in all senses) of the world by means of the artwork be channelled directly through the body, in the interactive art ol the ludic sixties. The twentieth century culture of the moving picture also had fo reach the psyche of its viewers from a distance. It accomplished this by teaching successive generations of imagophiles to decode the readable images at a faster and faster tempo. When the clip-zipp intoxication reached its climax and people were ready for some control, fhe video game was invented to keep fhe played-ouf viewer from giving in to his destructive urges. The violence called into being by the art form had to be deflected, to keep it from being directed at the installation itself. From then on, the image was to give answer to the input of the critical consumer.

Unlike regular consumption of fhe two-dimensional media, during the video camp, one's own opinion as to nice/slupid, neal/dumb doesn’t come into play. The screen's sucking locks more of the body's functions into the hardware than the visual organs alone. The hand, for example, which was locked in a supple but lightly aggressive contact with the machine in the era of electromechanical flippery, has now developed a Fingerspihengefiihl. The main function of the images screaming past of the screen is to distract the player in order to eliminate him; their aesthetics is aimed at the viewers instead of the other way around. Reception means downfall. The steering gaze, which scans the whole image simultaneously for irregularities and determines what must be reacted to, filters the urban, landscapelike, or spatial game panorama down to the minimum of strategic information needed to survive for a second or two. Taking this urbane view of the screen, one worries only about the segment which concerns one and the rest falls outside of one's visual scope.

The content of the new medium video is the old one ‘auto’: the video game offers a 'traffic-experience' in which eye, hand and foot shackle the individual to a stream of images. The tendency to connect the body up to the two dimensional and thus create an imaginary space, as real as a football field, in which one can participate, is summarized with the term ‘virtual reality'. While this concept of an already visualizing data landscape in which one hops about with cyber goggles on may be intoxicating for the moment, it's a closed medium which will soon become just another piece of serious hardware for competition and dressing-up games; the image will then have been stripped of its immanent subjection to aesthetic discipline and turned info an instrument, a tool, comparable to the pictures in a card game.

More attractive than the game in the media is the prospect of making hardware of fhe media themselves for use in a game in which the playing field Is the network of communication (including the orbit). This game is aimed at reversing the merging of soft and hardware (as envisaged by cyberspace) and fries to once again create a distance between the two, because it's only by virtue of this distance that the game is possible at all. The game in the media lacks the bluH, the pokec the irony, the non-communication, which is the very thing giving the game with the media its charm.This game envisages the total separation of game and player; fhe uncoupling of body and artificiality, in order to physically experience the immaterial media themselves - and to tackle them. The rules ol this game aren't to be decided upon one-two-three: it's like the unknown game of the speakers of a foreign language, which one follows breathlessly; it can take hours or yean before one comprehends how it works.

The outward form of the camp with the media can be discerned clearly enough: it's divided into rounds. Representations, media minutes, tv stations or older media which emerged triumphant from preceding rounds, may lose their value as players utterly in the rounds to come. Opponents can disappear suddenly, to become minimedia and remain invisible for long periods of lime. The game with the media occurs in the rarefied atmosphere of medial transience itself. But one must always be able to play the game anew. The players may wish to conquer the media, but not to destroy it.

translation Jim Boekbinder