Bridging Worlds

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture.

After a 24 year break from playing Civilization, my friends recently roped me into trying the new Civilization 6. For reference, the last time I had played a Civ game was in 1993. I was 12 and didn’t even have a computer with a color screen at home. After stumbling around the overwhelmingly massive campus of new junior high, my proclivity for reading Dragonlance novels at lunch accidentally made me a new friend who would open the geeky technicolor doors for me.

Let’s call him J.T., and after bonding over our mutual love of 20-sided dice, Robotech, and the number 42, our daily after-school ritual became to head to his conveniently located house. Yeah, it smelled like cat pee, but his mom always brought us nacho cheese dip made with Velveeta and taco seasoning packs so that evened out. But the main attraction was that JT’s family had a full-on computer room in the basement, the lair of a towering beige beast with a massive 15-inch 256 color monitor.

We’d fail our way through Eye of the Beholder’s early stages (too hard); try to pick fights in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (too boring); and eventually settle into the original Civilization for a long afternoon of mayhem. Nothing could cause more squeals of laughter from us than playing as Gandhi and rushing for nuclear missiles and blowing up the world.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the final part of a four-part essay on The Beginner's Guide - the previous parts can be found here

“It’s hard to create a narrative of success when you’re the dark matter against which the stars shine, but I find that it’s important for artists to be able to articulate what is valuable about art beyond prices and the market.” -William Powhida

Continuing last week’s discussion of the The Beginner’s Guide as an attempt to trigger an apocalypse to wipe clean the slate of video games, it is useful to note that in Japanese creation circles, there is a genre of animation and comics called sekaikei (literally: “world type”). This genre places a single character, almost always male and young, as the center agent in the future apocalypse. This character’s psyche alone gets to remake the world, but only as it burns to ashes. The interior becomes the all-consuming exterior. While perhaps the capstone of this genre, Neon Genesis Evangelion is unique that that it leverages the dark logic of fandom to subvert its perfect apocalypse and decry the passivity and literalism that threatened to stifle the future of anime fandom.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the third part of a four-part essay on The Beginner's Guide - part one and two can be found here

“One of the greatest things about being an artist is, as you get older, if you keep working hard in relationship to what you want the world to be and how you want it to become, there is a history of interesting growth that resonates with different moments in your life.“ -Catherine Opie

In last week’s installment of “Sin, Apocalypse, Cash” I discussed ways that replaying The Beginner’s Guide provides expanded choices for audiences to interact with the game, and how those supposed choices are still mired in a simplistic and antisocial framework for art. Yet, let’s approach The Beginner’s Guide again from another angle to see if there is perhaps another, less obvious, social interface that is happening.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the second part of a four-part essay on The Beginner's Guide - part one can be found here

“Why, impervious to both affirmation and negation, why in the world this insistent, subsistent, irrepressible, pure repetition be it of nothing, why a picture? Why this picture?” -Jacques Roubaud “Some Thing Black”

In the first portion of this essay I examined why players of The Beginner’s Guide often perceive the game to be a trap, and the ways in which the game’s internal logic leads it to formulate art as martyrdom. But what if I’m approaching the game from the wrong angle? What if I overly focused on the naive macho egotistical vision of art and the purifying flames of antisocial creative angst? There certainly seems to be a radically alternative way to approach the game in a second play-through.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the first part of a four-part essay on The Beginner's Guide.

“What is important is not so much what people see in the gallery or the museum, but what people see after looking at these things, how they confront reality again.” -Gabriel Orozco

When I mention that I’m working on an article about The Beginner’s Guide, first there is a pregnant pause, mouth slightly open, then a lingering awkward silence. Then the seemingly inevitable question follows, “Did you play The Stanley Parable?” eyes narrowing, moving side to side, as though scanning the horizon for the shadows of danger.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the final part of a his long-form essay on workification.

Part 4: The Garden Of Digital Delights

In past installments of Workified Games I’ve looked at ways that video games, their fans, and their creators have been inundated by workaholic tendencies. In part three, I proposed that leisure could be a new ideal that could help inspire us escape the mire of workification. But lest this sound like an outsider being preachy and this series get pegged as some sort of partisan argument, I want to acknowledge that much of what I’ve been saying has been and remains part of video game fan folk wisdom across genres and communities. After all, what Animal Crossing player hasn’t cursed out Tom Nook at some point for being a loan shark/raccoon? What WoW player hasn’t grumbled about doing endless dailies to earn reputation? What Final Fantasy 8 player didn’t grumble about the bullshit way dungeon speed equates to gold earned? What young Minecraft player hasn’t been frustrated by having to burn a huge amount of time searching ever deeper for a rare material to build their whimsical castle? What Destiny player hasn’t griped about the other people on repetitious runs being like abusive coworkers?

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is part three of four of a long-form essay on workification.

Part 3: A Celebrating Spirit

The last installment of Workified Games explored how the tendencies to fetishize work in video games overlap deeply with definitions of workaholism. I also talked about how the moral mandate to be constantly productive permeates contemporary Western society, especially the technology sector. But what then precisely is the problem with video games’ focus on work? What is lost because of this obsession with accomplishment? After all, unless you’re of the radical anarchist mindset of Bob Black’s infamous call for “full unemployment,” most people, myself included, find doing a good job at work deeply fulfilling.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is part two of four of a long-form essay on workification.

Part 2: The Grind Has Become The Feature

In the previous installment of this series I charted how video games have become entangled and infatuated with work. It might be easy to explain these predilections simply because work is a major part of many peoples’ lives. Or inversely this work-obsession could be video games striving to provide rational rewards as an antidote for lack of control at our day jobs. Similarly, not all games break when you try to approach them with exceptional or novel ways of playing (the now-infamous solo eggplant run in Spelunky being a fantastic example ). Still it remains the case that a large majority of games are obsessed with replicating work roles, structures, and attitudes.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. Lovingly crafted for passionate audiences, these long-form pieces are perfect for Sunday reading alongside a warm beverage.

Part 1: Gotta Grind For Those Boots

I work too much, but like many Americans I find there are always bills to pay and projects to finish. Like many Americans, I also love to come home after a long day of work and unwind by playing video games, but lately this supposed transition from work to not-work seems like clocking out of one job and into another.

When Eron asked me a while back if VGT would be willing to run a series of essays on the aesthetics, the design and infrastructure of MOBAs, I agreed blindly. And in a literal sense, too: Although I have been playing video games for a quarter of a century and nowadays even earn part of my rent writing about them, I was pitifully ignorant of a phenomenon that is not even just the future, but very much the present of video games.

As Eron writes in his introduction:

The broader problem in talking about video games in a nuanced way is massively amplified with MOBAs since [they] are tricky for both lay and academic audiences, especially since it can take literally hundreds of hours to learn to play these games with any amount of skill, let alone to explore their communities.

This hits home especially for those writing about games professionally: In the already hectic circle of news-previews-release-reviews-oblivion, there is simply no time for most journalists to spend that amount of time on a single game, period. (And to point out a fact most readers of games journalism might be unaware of: Most of the men and women writing about games who are lucky enough to be paid at all, are freelancers. That means they are paid for the text, and not for the time spent playing the game they report on. It's only the absolute minority of games journalists, usually those actually employed by the few remaining specialist outlets, print or online, for whom play time is paid work time. Let that sink in for a minute.) The title of this series is well chosen: It is a de-mystification that's going on here, all right, and a very welcome one at that.