recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : alternities   1

my friend pokey — futures market
"(ed. note: stephen died while writing this, may his sinful heart now rest in peace)

I think that every work implies an audience, i think that projected audience will be perpetually dreamlike and strange since it’s drawn not from human consciousness but from a form of same which has been distorted through embodiment in alien material. Refracted by some “medium” and then existing as a transferable, reproducible object and living an object life separable from the human circumstances by which it was produced. And I think that when we evaluate a work part of what we evaluate is this audience and the prospect of belonging to it, the possibility of a community with those assumptions and those values. The saying “give people what they want” always confuses me in this context because surely part of what they want is the possibility of wanting something else, of being a person who wants something else. Advertisements famously sell not just a product but also the prospect of being the kind of person who likes that product. Even the most conservative works pull a bait and switch in this regards in that part of what they suggest is the prospect of being a person who already knows what they want, of having character and qualities that persist in time rather than being a shapeless blob of experiences.

Avant-garde work could be said to be that which prioritises the formation of new audiences, or the possibility of forming new audiences, above any actual qualities which those audiences would have. It draws on the utopian aspect of creating new social structures, new communities, where whatever form they ultimately end up taking the fact that they can be made at all is in some way a celebration of agency and the possibility of new futures. But the other side of things is that even as the appeal of these imaginary communities comes partly from their distance from our real ones, they’re also evaluated on the basis of their feasibility - their power comes not just from a list of bloodless alternities but from possessing a transformative quality, the real possibility of enactment which is used to make demands on the contemporary. Not just a future but one already germinating in the present. And though I like and respect a lot of these works it’s also hard, for this reason, not to feel a little uneasy about them - because the imagery of an imminent, transfigurative break from the present has been so co-opted as a way to conceal the fundamental limitations and eerie inertia of capitalism that I think it’s hard for anything drawing on that tradition to escape lending credibility to it, even when its interests are directly opposed. 20+ years of an increasingly threadbare neoliberal consensus in the face of problems which grow more and more obvious mean the notion of an unexpected, miraculous shift in the causal order grows more and more central, from the vague sense that someone will invent, like, a moss or something which will stop global warming in the nick of time to the idea that the same clumsy, stupid videogames we’ve been bonking against invisible walls in for decades now will any minute now transmogrify into the effortless freefloating virtual lucid dreams of legend. And in fact videogames provide a constant running example of just how profitably this perception can be managed - - from a medium which from inception built upon a certain futuristic quality coming both from the historically new level of consumer access to computer technology and from decades of science-fiction representations of same, and which leveraged that into a perennial suggestion that the bright new day was always just around the corner - that by playing videogames now you were securing a kind of early-investor bragging rights to the media singularity to come. If there’s anything historically new about videogames it’s the extent to which the very suggestion of potential developments to be had later on was finally recognised as more profitable than any intrinsic qualities of the form itself.

And I think all this raises some problems when we think about avant-garde and experimental videogames, not just because in replicating some of the assumptions of the industry they risk being assimilated by it - you can’t game-design your way out of late capitalism, there are no final aesthetic solutions to economic problems etc - but because by repeating those assumptions they risk being judged by the standard of contribution to this same monolithic vidcon future, and then discarded accordingly when “the future” changes according to stockholder diktats. I mean that when you see these works as yet more expressions of “the medium” it’s harder for them to survive when that status is taken away again, and that at this point it’s difficult to conceive of a future of videogames that doesn’t in some way just flow back into the orthodox one still being sold.

Why does this matter. I think the videogame market will crash again because that’s what markets do, and when it does I believe it’ll be blamed on small engines, on unity and rpgmaker, on asset-flipping and joke simulators and walking games and political games rather than e.g. the incessant boom-bust cycles of capitalism or the fact that the particular interactive media singularity that videogames have invested so much image, money and energy into identifying themselves with looks more and more dated and less likely to happen. I think there’ll be more gamergate bullshit from people who invested in the stupid, stupid videogame dream and got told by youtube millionaires that it was being undermined from within by sjw fifth columnists making pug dating games. I think that just as places like YouTube have shown a willingness to quietly cut down on who’s able to make money through their service places like Steam will do the same thing, particularly after already raising the prospect of exponentially increasing the cost of using the store for small developers already. I think middlebrow columnists at the Atlantic will cash checks saying well, a lot of those games weren’t pushing the medium forward anyway, and that the whole thing will end up being recast as a morality tale about an overcrowded, overdiverse market, and that a lot of valuable work people are doing now will be just wiped from the record in the same way as a lot of pre-2007 indie games were, or flash games, or interactive CD-ROMs, or whatever the fuck.

I think that when this happens experimental games or avant garde games or alternative games will be seen less as possible alternatives to the mainstream tradition than as offshoots of it which got pruned, and I’m not sure how much help they will really be to anyone trying to figure out ways to make these things without getting pulled into the endless churning blood rotor of existing videogame culture.

I’ve written before that the game scenes which interest and excite me most are things like FNAF fangames, Undertale fangames, Unity horror games, RPG Maker games, hyperspecific utility pieces like the Prosperity Path orbs, less for any particular aesthetic or design qualities than for them being videogames which manage to escape some of the awful binary of Producer/Consumer and the ideas of “importance” which evolve later to help justify that perverse dynamic. Like what does it mean to experience a game if it’s just part of a big stack of almost interchangeable things and anyway you’re only absently going through it when searching for more stuff to steal for your own interchangeable thing. Which is healthier and more interesting than “art”. But I think part of it too is the sense of having a specific audience to bounce against, even if it’s just of people looking to take your Secret Of Mana midis, and the way that the concreteness of that audience helps defuse the kind of creeping tendency towards cultural speculation that comes with the belief in a big medium-wide payout somewhere down the line that’d justify the time and energies of everyone involved. I don’t think it’s enough to say people should make an effort to criticise games for what they are as opposed to what they might be, or whatever, insofar as that’s even possible. I think being able to appreciate what they are is dependent on recognizing that they have an audience which is similarly settled, similarly “just there”. And I think working towards constructing that kind of space would mean, yes, a sort of concession of “the future” to the stockholders of industry, renouncing the right to eventually reap that dread crop. But in the process being able to better engage with the present and all the disparite forces and strands within it who have similarly been lopped off that grand narrative, or were never part of it to begin with, and navigate all the ambiguities and potentials of that space. I think the future of videogames is the same kind of desperate, self-willed dream as those years worth of Twitter shares, for a company which has never actually been profitable, or the horrible locked-down image of infinity that sees new Rocket Racoon movies coming out every year til 2099, I think those dreams are ones that emerge and grow stronger as the actual basis for them either materially or affectively grows ever more decrepit, I think however overwhelming they get they can only really be strangled in the present.

As they say… no futur-what! what are you doing in my house! no-aieee!! (manuscript abruptly cuts off)"
via:tealtan  videogames  capitalism  avantgarde  audience  audiences  potential  invention  utopia  games  gaming  media  neoliberalism  2017  possibility  transcontextualism  alternative  art  future  markets  economics  alternities  transformation  change  fandom  agency  moss  transcontextualization 
october 2017 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:

to read