Hyper War art
PLAY CULTURE is an international conference, which would take place in the Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina in Novi Sad. If will consist of a curated exhibition and conference. The conference: October 5th and 6th, 2007. The exhibition: October 5th to 28th, 2007.
The aim of the conference is to examine how can we play with culture through the following platforms and media: Kriegsspiel, commodified play, society in play, and game crafts. The conference goals are to define new possible stakes and diversions of the game art practice.
"We want fine things made for mankind splendid cities, open ways, more knowledge and power, and more and more and more and so I offer my game, for a particular as well as a general end; and let us put this prancing monarch and that silly scare-monger, and these excitable "patriots," and those adventurers, and all the practitioners of Welt Politik, into one vast Temple of War, with cork carpets everywhere, and plenty of little trees and little houses to knock down, and cities and fortresses, and unlimited soldiers tons, cellars full and let them lead their own lives there away from us." Little Wars by H. G. Wells
When the Kriegsspiel was invented as a game and started to be recognized as a term by Baron von Reisswitz and his son during the dark times of Napoleon's rule over Prussia, Kriegsppiel's primary function was simulation of the battlefield to increase the efficiency of the army. When the Avalon Hill's radical definitions of the Kriegsppiel as an important genre of the game industry (commodified in play) took place in 1960's the militarist's approach to entertainment changed radically. Today, this is one of the first and very influential and widespread stakes of the today's IT canopy spread. We are witnessing wargaming on various levels between different and the similar entities which include: corporate giants, publishers, grass root artistic gamers, educational, research based groups, game artists, activists and theorist in a large extent. This theme is exploring different registers of the play culture: not only on the levels of analysis and critique of the current situation but on the level of explorations and definitions of various emerging platforms that would learn from the existing systems and build upon them a new system capable of producing the content which goal is not only a kriggspiel, or capital, but social change. We are looking forward to analytically, critically, cynically address: how do players play war games and what are their rights to deconstruct or build in those spaces, how do corporations play them, and how do authors, artists, modders, and theorists play the war game in this space and beyond. How military notion is connected to current war on terrorism? What are connections between major military industrial subjects and game industry?
'Personal Cinema presentation of the Folded-in project in the conference:''
Corporation’s videogames and propaganda
At the announcement of the project ‘’Play culture’’ and especially at the section KRIEGSSPIEL there are some interesting questions regarding the relations of the players with the war games produced by the big corporations. I am referring to questions like: how do players play war games, how do corporations play them or how military notion is connected to current war on terrorism? And what are the connections between major military industrial subjects and game industry?
At the end of all explanations to these questions the answer is: Propaganda
In a very brief look of the war games production of the last fifteen years, we can see that up to the end of the 90’s, videogames had a bipolar conception of the war and the geopolitical relationships, like the US against Russia or China or Iran. (Balance of Power, Red Alert etc). Since 11/9 we may see a third camp showing of and gradually transforming the gameplay concepts. That is not other, than the ‘’Islamic terrorism’’ threat that becomes the cause for the corporations to give back respectability to the old enemies at the scenarios of their games.
In an article written by Toni Fortin at the Monde diplomatique of July 2007 there are some very interesting points of view regarding this swift of tactic of the video game corporations that I want to mention. As an example he uses the case of the video game Command and Conquer (Electronic Arts 2003) where US and China become friends and fight together against a group of terrorists that is part or close to Al Qaida and of course behaves in a barbarian way. Or in another example, in the Act of War, direct action (Atari, 2005) the camp of the evil is made by Islamic terrorists that after an assault hold some oil resources and they oppose to the US plans. Here at this game there is a surprise at the scenario. United States are supported by a paramilitary police like group, the Task Force Talon composed by different kind of ‘’pieces’’ that is just made to act in occult operations. At the game scenario they are portrayed as ‘’old obstacles’’ regarding the establishment of international right and peace, but from now on they are part of the camp of good.
Furthermore, at the section of the more ‘’progressive’’ video games the third camp becomes the inside enemy. Usually these are mutated creatures or machines products of degenerate military-complexes. The target of such scenarios is to create Orwellian like situations that are on one hand in accordance with the actual technological evolutions, but on the other they can attack the player at any time creating this way a constant threat of chaos.
These games are characterised by a dynamic game play where the events of the action, are not totally predicted by the developers in order to introduce that way a kind of omnipresent risk to the player. The game world becomes this way a system rather than an interactive narrative. From now on the player does not belong simply to the camp of the good guys, but he is an element between obscure forces animated by different interests. This conception of the game play renders the idea of a world that after the fall of Soviet Union became unstable and lucks of any kind of meaning. In other words, these videogames represent the current so called post political situation, where there are no other options than liberalism or chaos. We shouldn’t get surprised by the fact that more and more the production of games are constructed based on the doctrine of Bush’s administration regarding the preventive and antiterrorist wars. The pressing and the bets in these games are so important that lead to suspension of the ordinary moral conventions. Practically speaking the imperative of ‘’saving the democracy’’ can justify its negation, the violation of the rights and the human dignity. The heroes may assassinate in cold blood and in impunity the alien agents. Exactly the same way, as the advertisement of Splinter Cell (Ubisoft, 2003) says: It’s only me that dispose the fifth liberty, the right to espionage, to steal, to destroy and assassinate so to guaranty that the American liberties will be protected. If i get caught my government will pretend that ignore my existence.
I should notice that the player of actual videogames is not only a beholder of the enemy regimes. He becomes the full actor of their back fall and he restores the hegemony of the liberal values in the utopia worlds. As Tony Fortin concludes at his article: The video games try hard to re- enchant an ideology that contributed so much at the de- enchantment of the world.
The online videogame project Folded-in
Of course videogame propaganda for the favor of the liberalism or for defending national and patriotic values that comes out of the big military-entertainment corporations is not the only form of propaganda in nowadays. In other domains of the web.2 universe different media forms of propaganda but with the same content and aims can be found.
Media and propaganda refer to a variety of different ambiguous roles and in most of the cases this is related with the contradicted interests of national or global capitalistic corporations. As there is often, as I said before, a direct relation between corporation war videogames and TV productions and broadcasts, like for example the American series ‘’24 hours chrono’’ (which was used as a basis by the philosopher Slavos Zizek to describe his formula of the urgent ethics) the same relationships regarding nationalistic or liberal propaganda can also be seen between TV , press, and user’s contribution in spaces as Youtube or Myspace. The Greek journalist Takis Michas in an article writes that: It is a fact that most of the mass media today, of a governmental status or not, do not perceive their role as those that would provide objective information but rather as those that cultivate nationalistic fanaticism. A classic example is the phrase “Turkish aircrafts violated the Greek FIR. This headline does not really exist. The precise wording would be “The Ministry of National Defence claims that the Turkish aircrafts… The reality is the claim, not the flight, which is of course something completely different.
The mainstream media support, maintain and render the national patriotic values, which are necessary for the forming of the nation/state perception that is addressed to the citizens or they can also do the opposite. That would be demolishing and transforming the national stereotypes when this is a demand of local or global corporations or when the present case asks for the spreading around of the liberal ideology. Very often unpredictable parameters lead that to over excesses that in their turn create ultra nationalistic and racist reactions. A constant fight for the control and the re-appropriation of these ‘’cutting edges’’ phenomena, creates tragic and as well as comic events, that feed the popular imagination and the recreation of current myths. At the end of the story through a populist form of inclusion and exclusion, the people in both sides regenerate and perpetuate violence.
The consequences of these tactics can be observed in a Youtube search. A number of videos made by users that are producers / reproducers, consumers (prosumers) reproduce the national stereotypes and the war tactics composing a net video-war. The content of these videos is not limited only within the nationalistic war dithyrambs by the opposing sides, but goes further by tackling issues of immigration, identity, sexism, religion, and history including every kind of myth or historicity that has been produced not only in countries as for example Greece and Turkey but also in western European countries or in China and Taiwan and so on. By this, one can observe the paradox of reproduction of the stereotypes within web 2.0, by a social group that theoretically at least, as a knower of the possibilities of contemporary technology (and information respectively), should form a totally different opinion.
Although Youtube is a meta-TV as a procedure, the framing of documentation and the handling of an issue is still as on TV. The emerging of critical thinking towards any way of myth-making and the propaganda is still the question. Maybe one could scarcely foresee the unfortunate perspective that as the reproduction possibilities and the opinion hosting in mega platforms are increased by technology, at the same time the reproduction of superstition is increased and the critical thinking is minimized. In other words, the Greek – Turkish war (that at the end is an aspect of the Euro Asian war) at the Youtube is directly connected with the medium itself and the very questioning surrounding web2.0. The lack of alternative proposals and the weakness to react towards to the platforms – crucibles of Youtube, Myspace or the metaverses like Second Life, aren’t they the Deleuzian tragedy of our times?
Thus the concept of becoming minor for the project Folded in is based on an aim to take these videos out of the context of the Greek- Turkish war (or any similar war or conflict situation in every part of the world) and of the Youtube framing and to re-register them, assigning to them a new role, that of a composing active element in a gameplay. In other words, the aim is their deterritorialization from the broadcast space of Youtube literally, but also metaphorically as signs, transforming the videos from mere screens, to game elements of a further play. The concept of becoming minor for the case of Folded- in project, is an effort to interrupt the dominant process of propaganda re-production to be an ‘’affinity to infinity’’ an affinity for an always needed redefinition of its products.
Folded –in gameplay
Important notice: what follows regarding the development of the online videogame are up to the moment preliminary thoughts and drawings destined to help a work in progress. Minor or even major (if needed) changes will happen according to the contribution of the participants.
The basic idea of the game is formed as a mapping competition between two teams. The elements of the gameplay and the design of the space are up to the moment the video of the Youtube Greek-Turkish war, China-Taiwan conflict, India vs. China and India vs. Pakistan. As the game is designed as an open structure different conflict situations like e.g. the ongoing one between Flemish and Valone communities/ethnicities in Belgium could be added. In addition there will be the artist’s video, for which a special role is reserved regarding the game play as I will mention in a while.
The players login and choose a team. There is a need (so far) for at least two players in order to play the game. Teams are called (again so far) red and blue. After choosing team the player spawns inside a war plane that carries a limited number of air missiles. When the player approaches one of the existing videos he will be allowed to click it and watch it.
After seeing the video, the player must rate the video in order to continue playing. Rating can get numbers from 1 to 5 (propaganda degrees) as following.
1 , 2 < 3 > 4 , 5
By rating a video the player defines the speed of his war craft and the map covering possibility of the video, as following.
1 , 2 - fast move / less map covering 4 , 5 - slow move / more map covering
Aim of each player is to cover the map of his rival (blue player covers red map and vice versa)
Every aircraft has as said a limited number of missiles. It will take one or two missile hits to shoot down a rival aircraft. When shot, the player starts again. When a player run outs of ammo (ammunition), he must search and get ammo inside the space. For Folded –in game extra ammo are artist’s video, that can serve either as extra missiles either as extra stamina for the aircraft or both. (Depending on the programming) And that because artist’s video propaganda is, or should be, a rather neutral (regarding the sides) propaganda or at least an ambiguous one. That’s also one more reason for which participant artists should be commissioned (get paid) for creating the right video.
The project is designed as a platform that can follow any actuality regarding the issues of border lines created through political, cultural and social aspects while at the same time it will underline the relations between the massive production of subjectivity and the necessity of co-existence of the ‘’gamers’’ critical mind development.
Since the beginning of history, empires were always fighting for the establishment of a paradoxical monism and the disappearance of dualism. Geometry Vs Geography. Liberalism or chaos. A space where geometry stands as the final synthesis, as the end of all oppositions, in other words of the illusions of the otherness that are embedded into the context of geography. The Leviathianism idea of the war of everyone against everyone in an endless process, with the universal head standing above all and offering prosperity, peace and order at will with a metaphysical gesture to the selected ones. But people were always fighting and continue to fight against specific enemies that have faces, identities and bodies. Even if at Youtube representational structure it does not appear that way.