Video Games: Tales of Play, Adventures of the Unexpected

(curatorial text for the exhibition Video games: Tales of Play, Adventures of the Unexpected, Centro Fundacion Telefonica, Lima, Peru, 2009)

“Video Games: Tales of Play, Adventures of the Unexpected” is an exhibition of artists’ works on the fantasy worlds and the parallel realities of our times; on worlds that deconstruct actualities and reenact myths, tell tales and reveal truths, convey messages and subvert beliefs; on worlds that players come to inhabit to embody characters, to shape microcosms, to live and share experiences and emotions. Aiming to explore the gaming territories of the digital era, this exhibition is about the potentialities, prospects and surprises such spaces embrace.

Having been described as magic circles, temporary realities or make believe territories, games are systems that have their own temporal, spatial and social norms and depend on players’ participation, decision and interaction. They have been examined as autonomous zones, having a temporary life of their own, forming vivid spaces that are lived by their participants. They offer experiences that are collective and individuated at the same time and a vast array of strong feelings that influence players’ perception and behavior. Today however, as game culture continuously evolves and expands into different fields of the society and as our time spent between the virtual and the real has become one, can we still talk about “magic circles”? Can we locate environments and conditions for new types of make believe situations and roles? Can vividness, contemplation and excitement be experienced through new forms of playfulness?

“Tales of Play, Games of the Unexpected” reflects through the work of well known artists play tactics and behaviors that keep the play instinct alive, while they reform games’ aesthetics, structures and mechanisms. It examines how play, games, art and fantasy in today’s world can still allow room for new interrelations and encounters not only in between players, but also between players, the gamespace and the outside world.

The games presented in the context of the exhibition, that vary from screen based games and installations to interventions and performances, invite visitors to join gameworlds with uncommon characteristics hiding undiscovered situations:

Woods of well known fairytales, dreamy landscapes and uncommon environments welcome players to wander around them, to act beyond common tactics and norms, to find their own paths and aims and personalize their experience. Imaginary worlds and mindscapes with historical figures and legends reenact lost cultures and bring into light moments of inspiration, contemplation and enlightenment. Religion, fantasy and medieval scenery become an occasion ofinspiration but also of doubt in the gaming environments. Beliefs, fears and superstititions from real life blur with the worlds of games and pose questions for both directions. Everyday life objects become toys, cubes animate our perception and portable consoles are transformed into audio toys. A new merging between the virtual and the real occurs and an ambiguous and continuous feed is encouraged.

The gameworlds presented in the context of “Tales of play, games of the unexpected” can be seen as creative dialogues on today’s play. They explore the interchanges and influences from the virtual to the real proposing new narratives for them; they encourage ingenuity, collaboration and creativity within game interactions embracing affection, intimacy and care as elements of the gameplay; they explore the gaming worlds as public spaces where ‘words’ can be spoken and actions can be taken; they challenge players by engaging them in surprising ways of interaction, reclaiming elements of playfulness that are not yet to be lost; they areoften skeptical for game culture itself but they retain the magic aspect of it by creating worlds that are based on the initiatives of the players, where goals are often to be discovered and rules to be broken.The magic circles can still exist in our times; they are hybrid and perplex but as the artistic practices show they can still be adventurous, surprising and fulfilling.

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