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dead now!" is obviously a statement, that contravenes the laws of
classical logics. Either one is dead or one speaks of death: to do both
simultaneously, as Epicurus once pointed out, is nonsense. Game addicts,
in other words dyed-in-the-wool gamblers with symptoms of obsession, are
usually unable to distinguish between the representation of their game
figures on the screen and themselves. Consequently, they are no longer
in a position to separate life from death. Game freaks and their fellow
players find nothing odd about the claim to be dead when the game comes
to a close. This is not the result of a lack of linguistic sensitivity,
nor a lack of logic, but the result of the highly serviceable form of
identity augmentation. The player's biological persona merges with the
electronic stimulation of the active person. This construction is serviceable
because it increases the intensity of the linguistic experience, and because
it allows one to be both dead and alive at the same time. However, this
augmentation of identity is problematical with respect to classical percepts
could emerge from identity at the latest with Descartes' attempt to see
things "clare et distincte". Descartes' intellectual experiment
was to conceive sensuous experience as the deception of a being (where
"I" is merely conjured before me) that dissolves the moment
that Descartes construed himself as a thinking being. It is only with
the aid of this construct that Descartes could dispel the doubts that
he was being deceived by a god. In this way Descartes eliminated possible
intermediaries (media) between himself and the world and creates the basis
for the continuity of a personal "I", that everyone possesses
and that everyone makes answerable for their deeds and thoughts. It was
through Descartes' trick that ethics and a system of law related to individual
people become imaginable. Clear guidelines to identity, however, are the
price paid for the those rights, which bars the schizophrenics, the dreamers,
the intellectually weak, the gamblers and the procrastinators. Some of
these possess too much identity, the others too little - a luxury in one
case, a defect in another. But one way or another an anomaly, that destroys
the concept of a single identity. The non-identical threathens to undermine
the enlightened, reasonable, non-Cartesian world and the gamblers - the
game presents the concept of identity with a dangerous challenge. In the
game the borders between the person and its environment dissolve. Roles,
history, gender, ethnical identity and geograpy also blur in the game.
This begins with "Cowboys and Indians" and ends with the Unreal
Tournament, Quake or Final Fantasy.
It seems to be that play and a bombproof certainty of identity are incompatible
principles. The spoilsport is of course the one who rather mundanely points
out "but you're not a Red Indian" (which is true in the majority
of cases), or the fellow player that pronounces "you're not dead,
you're just pretending!". Of course the player is dead in the sense
of an electro-biological personal union constituted by the act of playing.
Thus, the course of the game, especially the narration of the game, becomes
the spring of a construction process of an extended identity, that should
not be seen an act of consciousness, but the result of a game set-up.
Richard Rorty refers to the mediating instruments that create mental representations
from a reflection of reality as a vocabulary. In the "Mirror of Nature"
and subsequently in "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity", Rorty
attempts to rehabilitate the narration as opposed to the explanation and
claims: "this new vocabulary makes a formulation of the objective
possible. It is the tool for a job that one could not have imagined before
the development of a special range of descriptions - descriptions that
it helps even in producing." Rorty draws the inference that someone
who argues on the basis of another vocabulary could not be persuaded with
reasons. One could at the most persuade them to accept one's own vocabulary.
Just as Rüdiger Zill rightly pointed out in "Broken Rays, Shattered
Mirror" this task of persuasion cannot be assigned to philosophy.
Zill regards "other agencies
literature, cinema, television"
as being suitable. For a number of reasons one should also add computer
games to the list of instruments of persuasion: one of these being the
high degree of popularity of computer games enjoy in the presentday entertainment
industry; another is that computer games seem to be emerging as a leading
technology that the previously dominant sectors of film and music will
now have to follow: finally, computer games are still - but not for much
longer - the first technology to be used by teenagers and also one that
is being adopted by the over twenty year olds. The persuasiveness of game
narrations can be seen to be based on the factor that helps to construct
mental representations. One cannot blame Rorty as a writer that his terminology
consistently aims at linguistic mechanisms, it appears to me with reference
to computer games to be more fruitful to aim at the most suggestive elements
of the game: the texture and sound libraries, the effects, the game play.
Let us replace Rorty's "vocabulary" with the texture library,
"linguistic" with audiovisual and the narration with the story.
any visual elements that differentiate games from films or television
and simultaneously act as catalysts for new forms of consciousness? I
would like to submit the suggestion that the game mirror should be examined
as an element that could be effective in constructing identity. Naturally,
mirrors play an important role in cinematic history, but the mirror in
the cinema remains constantly in the medium and does not divert the gaze
to the viewer of the film. Computer games are more innovative in so far
as the viewpoint of the viewer must not necessarily be predetermined by
the medium. A game mirror is not identical to a film mirror.
computer games one was tied to a third person view (Pacman, Super Mario)
or first person view (Doom). More recent games on the other hand allow
a choice of either of these two forms of presentation. Players report
that they tend to identify more strongly with the game figures in third
person shooters. The gaze from the eyes of the game figures prompts one's
consciousness to a degree of identification and an intensity of identification
that is different to a perspective that views the game terrain god-like
from above. I maintain that the installation of feedback views, as can
be found in mirrors and closed-circuit cameras in games, can introduce
a further increase in complexity. Important steps in this direction were
already implemented by video art and early computer art. However, I will
try to prove later that video art was bound to reach a limit that computer
games are now in a position to overcome.
Computer work involving feedback setups such as those where Myron Krueger
showed the viewer in the monitor and added reactive agencies. Works like
these characterized what Mario Perniola referred to as "self-celebration"
with video art in mind. Computer and video art do not intend to be television
and separated themselves from the latter through a different geometry
of viewing. Instead of gazing into the distance, proximity and what is
hidden were to be made visible, freed of idealization, phoney authenticity
and banal reference to the seemingly factual. Video and computer art were
seen as egalitarian, immediate communication with respect to a social
utopia, that always retained a moment of feedback and critical gaze in
the mirror. Perniola called video culture a culture of the mirror and
in adaption of a well-known aphorism of McLuhan, one could characterize
the media work of the period quite well by saying that: "the medium
was the mirror".
In his study
of the functions of interactive artworks the Canadian David Rokeby finally
arrived by way of metaphors of navigation and discovery to the mirror.
Media that - in contrast to the mirror of glass - do not reflect anything
in their path in indentical form, would have to be called "transforming
mirrors" in David Rokeby's terminology. In contrast to proverbial
wisdom of "just as you shout into the forest, so will it echo back",
the transforming mirror changes the form and figure of the mirrored. Rockeby
found transforming mirrors in interactive technical processes and in interactive
art. Rockeby differentiated between the usage of transforming mirrors
from that of flat ones, by the fact that in the first case the "interactor"
does not recognise his movements as being purely distorted, displaced
or compacted but medially. Thus, the active recipient experiences himself
as the subject experiences itself during dream work, the media assume
the role that Freud assigned to the dream. "The interactor sees some
representation of himself or herself like a mirror image or shadow, transformed
by the potential with which the artist has endowed the space.."
his own work "Very Nervous System" as an example of a transforming
mirror. In "Very Nervous System" a camera digitalizes the image
of the interactors and transforms this pictorial information in a matrix
of grey tones and then transfers the data to pattern recognition algorithm
that produces sounds from the movements of the interactor. The transforming
operation of the "mirror" in this case of this installation
lies in the quantification of the image, its translation into grey tones
and the medial translation into the area of sound.
the objective and function of interactive art as follows: By providing
us with mirrors, artificial media, points of view and automata, interactive
artworks offer us tools for constructing identities - our sense of ourselves
in relation to the artworks and, by implication, in relation to the world".
While Rokeby wants to present us in his installation with a (even if transforming)
mirror, other artists are less willing to supply us with the mirror as
a functionally efficient tool.
"Tumbling Man" by Chico MacMurtrie and Rick W. Sayre represents
a robot that uses the elbow and knee movements of the interactor and transfers
these to the shaky motoricity of the machine. The robot may mirror here
the intent of movement but fails with respect to the movement itself.
The robot trips, trys to get up again, and cramps up continually. The
active user can recognise himself in the robot, but his mirror image remains
distorted. Movement guided by intention becomes a caricature of failed
implementation. While one can use the mirror for reassurance in everyday
life, the medial mirror represented by the robot serves on the contrary
for insecurity. Similarly, Christian Möller's installation "Autonomous
Mirror" is designed to present a programmed non-conformity contrasting
with real-time mirroring. For a time the figure generated by the computer
behaves like the viewer of this figure. It imitates arm and leg movements,
and assumes the same posture as the viewer. But the algorithm that guides
the movements presupposes that the figure can also break the routine of
reproduction and can surprise the viewer with seemingly autonomous movements.
If Lichtenberg remarked "a book is a mirror: when an ape looks into
it - well, an apostle cannot look out!" , so, too, one must reformulate
this for the autonomous mirror of interactive art: "where apes look
in, apostles can look out - and the other way round". Interactive
installations are characterised by the fact that they not only distort
formally and change, but that they can reinterprete contextually and reevaluate:
an elegant movement can be turned into an awkward one, leisure can be
turned into haste and obedience into rebellion. The Canadian pioneer of
robotics Norman White is an artist who is especially interested in the
dislocations caused by robot ensembles.
and Trick Mirror
Norman White's "Helpless Robot" or the installation "Facing
Out, Laying Low" reveal behavioural patterns of dictatorial presumption
and bored rejection of the demand for mirroring. What the mirror image
reflects back to the recipient in the form of the robot is less an image
than an attitude. In his most recent work "Monster", White constructed
a cybernetic object, that reacts as a submarine or robotic Nessie to the
visitors of the reservoir, but also according to circumstance avoids and
hides from them. The artificial intelligence that is behind this project
should be seen as artificial emotional intelligence that might understand
and be able to communicate this, but the objective of whose activity lies
more in the development of autonomous gestures.
In computer games of the most recent generation, we met a renewal and
renaissance of the mirror, the surveillance camera and the distorting
mirror that produces the impression that the now rather lame dynamics
of the game culture of video and computer installations has been resurrected
from a deep slumber in the garb of a new medium. But computer games present
us not just with a remake, a nostalgic reminder of the media of the '80s.
Armed with the cutting edge of the newest game engines, mirror games are
turning up in the new computer games. In Max Payne, a new Finnish cult
game, the player is continually egotistically and narcissistically concerned
with himself, if he can jump, stumble or died particularly well. This
self-infatuation with one's own death is celebrated through the fact that
Max Payne can reincarnate himself as a pistol bullet that flies to the
detriment of his second self, the figure of Max Payne. Just as the heart's
blood of the dying Narcissus dyed red the floor and the petals of the
flower of the same name, so too is Max Payne surrounded by the colours
of death. The Dooms, Unreals and Quakes do not spare any expense to serve
the player with the grandiosity of post-mortal colour- and blood-letting.
Mirroring and self-observation are intergrated into the game as an interactive
operation. Analagous to first and third person games, one speaks of a
bullet view as the unification of the player with the weapon that is about
to kill him. The fact that this weapon does not actually kill him but
merely a game figure is a formalist old-fashioned injunction that I have
already attempted to invalidate. What sense would it make, after all,
to identify with the pains of a figure, if this figure was not that of
the player himself?
surface as decoration, spatial elements and architectural features. The
warp zones in Unreal, in which I can met myself as a player and the Camera
Clients from UT2003 structure space as a manneristic self-referential
mirror space that is turned in on itself and in which I can implosively
fall in on myself. It seems to be that the interior spaces of the psyche
and the indentities and to be, that seem to have a greater attractiveness
for the games world at the moment than the extraterrestial colonies of
spaces of the games are the visible gameplay articulation of an idea.
The French author Jaques Rigaut (1899-1929) called that type of object
whose single objective is to mirror, mirror things:
"Mirror things are models of a type of beauty, that we refer to as
elegance. Mirror things are suitable for a perfection fully independent
of the individual. Mirror things are not to be found in nature but are
rather a product of the disciples of superficiality - that is, in that
which appears before the mirror. The compliance to these uncomprimising
adherents of the superficial transforms external reality into an essentially
different and elegant something, in a bright and unique beauty".
Perniola suggests that this point of view should be called "ultra-dandyism"
and that it characterized Rigaut's attitude as a challenge to the world,
to transform every object and every event into a thing of beauty, a perfect
beauty that emerges from an inner mimesis.
One can call
the spatial objects of these new games mirror things and contrast their
mimetic perfection with the cold stimulation of architecture, bodies and
physics that had so enthralled us in past decades. It could be that one
reason for the search for mirror images might lie in a dissillusionment
with the unmirrored, constructed reality. It could be that we see self-fabricated
reality as being not elegant and beautiful enough, and for this reason
look for mirror reflections and the view inwards - even in games.
even cynically claim that an industry that is continually avidly seeking
innovation is presenting us with the mirror as a topical and trendy form
of binoculars. Hence, with reference to this technology one would have
to concur with Hegel when he stated: "Technology appears on the scene,
when necessity arises".