Sunday, 14 April 2013

What is a mechanic? (my pragmatic view)

This is a little piece about the meaning of the word 'mechanic' which I fired off on Twitter the other day. It's about why talking about mechanics does not need to be rigid or robotic and about the uses and limits of the concept of a 'mechanic'. It's not perfect and probably incomplete but I've been asked to post it on the blog for easier citation and I hope it does a job.

It was prompted by a question from @criticalbrit (now @utterlyhorrid) and a response from @xenobotanist. The original can be found here.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

How does it taste? The sexual politics of how Metal Gear Solid 3 treats Raiden

I like Raiden, okay? I’m a Raiden fan. I have all the merchandise - the action figures, the Skull Suit, the mask for casual and formal wear. So you can imagine my delight when Metal Gear Solid 3 allowed me to dress up as his spitting image – one Ivan Raidenovich Raikov. At first it seems like a bog-standard Metal Gear in-joke, but when it's considered alongside Raikov's relationship with bisexual electo-bastard Colonel Volgin, it suddenly crackles with a sexual charge. So is this a subversive twist on mainstream sexuality? Or just complicated homophobia?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Quizzical play #2: Optimising for Beauty

screenshot: Art Game, by Pippin Barr

'Quizzical Play' is a loose grouping of articles which explore what lies beyond the idea of winning and losing in videogames, and how players often subvert these ideas for themselves.


They say that inside every critic is a failed artist. It's true; he was delicious. But even I found it hard to resist when Pippin Barr's Art Game offered me a chance at virtual gallery stardom. Playing through it, I felt pride stirring within me, along with the urge to show off my artwork to everyone.  So what better way to analyse it than with a picture essay of my very own oeuvre?

Like so many of the games Barr makes, Art Game is set up like a joke. You pick your artist - a painter, a sculptor, or a performing duo - and try to conquer the art world with your works. The punchline is that you do so using the mechanics of classic games like Tetris, Spacewar and Snake. When you lose, your playthough so far becomes an artwork that you can title or simply trash. Soon a curator drops round and assesses your work for display in a gallery, sometimes often rejecting the best and ignorantly lauding the worst. It definitively answers Sophie Houlden's seminal question: can art be games?