Names like ‘games’ or ‘art’ aren’t actual discrete categories of work, they’re lenses for talking about something that carry with them a set of expectations. With expectations you can talk about a thing critically in a context of other things.

The issues with Games as a lens is that there’s an expectation of a feat, a puzzle, a story, a commercial product where defects in design or production are how you judge merit. You probably start with entertainment expectations, or you start with didactic expectations in a ‘serious’ game, or to read someone’s sad diary that’s been laying on the floor in a personal game. In an arcade space people are eager to touch, often touch roughly. Some people will have shallow attention and some people will have unexpectedly very deep attention and an experimental mindset (That last person is great to me!)

The issues with Art as a lens is that people are cowed by art. They don’t want to touch it, they often perform being engaged with it, or in some cases it’s just a spectacle backdrop for insta selfies etc. Rich people’s kids get to be artists and they end up with these wizards’ degrees that are made useful by decreeing that their holders can now imbue things with value, which can then be used as financial instruments to launder money.

Both of these lenses can sometimes be useful, the issue isn’t necessarily with them, it’s with the fact that everyone has such pressures on their time and attention, or such real physical discomfort that we’re robbed of the ability to give something deep attention and bring our own significance to it. The satisfaction I get from art isn’t fundamentally any different from the satisfaction I get from a cool rock or a natural sound, it’s just a collection of those significances picked and arranged like a bower bird finding blue bits of glass, a configuration of those significances. A game is an arrangement of them in unreal space and time that phrases them based on my attention and allows a player to be themselves significant and a part of the work. I bring the games lens in when a work gives me a game self as a perspective, not just when it is interactive. A DVD player menu is also interactive.

The show opening was Saturday night, it went alright. It was really hot outside and only 5 people could be inside the space at once and I regret that. Also I was outside juggling people and projections and I think a lot of people didn’t realize that the multi game launcher in the back had more than one game on it. Also at one point late in the evening, video was off on the video goldmine screens as if it had gone to sleep(?) but waited many hours to do it? Next Saturday I’ll be in the space to watch it, and I’ll add wall text for the launcher pc. Comments were fine. I re-read my pamphlet text and there’s so many errors I added in at the last second! mostly redundant sentences from weird edits. There’s a version of this text that is going to be boiled down and inserted into the thesis text dungeons chapter as a section about dungeons as mines. Now it’s:

  • Dungeon (always) as a proxy for history, or the space that was dug out for a missing history
  • Dungeon as crypt
  • Dungeon as cave
  • Dungeon as prison
  • Dungeon as vault
  • Dungeon as mine
  • Dungeon as incomplete map

Textovka I almost got a text game sketch done in time for the show but I didn’t want to introduce new bugs. I think that of all the prototypes though, there’s some full game that is a combination of the rot.js dungeon game and of this inkle conversation tree game, which is weird because I don’t usually like conversation trees. I always feel the spreadsheet inside. I think if you keep the text simple though and use variables from inventory from the dungeon game, it could be interesting. Like there are some characters you encounter who can tell stories about items that would be burdensome in the regular roguelike text box and give trade options or let you ask questions. I was also thinking about ways to embrace my inability so far to save and load levels in the roguelike game. Maybe the only way forward is down through pits. You are descending with no way back.

It’s not lost on me that I may not have much more time left to do this sort of work. I had a window of time between school and jobs that allowed me space to research and experiment. Financial pressures mean I’ll need to take more paying work, my age means I need to prioritize looking for full time emplpoyment with benefits instead of the avalanche of conflicting contract work I usually endure. And every day my anxiety about the state of the world is growing. Chasing this stuff, especially in a way that is so dependent on computers, doesn’t seem to be an appropriate way to prepare for a very different, possibly much more austere and oppressive reality— one that could be the landscape I am stuck in for the rest of my life. I don’t have a clear path forward. I think good teaching opportunities are somewhere outside of Texas, and I’m desperate to get out of Texas anyway, but I need to be near my elderly mom. Is it going to reach that point where we have to move and move her as well and it will be even worse though? I’ve thought a lot about nationalism and read a lot about the slide to fascism in my reasearch of the last few projects, even though on the surface this may not be apparent. I got the fear real bad.

After next week I’m going to clean and inventory my studio space. I’d like to take a long break from computers and maybe try some textile work, something related but physical that doesn’t require a lot of electricity (notice I didn’t say no electricity, I get that i’m still using lights and air conditioning). Eventually I think I’ll return to a couple of these prototypes and consider making a releasable game from them.