The Artist Is Breakout
Or should that be The Breakout Is Present? At any rate, today and yesterday’s project has been making a translation of my early game The Artist Is Present (based on the performance piece The Artist Is Present by Marina Abramović) into Breakout. It’s been surprisingly fun to work with materials of my own making, I guess especially because I feel freer in terms of interpreting what the game ‘means’ and what a ‘good move’ would be in the translation etc.
It’s really been a process of entertaining realisations about what I could do with it more than anything else. First the idea was simply a straight-up Breakout in which a screen of bricks would represent one queueing position, which you would then ‘advance’ from by clearing the screen. Eventually you would reach a screen that was Marina’s face hidden behind bricks, which I kept as-is as you can see in the screenshot above. (Just by the by, I think that image of the Police Quest-style rendering of Marina Abramović’s face with her eyes hidden behind the traditional rows of Breakout bricks may be the best visual composition I have ever created. But that’s just me.)
I’ve been loosening up the nature of the Indie Bungle 2 project over time, and so the idea of clearing screens as queueing started feeling too vanilla, leading me to replace that idea with the bricks being the queue itself, each brick a person. Then I realised I could use the images of the people from the game as the bricks. Then I realised I could recolour them using the Breakout brick colours as a call-back. Then I realised I could put Marina and the chairs at the top as something you break-through to in order to sit down. Then I realised the ball could move at such a speed that it recreated the queueing times in the original game (quite literally – I took the array of possible waiting times).
At some point I realised it would be amazing to have the first sequence in the game take place outside the museum, with the player having to bounce the ball through the doors of MoMA. And of course then realised that MoMA would be shut when the real MoMA is shut (or rather, when it’s shut in the original game), and the ball would just bounce off. Then I realised it would be great if when the doors do open for the ball, they reveal a little Breakout wall of bricks just inside which you have to break through to get in.
I mean, come on. That is fun. God only know what it’ll be like to actually go through, and once again I can only assume that nobody will ever reach the point of ‘sitting with’ this new iteration of digital Marina…
But making it sure has felt a lot like playing.