Durations: Endured
Sunday, 16 March, 2014

Avant-Garde Rock Band


So now the full set of Durations games are out in the wild. That took a while, but it was actually kind of fun releasing one of them per week over 10 weeks, had a kind of ritual quality on my end, though I imagine it felt like nothing on yours? By the by I don’t know how “successful” a strategy that kind of timed release thing is or isn’t, I get the impression (if I imagine myself trying to relate to it) that it would be easy to lose it in the Deluge of Internet and that any significance of it being staged in that way is kind of effaced by that. But who knows! Anyway, some thoughts.

On the precipice of a game that will outlive you. One thing about the longer games in the series, specifically “100 Years of Solitary” and “One Millennium Avant-Garde Band”, is that they will outlast us. That is, when you start the game you’re at the beginning of something you can’t really figure on seeing the end of – you’ll die. So there’s a weird kind of “memento mori” going on in those games that I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to at the time. It’s funny in particular to me because the games do have specific endings.

Cradling a fragile game in your hands. On the other hand, another way of thinking about this is that the game may well be able to last for 100 years, say, conceptually, but that doesn’t mean that that would be easy to put into practice. Say I run it on my laptop – well what about battery life? System updates? Power outages? Hardware failure? Software failure? The number of things that could disrupt the game before it even came close to ending is large. If you really wanted to see that game through you’d have to take prodigious steps to do so, essentially treating your computer as a kind of archival object immediately and so on. Very strange.

A certain indifference to time. I still very much enjoy the way that computers don’t care about time, at least procedurally, or whatever. You can start “One Millennium Avant-Garde Band” like any other SWF – your browser doesn’t remark on noticing it’s not made to terminate for 1,000 years, nothing about your computer cares about the duration at all except for the timer that’s actually marking time and will eventually shut it down. So the whole concept of “durations” is really weird on a computer because it really doesn’t matter, it only matters to the implied (mortal) player.

Those are three thoughts about it. I am tired. Too tired even to play “One Hour To Write A Novella” without falling fast asleep. I have nothing more to say.

, ,

4 Responses to “Durations: Endured”

  1. Mark N. Says:

    Parts of your commentary here remind me a little of John Simon’s digital-art piece Every Icon, which is just a Java applet that enumerates every 32 x 32 monochrome bitmap, thereby also producing all pixel art within a certain set of constraints, if you’re willing to wait. To be honest, perhaps I’m more specifically reminded of the piece’s artist statement than the piece, but nonetheless.

    One part that’s clearly dissimilar between that piece and your discussion of Durations is this bit: “It’s funny in particular to me because the games do have specific endings.”

  2. Pippin Says:

    Huh – I remember trying to write a “terrifying” short story with a similar premise to this actually, well, with that same premise of the huge possibility space contained within seemingly small grids of pixels…

  3. Leapfroglog Says:

    […] Pippin Barr. Blog. […]

  4. ARCHIVE: Time and Timelessness: ‘Mountain’ and ‘Durations’ | Endless Campaign Says:

    […] Like Mountain, time changes the relationship that the player has with the game. In the first few games, One Second Typing Tutor, One Minute Speed Date and One Hour to Write a Novella, their short timespan encourages the player to rush their actions to get as far into the game as possible, to experience as much of it as they are allowed to before they are thrown out. Then, there are the longer games, which last from a day to a thousand years. At this point, the player will probably have explored as much of the games as they can within the first few moments of play, so what fills the rest of the allotted time? These, I think, are more games of endurance than Mountain is, on two levels. First is the endurance of the player to keep playing the game for as long as they are given – sure, you can physically last a year playing the Finite Runner on and off, but who wants to try? The second is something that Barr himself points out on his blog: […]

Leave a Reply