Let’s Write About: Let’s Play: Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment: Art Edition Edition

I don’t think I ever got around to writing a post about this game after releasing it a couple of weeks ago, so this is that post because I can’t think of anything else to write about this evening. Specifically, here is The Story of the Game.

Many moons (about three years) ago I made a game called Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment. That game was all about futility and the ability of a videogame to sort of represent infinity – or perhaps at least a genuine willingness to pursue infinity to the extent that as a player you could “feel” infinity. One of the “levels” of the game was based on the myth of Prometheus, the Titan doomed to have his liver pecked out by an eagle every day and grown back overnight. All for giving humans fire. A tough break.

That game was “successful” and was played by a lot of thousands of people, which was terrific. Then, last year there was a solo exhibition of one of my games, Safety Instructions, at the Andrew Baker gallery in Brisbane, Australia. Most of the show was made up of very good-lookin’ prints of screenshots from Safety Instructions, but there were also prints from a couple of other games, including the Prometheus scene from Let’s Play: Ancient Greek Punishment.

Thus, when I went to the exhibition in December 2014 I had the very odd experience of confronting a game (such as the Prometheus scene) remediated as a screenshot remediated as an artwork framed and behind glass on a wall. That was interesting to me because it’s such a strange direction for a game to go in: from movement to stillness, from interactivity to passivity, from jokey meme to official art-on-wall, etc. I actually had a bit of difficulty thinking about the exhibition and my relationship to it, frankly, because of that odd remediation going on. (Although of course the games themselves were on display too.)

So an obvious way to react to this, in my book at least, was to re-remediate the game-as-painting back into a game. I’d taken photographs of the various prints in the show and chose to turn the photo of the Prometheus scene back into the Prometheus scene game. Such that it goes from static photograph of framed print back over to playable game. To complete the strange feeling of standing in front of an “art” I slaved over getting a webcam “reflection” of the player in the “glass” covering the game. So you end up with an attempt to meld the two ideas – it’s still framed and on a wall and “art”, but it’s also a weird playable game.

Plus, as a throwaway weirdness that I rather like, the player becomes in many ways the central “asset” of the game, the most important piece of imagery it shows. Not to mention how you could spin off into commentary about appearing as a good above Prometheus, determining not whether he should suffer, but whether he should even be permitted allowed to writhe. Dark stuff.

That’s a story, now’s it’s done.


2 February 2015
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