Gaby Cepeda on the Girls Of The Internet Museum

AA: It’s interesting that the GIM evolved from a research project about ephemeral curatorial practice; while GIM has an eternal archive (at least as long as Tumblr exists), many of the works stem from more traditional ephemera. How do you think screen-based works are continuing to shape the ways in which time, place, and the body are encapsulated in art?

GC: I don’t really perceive the Internet as eternal. I don’t know what kind of fate my MySpace account faced or if my GeoCities website will ever be unearthed by projects such as Olia Lialina’s archaeological project. The next generations of Internet users will probably think our early interactions are quaint, asking, “What do you mean by ‘Girls of the Internet’? Who is not on it?” Hopefully they’ll also ask, “What is gender?”

I find that video as a medium has changed and has become a lot more malleable since it began inhabiting the Web. It has expanded the artist-as-performer category, in which the artist performed with their own body; due to the availability of data, artists also began to interact and perform with information. I’m thinking of Hannah Black’s video My Bodies, in which she is performing through text and language. And Shawné Michaelain Holloway in her work performs as a flickering, super-sexual character in an almost physical interaction with browsers.

These sorts of interactions, between actual bodies and digital information, has allowed bodies on video to not only be re-signified, to be added to and edited, but also amalgamate other histories and meanings. Endlessly looping GIFs pose a strange challenge to durational performance: an unachievable infinity of gesturing bodies.

Subverting Mass Media: The Collection of the Girls of the Internet Museum Accentuates Sincerity

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Epanalepsis Trailer

I’ve been making a game for the last six months called Epanalepsis. It is a science fictiony game about time and cities and contemporary life and it doesn’t really fit a lot of the traditional boundaries of adventure games. It will be coming out very soon, and the release trailer came out today.

Exciting!

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On Heart of the Swarm

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Yesterday I closed out my writing for the end of the semester and decided to attempt to finish up Heart of the SwarmHeart, or HOTS as it is sometimes known, is the Zerg (read: space bugs) campaign follow-up to the Terran (read: human) campaign of the original StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, and it requires such a complex knowledge of the inner workings of the game universe that I’m going to skip right over any of the content (which you can read about here if you want) and instead just talk about how it made me feel.

Creating a story for an real-time strategy game seems like it would be really difficult. You’ve got a couple methods at your disposal: you have pre-mission info dump, post-mission info dump, and scripted events in the game. Or, to put it another way, you have “you gotta do this!”; “whoa you did that!”; “holy mother of god this is happening!”

The nature of RTS games is that the player grows in power throughout, but she is also generally starting from zero every session; you’ve gotta come up with a reason why a player with the strongest units would start a mission with a bare-bones base from which she builds Fort Kickass.

The structure of Heart is such that the stakes are constantly increasing because of Kerrigan’s constant fighting against progressively more dangerous enemies in more and more extreme locations. I wasn’t exaggerating above when I was talking about the mode of excitement that RTS games need to deploy in order to keep things escalating. Heart is a game where enemies, allies, and unknown parties keep telling me how badass they/I/someone I’ve never met before is without any proof. I was told that a mission was the hardest of Kerrigan’s life only to start the mission, wipe everyone off the map, and wait for the timed scripted sequences to trigger.

I write all of that to say that Heart of the Swarm is a really strange game in that it is mechanically very solid with some really excellent scenarios (and some amazing blending of DOTA-style gameplay sometimes) that total bungles any sense of pacing and plot escalation that could happen. It’s frustrating, and it’s sad.

Are these some RTS games that really get the narrative parts right? What games were awesome at the execution?

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Tuscon Art Press Exhibit: Trip Report

A few weeks back I was in Tuscon for a conference, and while I was there the first (annual?) TAPE happened. I saw the signs around the touristy spots, and a friend and I wandered over in order to figure out what kind of local comic-y art scene Tucson had.

The great news is that I had a really good time at TAPE. As an independent creator of a few things (as well as someone who had a short stint making independent comics), I really like small local conventions where people have the opportunity to show off their work. I purchased a few things:

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I’m pretty specific about my purchases at these things. I’m a big fan of spending my money where I know it will matter, and I would rather give my $5 or $10 to an independent creator than I would to some dealer offloading TPBs that the can’t sell at the store for 85%. So I want to talk about the people I met/talked to and the work that I purchased.

The “king corgi” is by an artist named Raeann Payne, whose Tumblr you can see here. I love how regal and magical it appears to be. She was sharing a table with Daisey Walker, who did the beautiful cartoon Laika, and we had a short chat about how sad that story is. Down from them was a guy named Santino Arturo who was (I think) selling a print that was too big for me to fit in my backpack, which meant it definitely wasn’t going to make it on the plane. Beside him was a young woman whose name I didn’t catch (but who wrote down her Tumblr for me) who was selling some great block prints; she was also doing some watercolor livedrawing stuff that literally made me holler “god damn that’s good!” and I wish that I had hung around and grabbed one.

There was a group of comic book creators across the aisle from those artists, and I grabbed quite a few of those: Damon Begay‘s INTERSTELLAR COMICS three-pack of science fictiony short stories in comics form; Brad Dwyer‘s CHANGE IN REFRAIN about his life before, during, and after being a musician; Reset Survivor aka Wil Hines’ VIKING, RONIN, and LION, a kind of thematic trilogy of violence and abduction. I’ve read all of them a couple times, and the fact that all three of these artists were working around the same couple tables is incredibly funny considering how radically different their work is.

Definitely check out Begay’s work so you can see a Navajo grandmother pilot a mech to fight against environmental racism and a scar-eyed American Imperialist villain.

The mostly-blue print of the girl comes from an artist named Kayla who goes by the handle Wizardkeys. Her work is super cool and you gotta check it out. The very angular interpretations of Hellboy and The Goblin King come from an artist named Holly Randall who works under Flying Flog Illustration; she’s got a very excellent Jill Thompson-esque flair to her stuff that I really loved (and loved so much that I bought two things!)

An additional laundry list of things I thought were cool: this dude named Hector Deleon was doing some pen art on the US Mail label stickers. They’re beautiful, go buy some. (He also told me there’s characters that show up time and again that have names and functions and that hits every button I have).

Allen Amis was there selling some really excellent Fallout cosplay gear/reproductions. The Pip-Boy mold he had was excellent, and he was nice enough to explain the basic process of making this really intricate helmets to me. You can see his work here and buy some of it here.

I met the guy behind Tenko King and purchased a cool little button from him. I wasn’t familiar with the comic (or only in passing maybe), but he also had some Chrono Trigger prints that were just maximally beautiful. THEY AREN’T EVEN ON THE SHOP ONLINE I SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT THEM WHAT A FOOL I AM!!!

I really loved my experience at TAPE and I would love to get there again somehow. The internet is a great place to find excellent art and artists just cranking out out and grinding hard, but there’s something special about the convention space that gets all these people together in a space where they can engage with one another and fans. And I never thought I would have this opinion: I kind of hate conventions, and was very, very bored by Boston Comic Con last year. TAPE did it differently–it didn’t feel like a nerd flea market. It felt like an excellent collection of creative types trying to make a buck to keep being creative types. And I am all about that.

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On The Battle of the Five Armies

five armiesThe Battle of the Five Armies, the third film in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I’m a weird half-fan of Tolkien. I went through “the phase” as a kid, and then I checked out of it for a decade+ before diving back into the The Lord of the Rings books last year in a back-to-back-to-back torture experience. That puts me in a place to really appreciate The Hobbit films, I guess, or it at least supplements the experience.

I don’t know how it would be possible for me to have watched The Battle of the Five Armies without reading Tolkien’s trilogy. I mean this quite literally–that film borders on unwatchable when you have all of the contextual information that allows you to understand the plot, but I cannot imagine a filmgoer who generally liked the other films going into that experience and getting anything out of it.

This could be a wholly ahistorical argument on my part, and please pardon me if it is, but I’m increasingly interested in the amount of overhead knowledge that someone is supposed to have when they are dealing with media. I’ve written about this before with videogames, but The Battle of the Five Armies drove it home in the specific case of cinema. To even begin to get something out of the film, you need to have a pretty excellent memory of two previous movies and a wholly different set of films and novels (and then you can only barely hang on or keep up). I’m not sure where you’re supposed to get that knowledge. Wikipedia? The home release special features? The advertising campaign and its many tendrils?

The act of learning, of teaching oneself something, of combing through the morass of information in order to feel like you have a grip on something is labor. To watch The Battle of the Five Armies, you need to have done the labor of making yourself better; to become a capable watcher, or player, or reader you need to invest in you. (Nothing new here in some ways– reading The Waste Land requires a lot of investment up-front.)

At some point it seemed like you could encounter a weird media object and then invest your time in creating around it or learning what other people had created around it–Star Wars is the ultimate example. Now it’s the opposite way; you better have the Wiki open in front of you so you can figure it out.

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I was on Gamechurch talking about games and religion

Just a quick post that I forgot to make a while back: I was on the Gamechurch podcast a while back and I think that it is a pretty good talk overall. We chat about the south and what it means to be religious and some Jean-Francois Lyotard because why not.

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Line Hollis on King’s Quest IV and Manuals

It’s funny. I was raised on these games, so there was definitely a time when I was a dutiful manual reader. I remember excitedly yanking the manuals out of the game boxes on the way home from the computer store. It was a big part of building anticipation for me. And I didn’t even lose the habit that long ago! As late as Dragon Age: Origins, I pored through the manual to decide on my character build before I even started the game.

But now I just straight up hate the idea of reading a manual. This must have happened in recent years. Some part of it may be the shift to digital in my buying habits; Dragon Age: Origins was probably one of the last games I bought in a box from a store. Reading PDFs is somehow much more offensive to me than reading a little paper thing I can pile up on my computer desk. And then there’s my increased orientation away from big blockbuster games to short altgames. I’ve come to be very fond of the experience of starting up a game that I know nothing about, have no expectations about, am not prepared for. Somewhere in that process, I’ve gotten more impatient with preparing myself for an experience in advance, and my tolerance for manuals has suffered for it.

This does make it hard to successfully play games of this era. With King’s Quest IV‘s elaborate opening cutscene, it’s already starting to make that shift towards accommodating a player who doesn’t read the manual. But there are still a few pieces that don’t quite fit the new model.

Go read Line on King’s Quest IV and bask in the best longform series about games.

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