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Games that drew my attention at the Indigo showcase 2010:

Proun – racing a tight rope
The concept of racing on a cable while avoiding the geometrical shapes that are attached to it had an unsettling effect on my conception of space in racing games.

Am I racing through the game world? Or am I standing still and is the environment revolving around me? Flashback memories to an old Need for Speed game in which my car never seemed to move much on the screen, except from swivelling in the direction of the turns.

Proun developed by Joost van Dongen

Avoiding geometrical blocks in Proun

Website of the game by Joost van Dongen

XYZ – music visualiser
Even after numerous tips from developer Robert Hein Hooijmans, I did not manage to play the game correctly. Rather, I was becoming worse as I did not nearly reach the high score I set earlier. Then playing without understanding what I was doing.

But did this really matter when experiencing the interaction? No. Whether successfully gathering music blobs to the dread figure or not, interacting with the music visualisations was delightful, as was the selection of available songs.

Read more on the game’s website (in Dutch)

Project Amygdala – take a listen in someone else’s head
Blindfolded, I could explore the memories of a fictional person. They were grouped in three emotions: joy, anger and fear. The experience in the dark was not as frightful as I anticipated, as I was too engaged in navigating to let some of the more eerie sounds get to me.

It was intriguing how the shape of the environment that I formed in my mind (quite visual, including narrow alleys, busy squares lined with trees) completely did not match with the actual spatial setup of the game. Especially strange since this spacious layout was explained to me prior to playing. Nevertheless, I was not disoriented as the interaction with the spaced sounds worked very intuitive.

Project Amygdala

Specially designed chair The Explorer

Go to the portfolio of designer Raoul Matheron to hear the demo (spoken in Dutch, English website)

This is the day I handed in my master’s thesis for the research master Media and Performance Studies at Utrecht University. It was supervised by dr. Joost Raessens and my second reader was dr. Jami Weinstein. This is the abstract:

“The term virtual is frequently used by game scholars to describe the space presented in computer games. This space is usually typified as unreal and contrasted with unmediated real space. The conception of virtual as fake originates in the popularity of virtual reality technology in the 1980s. There are roughly three descriptions of the virtual in the meaning of unreal: The virtual is seen as an unreal reflection of the real world, as an imitation of it that however much perfected is never the real itself, and as having very real effects.

The dichotomy between virtual and real can be traced in game literature in the conception that game space is a representation of real space. The idea that games could thus be analysed as texts prevailed at the outset of the study of games as an academic subject. However, this perspective was soon criticised by scholars who opted to study games foremost as interactive media. This focus on the interactive element of games led to a growing amount of work on the importance of the body during play and, more recently, to a focus on the role of the player as a performer who actively creates space. Studying game space from these approaches, the opposition of real versus unreal virtual space is no longer of use.

Constructing an alternative terminology of the virtual drawing inspiration from the work of Deleuze, leads to an understanding of games as processes of virtualisation and actualisation that involve affect. This enables an explanation of the reality of game space, accounts for the convergence between player, machine and game and respects the specific characteristics of games. I recommend the use of the new terminology of the virtual that I formulated, to enable a true break from the perspective of games as representations and maps for the approaches of interactivity and embodiment, and to provide a firm ground for the approach of performativity to study the creation of spatial realities in respect to the specificity of the medium.”

Front page of RMA thesis.

A virtual version of the thesis can be found on this blog on the page “Written work” and on the website of my university’s library.

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