Saturday, April 26, 2014

Final Project - Artificial

Link to Game
(requires the Unity web plugin, which it will prompt you to download)

Link to "Script" on Google Docs

There are some small bugs in the game that can occur, but they are rare and usually do not stop the game from progressing.

Also, be aware that this game features voice over, so adjust your sound settings accordingly.

I made this video game, which I call “Artificial,” because I wanted to create a proof-of-concept showing the artistic potential of video games. While the success of my game as art is certainly debatable, I feel that it both narratively and formally argues that video games can be art, and as such, a vehicle for social change. “Artificial” examines the role of technology and art in shaping society, and specifically how video games express the Marcusian ideal of art. The setting of the game, set between the real world and cyberspace, making literal Marcuse’s idea of the Great Refusal. According to Marcuse, "In its advanced positions, art is the Great Refusal -- the protest against that which is. The modes in which man and things are made to appear, to sing and sound and speak, are modes of refuting, breaking, and recreating their factual existence" (63). I want Artificial to show that this idea both applies to its own narrative, as well as to itself as a video game and art.
I wanted the cyberspace world to share elements of the real world, while remaining impossible and unusual. The two settings in the real world, the apartment and office, are filled with mundanity, knick-knacks, and nothing really interesting for the player to interact with. The levels in cyberspace have interesting patterns and colors, the data stream moves dynamically, and the AI gives you conversation and purpose. By moving the more “interesting” elements of the game into the cyberspace levels, cyberspace comes to represent a piece of art. It is unreal, yet shows those who experience it something true about the world that is real. The change that cyberspace undergoes, and the AI’s comments at the end of the game about the same change affecting the real world slowly are supposed to serve as the game’s call to action. I wanted to show that the game’s systems and narrative could convey meaning relevant to the real world.
While the quality of this game may hold it back from actually being “art,” other games, such as Dear Esther, Gone Home, Portal and The Stanley Parable, by which mine was inspired, are much more successful in conveying their their ideas through the medium. Mechanically I was inspired by Gone Home, as the primary methods of interaction in that game were exploring a space and clicking on objects to find text and audio clips which described a narrative. The Stanley Parable, Dear Esther, and Portal all showed different ways that narration can be used to influence player decision, or simply lend context to the environments that the player explores.  I wanted to show that simply the act of controlling a character in a narrative, even if there isn't a lot of actual choice, impacts the connection that the player has with the content. I, the developer, wrote all of the dialogue that they player “says,” but even the act of clicking gives the player a little bit of agency when talking to the AI.
I wanted the cowboy to represent a video game player, and the AI to represent video games. Showing the cooperative nature of their relationship and how through this they can affect the world communicate a core idea behind the game: that this relationship between player and game has to be respected and designed around to art through games. This argument is mostly established through the form of the game, and the nature of the player’s interactions with the world. Because the ideas discussed by the game’s narrative are relatively simple and derivative of Marcuse, I wanted the more interesting thesis to come from the medium itself, showing that video games can serve as art through cooperation between the player and the systems created by the designer.

Marcuse, Herbert. One-dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon, 1991. Print.

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