Truly stimulating screening of the new FX/Hulu technothriller Devs, and a Q&A with director Alex Garland, as well as executive producers Andrew MacDonald and Allon Reich @UCSC. It was a pleasure to be in conversation with them. Devs was partially filmed on the UCSC campus, and featured the McHenry Library and Quarry Plaza. Garland, who wrote and directed Ex Machina and Annihilation, gives us a fresh vision of the aesthetic richness within which we all work and study—as well as some heady existential propositions.
Thanks to UCI Informatics and organizers, Professors Bo Ruberg and Aaron Trammell, for hosting me on Friday, November 23. I presented my new research on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and its impact on the medium of video games. This research is forthcoming from from Cambridge University Press in a forthcoming anthology edited by Nathan Waddell. [photo credit:
Looking forward to my visit to the UCI Department of Informatics seminar series!
Traces of George Orwell’s critiques of totalitarian society, in both blunt and subtle forms, exist throughout video games. Major themes of dystopia, surveillance culture, technologies of control, authoritarianism, and the oppression of a large underclass exist in innumerable game narratives and environments. Do games like the BioShock series (2007- ), Remember Me (2013), Watch Dogs series (2014- ), We Happy Few (2018), Orwell (2016- ), Inside (2016), and Papers, Please (2013) encourage critical thought around the eventuality of totalitarianism, of which Orwell warned? Or, are these games merely systems in which to practice a kind of entrapment, in which so-called “freedom” may be performed within a medium that is exceedingly ordered in its very constitution?
Through the stories games tell, as well as in the very form of video games, is it even possible to truly stimulate a model of criticality? This chapter proposes that the critical influence of Nineteen Eighty-Four exists not only in video game narratives and the constitution of their navigable spaces, but also in the wide variety of strategies, rule-based systems, rhetorical capacities, ethical problematics and—most importantly—their strategic kinds of failure.
I’m pleased to announce the publication of ToDIGRA Vol 4, No 3 (2019) The Game is the Message, Selected Articles from the2018 International DIGRA Conference which includes my essay on whiteness, crisis, and video games. A very special thanks to Martin Gibbs, Matteo Bittanti, and Riccardo Fassone, editors! Find it for free here: http://todigra.org/index.php/todigra/article/view/102
See my new art review of Bay Area artist Mike Henderson on @SquareCylinder here:
Modestly tacked to the wall at SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries is an unexpected manifesto-like statement that captures the spirit of Mike Henderson’s mini-retrospective, Honest To Goodness. It reads: “I believe that an artist must be free of culture, geography, self, philosophies, theories, goals, tools, histories, and all the preconceived ideas. However, the artist must know all of these things in order to be free of them…What I paint comes from the freedom this idea brings.”
What unfolds in the gallery is a lifelong testament to this aspiration: that is, the constant negotiation and mastering of influences and aesthetic indulgences, the shedding of ideological crutches and prejudicial concepts that interfere with grasping one’s creative potential. To some degree, the exhibition is an alumni homecoming for the SFAI-trained artist, a sampling of his work from more than 50 years, including figurative and abstract paintings, works on paper, films and archival materials related to his musical career. The work feels searching and expressive, even while that expressiveness assumes vastly different manifestations across time. En masse, it conveys a sustained endeavor to dodge a creative comfort zone…
In a return to my origins in art theory, history and criticism, I’ve been writing reviews for Northern California’s SquareCylinder. Check out my latest co-authored review of artist @thecatewhite with #DerekConradMurray : https://www.squarecylinder.com/2019/08/cate-white-mills/ Also see earlier reviews of robotic sculpture artist #AlanRath @SanJoseICA and global sensation #RinaBanerjee @SJmusart
Very excited to announce my inclusion in Terence McSweeney and @DrStuartJoy’s new #BlackMirror anthology, Through the Black Mirror (Palgrave 2019)! I look at the Playtest episode, and am in great company with @henryjenkins and many others.
From the essay:
the episode suggests the seductiveness and annihilative potential of VR and AR technologies to the body and mind. But on another level, the casting of key characters of color within the scenario operates as subtext, pointing back to this troubled period and smartly poking at a fresh wound within game culture.