Upcoming Talk: UCI Informatics 2019

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.

Mike Henderson Review @ SquareCylinder


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…