Sunday 15 July 2012

Good Question: The Games of Pippin Barr

Art: Pippin Barr (with permission)

What do you call an unwinnable game that players can compete to lose the most often? Or a game about our experience of art that simultaneously denies us the chance to experience it and simulates it perfectly? Or a physics platformer in which having complete control of all physics variables – and seemingly utmost power over the game – still leaves you with quite conventional puzzles to solve? You might call them a bit of a joke. You might call them experiments in paradox. You might call them horse shit (which is your prerogative, I suppose). But you might just call them the games of Pippin Barr.

Friday 6 July 2012

From Cyberspace to Composite: Two Fantasies of Hacking

Once upon a time, in the early years of the internet, nobody knew you were a dog.

In those days, nobody knew that I wasn’t really a 21-year-old graphic designer from Britain either. Every night, in the witching hour, I would sneak down to my father’s study, furtively unlock the door, and spend all night flirting on IRC with well-built Australian women. Tom Brindle had left the key in the lock once after losing a particularly savage drinking contest to our mother, and I cycled the three miles into town to get a copy cut. From then on, it didn’t matter who ‘sat’ on my ‘lap’ or what weird shit I wanked to, because it happened in a place as placeless and secret as Narnia.

Watching the trailer for Ubisoft’s forthcoming Watch Dogs reminded me of those nights because I feel sure they couldn’t have come from the same planet. Ubi’s game belongs to the world of Foursquare, Girls Around Me, and geotagged Twitter posts, where I can sit on a train and watch my best friend’s kid nephew’s tween Twitter spats. But I didn’t get social networking until I was 18 and didn’t ‘get’ it for another year after that. My adventures took place in the world of another hacking game: Introversion’s 2001 classic Uplink. Existing more than a decade apart, these games represent two very different fantasies of what role technology plays in our lives.