Just this past weekend, as I hunkered down with my ragtag tribe of female gamers, preparing for another beer-and-brownie-fueled evening of computer-generated stealth and violence, a thought ran through my head: What is the point? The night was progressing as usual: on the screen, Solid Snake was neutralizing terrorist threats, my roommate had just screamed an elaborate expletive involving the word "slapstick," but my heart was no longer in it. Where is the meaning, I wondered, where are the layers, the exhibitionism?
It seems my cries for electronic existentialism and introspection have been answered — Copenhagen artist/game designer/professor Pippin Barr has created a video-game version of Marina Abramović’s 2010 MoMa exhibit, The Artist Is Present. The exhibit, which stands as the MoMa's most successful performance-art exhibition to date, saw hundreds of museum visitors line up for hours in order to sit at a table across from Abramović. Barr's game doesn't stray much from this formula. In the game, you play an art fan eager for his chance to join Abramović at her table. After paying his museum fee, our hero jauntily approaches his goal, yet dastardly and villainous museum hours and long lines conspire against him.
That's right, gamers; most of the eight-bit adventure takes place in a line, waiting in front of a blurred-version of Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans. If you overstay your welcome (by overstaying the museum's hours of operation), you're thrown out onto a New York City curb, and forced to start the process all over again.
Sure, the game may not sound very "fun," but this isn't a game at all! This is Art! As Barr writes on his blog:
Critically, these alternate games seem like they're not going to be fun. And it's all very well to talk about how games don't have to be fun, they can be "interesting" or "challenging" or "disturbing" and so on. This is true, but it's also true that basically nobody's going to play those games except the brave vanguard. The question then becomes whether the vanguard can convince anyone else to play them too.
While being a part of the brave vanguard is all well and good, I do have a few suggestions for Barr that may just reel in those "anyone else" he speaks of. Three words: gamer-activated tear ducts. Abramović's exhibit was rather famous for making people cry; if a gamer succeeds in getting a seat across from the performance artist, they should be able to conjure a Tumblr-worthy emotional reaction with a few alternating keys. If tears fail to reel in the gaming masses, nudity surely won't. What gamer wouldn't want to guide our hero's awkward and fearful shuffle through Abramović's naked doorway? That is what I have been searching for all along: lo-fi genitals.