Thursday, November 15

Code from crayons: new work from Douglas Bagnall at Te-Tuhi

For those put off by the gun-wielding heroes and photorealistic environments of videogames, this Saturday is your chance to create your own. Douglas Bagnall, who has previously shown works like A Film-Making Robot at Window, is exhibiting his latest project at Te-Tuhi, which transforms crayon drawings into game worlds via some clever coding.

Bagnall's Video Game Machine is part of a host of recent interactives which mix physical reality like shadows and drawings with screen-based additions. Philip Worthington's Shadow Monsters tracks users, adding spikes to their arms, medusa tendrils to hair, and the ability to throw flames and projectiles.

MIT's sketch engine takes simple physics diagrams drawn on a whiteboard and digitises them, translating crude down arrows into gravity, force, and inertia. The demo is dry, the graphics dull. The potential is not.

Flash-based physics toy Line-Rider became a smash success over the last year as users took its simple mechanic of drawing lines for a sled to an art form. Massive levels like the one shown below, or others with up to 22,000 lines are entered into competitions in communities like I Ride the Lines. Little Big Planet, an Xbox 360 title poised for release, hopes to capitalise on the same idea by letting users create and post levels. Players assemble game worlds from a variety of objects which are translated into game worlds with deep physics applied.

With any set of rules and scripts, from Bagnalls 'robots' to interactive narrative such as Façade and simple 'toys' like Line Rider, the fascination lies in 'gaming the system' - finding the edge cases, glitches, and grey areas. The algorithm behind Film Making Robot favoured oversaturated images, creating a very selective memory of images sourced from Wellingtons bus routes. Only hours after Façade was released, players were already trying to break it, ignoring any goals like reuniting the protagonists and instead posting scripts featuring serial killers in an effort to defeat the natural language scripting. The top rated movies on LineRider comps are not huge hills or triple backflips, they're 'microquirk tracks', hardcore users who can place a dot in a specific location, confusing the game code and causing havoc with gravity.

Te Tuhi Video Game Machine
Douglas Bagnall
17th November 2007 – 10th February 2008

Update: James McCarthy also performed using a site-specific wall work comprised of high-tension wires. He repeated the performance on Tuesday with some members of experimental music organisation Vitamin-S. Thanks to James for the pic.

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