abstractmachine

17 August, 2008

Invaders!

Filed under: abstractmachine,atelier hypermedia,code,exhibition,play,publication,software,youtube — Douglas Edric Stanley @ 19:12 pm

Invaders!

Last update 01/09/2008 (see below). See also my attempt at context.

Update (24/08) : If you haven’t heard, this piece has stirred quite a controvery. I’m keeping the comments open for people to opine in their own manner and leisure. If you are interested, there is also significant debate here and at many other sites commenting on the affair. I obviously have a lot of things to say, and while I’m tempted to try and correct some of the most exaggerated misconceptions, as many commentators have mentioned the damage has already been done, the responsibility is ultimately mine, and it is therefore up to others now to make up their own minds.

Next week, my old piece from September 2001 will yet again be recycled, only this time in a very large scale edition, with some significant updates, all in celebration of 30 years of Invaders falling from the skies. Invaders! will this time be a multiplayer affair, with improved tracking (optical flow, yada yada yada…), a high (and low) scores leader board, and a stronger tie-in to the historical narrative that originally inspired me to make this version in the first place.

For an idea of how the physical interaction works, check out this video from the Laboral Gameworld exhibition in 2007.

This is all taking place at the huge Games Convention taking place every year in Leipzig. This year Andreas Lange of the Computer Spiele Museum was nice enough to include me in the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders with my somewhat ambiguous juxtaposition of this mythical game and the historical events of September 11th. He has also included a selection of various artefacts of the “official” Space Invaders game which will accompagny my large-scale full-body form of engagement.

Here is the press release (read : not written by me), which for once gets it pretty much right :

Space Invaders is one of the biggest video game legends. When the game landed in arcades world-wide in 1978, it initiated a previously unknown boom. Shortly after the appearance of the blockbuster pictures “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the “Third Kind”, thanks to Space Invaders, millions of mostly young players could step in to save the world from the alien invaders with their joystick in hand.

Space Invaders became a legend and a global icon. It is a frequently quoted art motif and remains omnipresent in our daily life. It is still as fresh as ever. The exhibition “Space Invaders: Die Jubiläumsshow!” (Space Invaders: the Anniversary Show) would like to pay homage to this evergreen and create an experience from its historical and current facets.

In addition to a comprehensive documentation, an original Space Invaders machine naturally forms the centre of attraction. Everything is overshadowed by the interactive large installation “Invaders!” by the French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley.

The World Trade Center attacks mark a deep cut in our recent history that is still being processed. The French-American artist Douglas Edric Stanley has found an unusual – though obvious – metaphor with his work “Invaders!”, which is based on the 1978 arcade original. In his interactive large installation, the players must prevent the catastrophe by controlling the well- known cannon at the lower screen border with their bodies and firing it using arm movements. Like the original, this trial is ultimately unsuccessful, thus creating an articulated and critical commentary about the current war strategy. In this regard, Douglas Edric Stanley sees Space Invaders as “a social tale that can be related to historical tales without losing its poetic power” (D.E. Stanley).

Invaders!

update (20/08): Kotaku‘s had a very negative reaction to the piece, and their community seems pretty pissed off. I think there’s some confusion in there, as per usual, but you can head over to their website for more on the controversy (here and here) .

update (21/08): PC World’s Game On blog has a much more measured response to the Kotaku post. There are several other reports as well, including this slightly more accurate one from Fox News which tries to flesh out a few of the details discussed by Kotaku. NY Daily News has also apparently jumped into the fray, calling World Trade Center victims to get their response — which in my humble opinion is just as sleezy and facile as anything else I’m apparently being accused of. Ah, the slow descent of journalism into endless tautological news cycles. Count me out.

update (22/08). Here is the statement I made last night concerning the removal of Invaders! from the convention:

“After three days of a steady downward spiral in public discussion of the piece, I have just given my agreement to the organizers of the Leipzig Games Convention to simply turn off the installation Invaders! While I realize the dangerous precedent of allowing the lowest common denominator dictate what is and is not a valid form of expression, unfortunately the current tone has totally obfuscated the original aims of the piece. While I take full responsibility for the uncomfortable ambiguity of certain aspects of this work, it was never created to merely provoke controversy for controversy’s sake, and unfortunately, this is what the piece has now become. The American response to this work has been, frankly, immature, and lacking the sophistication and consideration that other parts of the world have so far shown the work. Contrary to previous reports, I am an American, and it saddens me that we as a people remain so profoundly unable to process this event outside of some obscure, but tacitly understood, criteria of purely anesthetized artistic representation. Due to these profound misunderstandings, I simply feel that from an artistic point of view, the work has lost the ability to have any valuable impact, poetic or otherwise. I have not been pressured by the Leipziger Messe, nor by the Computerspiele Museum in this decision — to the contrary, they have offered their support in defending the right of artists to speak freely, and in whatever context they may choose.”

update (01/09) : Some people continue to be under the impression that I created a game in which the goal is to bomb the World Trade Center. Herein lies the power of rumor, suggestion, and above all controversy. I made no such game. In Invaders!, you are very clearly defending the towers, on the side of America, and there is no option to play the role of the invaders. Any suggestion to the contrary is probably under the influence of one early report, in which the flames of the towers were the only thing that remained. This reporter did not understand that the work was interactive, and this inaccuracy was eventually corrected. If, from there, people are still offended, fine; and you are welcome to comment your objections here or on the many blogs that have been covering this story. But I found it quite telling when, yesterday, upon correcting someone poorly informed on this matter, this same person replied, “Then what is all the controversy about?” Indeed.