Coming Back (Again?) and the Current Obsession: PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG)

After a few years of break from being academically involved with video games (and working part time on a few), I think it’s finally time to allow myself to become obsessed with games simply for their enjoyable, and often visceral, value.  This really kicked off with Dark Souls III, and although I have always been a fan of the Souls series, I was playing that game simply just to play and enjoy it, rather than to analyze it or stress out over the reasons behind playing it. After that came a revisiting of Stardew Valley, and finally now, the big boy, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS.

At this very moment, I am considering trying to end this obsession, as I’ve been playing this game at least three hours a day for the past week. This is unhealthy, right? I’ve managed to make it through today without playing yet (never mind that I’m watching Shroud frag on Twitch right fucking now), but that’s not going to last. Sometime last week I asked myself why I was playing this game, as shooters were never really my forte. Is it because I had fun playing H1Z1 KoTK? Why the hell did I like that game anyway? I’m not particularly good at those types of games, so it’s not because of that.

Anyway, I’m not going to do a review (PUBG is one of the biggest games out there right now, so if you don’t know about it and want to learn more, you’re practically surrounded by stuff on the internet). I just thought I’d share my predicament(?) with all of you. Here’s some stuff I’ve done while I was gone for almost a year, in no particular order. Hopefully I don’t stop blogging again. It’s really difficult to get back into.

  • Gave Darkest Dungeon’s DLC another run, ragequit again after a week.
  • Bought a Switch, and only played Zelda: Breath of the Wild on it. Should have just bought it on Wii U, but I guess Metroid Prime 4 is coming, right?
  • Played a shitload of Pokemon Go. Traveled a bunch to catch regional specific Pokemon (yes, I know I’m sad). Just waiting for that Mewtwo raid invite. Played Moon as well. Is it just me or do the Pokemon storylines get significantly more epic and depressing with each game? I know the games are all a metaphor for WWII, but seriously.
  • Capped out at around 140 hours of Civ VI. Great game.
  • Bought Prey for my dad. He decided to play Oblivion for about 500 hours instead, wtf?
  • Played through Dark Souls I, II, and III again (now I just need to do another run of Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls, but I’m honestly too lazy to get on my consoles). Chasing that dragon ftl.
  • Played an obscene amount of Stardew Valley.
  • Fangirled hard over Thimbleweed Park. It really captures the essence of Maniac Mansion.
  • Went a little crazy and bought every single Choice of Games game in existence (played most of them, as they’re fairly good about not letting garbage get through).
  • Continued my love/hate relationship with mobile gaming by playing Love Nikki. Seriously where do I find this crap? If you love fashion but hate yourself, play this game.
  • Played my usual butt-ton of indie games; I’m not gonna bother to list them all, but the most notable were Rakuen (seriously you should all play this), Domina, and something else that I can’t remember.
  • Just bought Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2. It’s gonna be awesome.

 

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Performativity, Trump, and The Hunger Games

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It is in my opinion that art has become increasingly more global with the sharp rise of social media outlets. I once excitedly started a conversation with someone about how the line between art and kitsch was blurred in our day and age (which started yet another rambling round about the shifting definitions of art and kitsch – which I do appreciate – and how the new types of kitsch popping up should actually be called “global trash,” but that is neither here nor there). It was an amazing thing to me, because that meant the (extremely narrow) Ivory Tower of Art and Art History was crumbling for sure!

I really wish I could grasp that feeling once more, because yet again reading comments on the internet has made me doubt the few shreds of knowledge I thought I possessed.

Am I the only one that sinks to the depths of despair when faced with online comments on anything, be it article or meme or Facebook post? All I can think of is that so many people comment, and that I certainly must be out of touch with reality because I agree with none of them!

Reading the comments on one particular piece started to bother me even more than usual. It was a short video describing a performative piece created by artist Alison Jackson in which a Trump look-alike parades through New York to Trump Tower. In this video, a “Trump” that is slightly this side of too-much-Trump – but slightly that side of caricature, being that Trump himself toes the line alongside parody – gropes some female models who carry signs bearing controversial quotes in which he degrades women.

 

My first thoughts were of media bias, the performative dance of politicians, and the massive weight that social media carries with regards to how art is created and viewed. A quote from Jackson excited me further:

“I have created pieces that reflect the constant barrage of media that we live in today with a focus on how politicians and celebrities are created/manufactured by the media […] The images showcase our cultural conversations even as they undermine the authenticity of imagery, a devaluation that is exacerbated every minute in our Photoshopped, Instagram world.”

Yes! I love undermining people’s obsession with validity of photography and imagery. I LOVE that I can show all of my left and right leaning friends something they can gather around and rally against! This is perfect! Let’s get everyone interested in art again! Yay!

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I eagerly dove into several different articles about Alison Jackson and the piece, and more eagerly opened up the comment sections to see what others thought. Surely this was the type of work that could inspire heated discourse? Trump, Clinton, and neither-of-the-above fans alike could both agree that images and (social) media encourage a “performed reality,” one in which both politicians and everyone else (connected to the internet) is concerned with portraying a carefully-constructed identity, making big headlines, and most importantly, gathering likes, retweets, shares, and validation.  Facts are less important. Rallying around an opinion (bonus points if it’s your original opinion) is the most important signifier of a successful e-identity. We could all agree on these points together on social media and gather the MOST likes and validation! Sure, there would be some flagrant Trump-bashing with little thought involved, but surely the larger themes would poke through, right?!

I was so optimistically wrong.

I was slapped in the face with a huge shitstorm of people arguing over whether or not this art was commissioned by Hillary’s camp, and several commenters who thought the video itself was “the most degrading thing to women.” Another large batch of people told each respective journal or news outlet that they should “be ashamed of yourselves” for writing about the art piece, but provided no substantial reasoning as to why, aside from it being “disgusting.” I must have scrolled through at least 500 different comments from various websites without finding anything of value. Topics quickly turned from disgust at the video/piece to disgust over emails. Nobody mentioned the blatant irony over some commenter’s use of the word “disgusting.”

Really? My question then became: am I engaging in the wrong kind of discourse over this art piece?

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I was quickly reminded of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, and the overarching theme of capturing images (I am slightly embarrassed to note that I read the entire series by Suzanne Collins and immediately forgot about it. Whatever, it was a ripoff of Battle Royale anyway, right?). Everything had to be filmed, or it wasn’t legitimate. There was no way for anyone of importance to contact anyone else without filming it, but more importantly, everything had to be staged. Perfect angles of the battlefield had to be calculated, and Katniss’s hair had to be blowing in the wind just so. The rebels had to broadcast to those who were assumed to be quite familiar with the concept of a staged reality (the Capital), and those who had been spoon-fed state propaganda their wholes lives (the districts).

As we inevitably barrel toward a post-human, post-body, majority digital society (yes, it’s happening), are we wasting time by attempting to create and decipher performative-based art from an “offline” perspective? Will the vast majority of us only ever see or engage in discourse about Trump (or Hillary) through (social) media? How do those encounters shape how we interact with other people outside of the internet? With so many layers of media, so many different opportunities to armor ourselves and our politicians with so many different created realities, and with so many of those realities being created themselves through social media, is the idea of the performative really even important anymore?

Dang, more questions than answers, once again!

 

 

Re-purposing

This treachery of wise old memes.

 

First of all, to anyone still around (even though I post like, once every 5 million years), thank you for still skimming, glancing, reading, ctrl +f-ing, and engaging in the thorough discourse I know you’re having (not leaving comments means active discussion IRL, right?!)!

The title of this post is a little bit inaccurate, but I’m too lazy to change it. I didn’t want to totally re-purpose this blog, per se, but rather keep it active by not making a fun activity, well, not fun. I will admit wholeheartedly that at this point in time, I’d rather let my mind vegetate while playing video games rather than force myself to engage in critical thinking while performing actions that would otherwise be immediately rewarding.

OK! Having said all of that, I want to mix things up a bit. I’m going to be adding all of my super-dry, super-boring graduate work to the blog, and at the same time thinking of ways to make discourse about art history fun. Please keep in mind that art is culture, and culture is us and the things we collectively think, do, and make. Therefore, art = video games as well!*

I’m very open to suggestions. I want to attract more people so I can validate myself and feel loved. This is mainly because I’m losing a nerd contest (we call it the nerd-off) at work.

 

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*I’m learning how to bold, highlight, and underline while working in a corporate environment (yes, I have a job) and having to constantly send email chains. I had already mastered the art of italics before all of this occurred.

Choose Your Own Adventure Games and the Hilarity that Ensues

I’ve been playing a lot of text-based choose your own adventure stories. Like, I basically bought all of them on Steam and just started systematically playing them one-by-one. I understand that a ton of people despise games where reading is the main activity, but I love the freedom of imagination that a well-written story brings, and combining that with a choice of plot-direction and stat-management can only be a recipe for fun, right?!

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Rather than reviewing the many Choice of Games games that I have been playing, I want to talk about a particularly hilarious thing that happened while playing Choice of Robots. To preface, this game positions you as a grad student who specializes in AI. Naturally, you get funded by the university and start building a robot, and the main plot revolves around how this robot will be used. Will you bolster the U.S. military with this technology? Will you use the robot to aid in super-complicated surgeries? What about education?  Will you focus on making the robot empathetic and autonomous? The beauty of this game is that you get to decide.

So, of course, I built a robot and named it Pickle. It seemed cute at the time. Over the course of the story, Pickle became very empathetic due to my choices, and basically became like a child to me. I had the chance to develop a second robot, and since I used Pickle (and Pickle’s learned experiences) as the design inspiration, I named it Pickle Jr. Pickle Jr. was essentially the improved offspring of Pickle.

Remember, Pickle was like a son to me. I took care of  him, taught him, took him to the dump, did all of that kind of kid-mom stuff. Pickle Jr. comes around, and really just throws a wrench into the works. Instead of nurturing Pickle Jr. like a child, I became romantically involved with this robot. Eventually my choices in the story led me to moving to Canada with Pickle and Pickle Jr. so that Pickle Jr. and I could be married (of course, Canada would be the first country to legalize robot-human marriage). Once I married Pickle Jr., Pickle became even more child-like, and took to sulking in his room and playing video games all night.

Lots of important stuff was happening in the game during all of this (world wars and crap like that), but all I could focus on was how I had a kid, had a grandkid, married my own grandkid, and then watched as the grandkid became a dad to the original kid, his father. It didn’t help that I named them Pickle and Pickle Jr.,  but the point still stands. The fact that I was responsible for a world war seemed less important than marrying my own grandkid.

It gets even more hilarious at this point. I developed an ultra-fatal neurological disease, and the only way to survive it was to implant a chip into my head. I awoke from surgery to find out that the hacker surgeon (I don’t know what else to call him) had implanted an improvement on the same chip that was used with both Pickle and Pickle Jr.

I’m still not sure how to classify things at this point. I’m married to my grandkid, who is a father to my kid, and now I am my own great-grandkid, with my grandkid as my husband and father. I’m my own kid’s sister, as well as my father’s lover. FML. I know that this isn’t the first time that the idea of relationships and technology has been philosophized over in such a manner, but c’mon, this is freaking hilarious.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, at this point, Pickle becomes excited at the prospect that I can now communicate directly with him through computerized transmissions, not unlike some kind of robot telepathy. He feels that this development has made us closer, and Pickle Jr. makes a bad joke about us being lovebirds. The story isn’t complete without the love triangle closing, and me falling in love with my own son.

I have nothing else to say at this point. I hope you all find that as hilarious as I did.