Graduate student comments on the rigid art world through experimental game design

In terms of experimentalism, an artist does not play games.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the solo exhibition of Michael Luo, graduate student in design and media arts, will be presented at the Broad Art Center. Titled “YOU MAY THINK THEY LOVE YOU FOR YOUR GAMES, BUT ALL THEY REALLY WANT ARE SPECTACULARLY WEIRD TOYS FOR THEIR BRIGHT, ALL-NEW 8K QLED SMART SCREENS.”, the showcase is infused with witty humor, providing appropriate social commentary on the rigidity of the art world and everyday life, Luo said. Unlike other popular art exhibitions that aim to find a singular word to sum up the complexity of their works, Luo said he wanted to deviate from convention and opt for a longer exhibition name inspired by Bob. Dylan who foreshadows his subversive artistic identity.

“With the continued commodification of media arts, everything has to look shiny (or) like an NFT,” he said. “These (media arts projects) will probably end up being a toy on their (people’s) screens.”

Comprised of three separate games working together to form a cohesive and personal narrative, Luo said his exhibition deviates from the art world’s expectations of traditional game layouts. While most commercial games are designed to be played for hundreds of hours, Luo said he wanted to condense a game into an easily digestible experience under ten minutes – functioning almost like a few songs in a game album. much bulkier than he hopes. to develop.

Luo stands in the exhibition space of the Broad Art Center where he sets up his works to be exhibited. Video games turn typical conventions, like that of horror gaming, into social commentary. (August Suchecki/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Student adds life to her game designs with complex characters, fantasy elements]

The first game, “Press W to move forward” is an experiment in the horror game genre. As the title suggests, he said, players can only press W to move forward. Inspired by societal pressures to continue advancing both academically and professionally, Luo said he wanted to demonstrate the toxicity of this mentality, alluding to its overall self-destruction.

Once event attendees resonated with the themes of the first game, Luo said they were invited to experience the second game, “Museum of Mediocre Appropriations” – a play on the Museum of Modern Art, often abbreviated as MoMA. Requiring no input from the audience, Luo said the game guides participants through a simulated experience in a fashionable museum, critiquing the landscape of contemporary media arts.

The experience is quickly followed by the final experience, “Marinated Guide to Game Making”, which uses direct quotes from introductory game making books in its aesthetic, subverting the notion of conventionality and standard practices in game making. game creation, he said. There’s a very straightforward sense of humor and self-reflexivity that connects these three games conceptually, he said, though their artistic elements vary.

“They (the three games) talk to each other, but they all have different aesthetics,” Luo said. “One uses pure 3D products, the other features my own hand drawn designs and comics, and the other mixes it all together.”

Using different media to shape the individualism of each game, Luo enlisted the help of ArtCenter College of Design alumnus and student Chloe Zhang to diversify the aesthetics of her games. By making a 3D hallway and an office chair for his project, Zhang said his contribution to the exhibition allowed for an increased sense of realism that directly translates into a more immersive overall experience for audiences. Testing the games herself, she said it felt like walking through a hallway in real life.

The diverse aesthetics play into the much larger commentary that Luo aims to provide, he said. In the art world, Luo said video games are generally considered a low art form – something only for children. By combining a low socially perceived art form with other mediums, including Zhang’s work, sketches, comics and elements derived from horror films, Luo said he creates a bold aesthetic that opposes the hierarchical practices of the art world, demonstrating that these forms are all worthy of display in a standard gallery format.

It’s this same experimental fervor that sets Luo’s work apart from that of other artists, said Jenna Caravello, assistant professor in the design media arts department. As Luo’s mentor, Carvello said the duo had several conversations regarding the idea of ​​subverting the language of games to create a deeply personal and innovative gaming experience. The goal does not come without challenges, however, she said.

“Being an experimental artist working with games as a platform is complicated because you’re in dialogue with the history of a platform that’s been pretty seamless, rigid and tied to clichés and tropes,” Caravello said.

[Related: Graduate student discusses art, technology in ‘Software for Artists Book’]

find the The ideal balance of playability and information with an artistic vision is a critical question to be answered when creating controversial art games, she said. However, with Zhang’s help, Caravello, resources like YouTube and the UCLA Game Lab, Luo said he was able to strike that balance. Grateful to have found a community that has supported his practice and helped him build these games together, Luo said he hopes artists of the future will prioritize community over collective success, making advance similar experimental comments.

“I hope my games fulfill a didactic function for people who play them,” Luo said. “1000 people could hate one of my games, and 10 of them could love it – I don’t care. But a person, even a single person might like that… I just want to motivate them to push the medium forward themselves.

Comments are closed.