Last chance to play "Problem Attic" at REVERSE gallery ©J. Ambia

 “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”― William Gibson, Neuromancer

This FRIDAY, August 1st, 6-8PM—check ’em out, check ’em out at REVERSE gallery: 1. Michael Cook will explain how his ANGELINA project works and why he thinks A.I. will create games that people can’t, and 2. Liz Ryerson will discuss her obtuse and often counter-intuitive designs in ‘Problem Attic.’

Playing with a game made possible by ANGELINA ©J. Ambía

Cook, a research scientist based in London, designed the ANGELINA program to make her own games: she takes information and generates it into a playable platform. The experience is almost like a cold reading, but by a robot. There’s a cardboard arcade base that houses the controller and screen, and cable wires and LED lights surround a manifesto by ANGELINA herself explaining that this game was written “by a disgruntled child.” The tasks are simple; you try to collect the Ship and avoid the Tomb.

ANGELINA's instructions ©J. Ambia

“Problem Attic” by Liz Ryerson explores the troubled psychological landscape of its protagonist through willful abstraction and unconventional game design choices. (I also thought it explored an existential crisis—during the game, I wasn’t sure where to go, as the maze-like map seemed unlimited and I sometimes kept falling through the gaps.) The game itself can become confusing since it’s a representation of a prison, with bizarre floor levels and messages flashing on the screen. Spoiler alert: at the end, the game tells you to go f*ck yourself.

Other games are a little easier to navigate. In Lilith‘s “Crypt Worlds,” there are items that you can collect and the controls are easy to figure out. I played casually, stumbling upon rooms and letting myself discover what to do next.

"You will collect gold, only to forget what point there is in collecting gold. You will grind against the walls of the crypts, yearning for any sensation in this lonely hellworld. You will laugh- and then realize there is nothing to laugh about- and then cry." ©J. Ambia

Orteil created a nested game, where you can open many universes, such as a “lasagnaverse” or “doughnutverse,” that lead into a long, continuous life cycle and humorous 8-bit graphics. You can also read the thoughts of each life form in every galaxy. At the end of the game, it’s these thoughts that you are left with and the reflection on how far the separation between the body and consciousness can go.

A nested game ©J. Ambia

Overall, the exhibition is a lot of fun and the games are very cool, conceptually and visually. The opening night (7/10) had a great turn out, with people filing in and out throughout the evening. Even though the game graphics are simple, and some reminiscent of NES games, the players were immersed in them because the concepts are very contemporary. And, the arrangement of cardboard and recycled material alongside the works reminded me that although certain old school computer systems may be obsolete, there is still a continuation of developing new and current software that doesn’t stray away from the past.

Go get your game on at REVERSE ©J. Ambia

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