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Theme 2: Magic Circle in video games

Part of: The Semiotics of Video Games exhibition.

The semiotics of Video Games

Where does the video game end and real life begin? With the arrival of simulators, augmented reality, and social networking games, borders becomes harder to define, and so is the magic circle that separates the fantasy world from the outside world. But is there really a real, outside world that would be exempt of any fantasies? And could video games be completely isolated from their cultural context? Is the concept of magic circle not outdated? In his essay Spatial Typologies of Games, Alex Wade suggests to locate video games using the three spaces of Henri Lefebvre: perceived space (how we interpret space), conceived space (space of science and rationality), and lived space (the space where we live). He adds another dimension – digital space. Video games are multidimensional in his model, and need to be situated on the four axes.

Best…flame war…Ever (2007) by Eddo Stern is a conversation recorded on a forum of the EverQuest video game. It is rendered using digital masks inspired by the universe of the game. The conversation and its staging, using an epic soundtrack and digital masks, blur the border between the universe of EverQuest and the ‘outside’ world.

Best…flame war…Ever, Eddo Stern, 2007

The Ego-shooter installation (2008) by Sonja-Vanessa Schmitz mixes virtual and tactile reality. Its hand-made game-suit looks more virtual than those in first-person-shooter games. Interior and decorative elements are layered with a 3D replicated environment so that it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two universes. Here, lived space is a by-product of digital space.

Ego-shooter, Sonja-Vanessa Schmitz, 2008

What is your reaction to this blurring between digital and material spaces? Do you embrace it and take both the positive and negative aspects, or do you instead resist it by defining clear delimitations between games and the rest of your life?

Next theme: Chronology in video games

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