I was very excited when Jason Rohrer agreed to conduct and interview with me within his newest game Sleep is Death. The game typically allows a host player and a guest player 30 seconds each to collaboratively navigate an interactive story. In the video above, you’ll be getting my side of our conversation, as you watch me type, move, and interact with the environment Jason provided for our discussion.
During the course of our adventure we talk about games as a creative medium, Jason’s decision to opt for 8-bit graphics, and how his games have changed over the course of the past decade. I soon find out that making certain decisions within the game lead to great, unforeseen, incidents of chaos and pleasure.
Near the end of our conversation, Jason discusses how games are intrinsically about meditating on time. Many of Jason’s games involve cooperation with other characters or entities, which – depending on your willingness or investment – can greatly influence the direction and development of your experience. With Jason’s games, once is not enough, and many times I find myself wanting to replay his games not out of any vain desire of completion (which happens to me frequently with big-name video games), but instead as a way of investigating how I play.
I suggest that games like Passage offer a challenging alternative to typical “choice” driven blockbuster games (like “morality engine” games developed by Bethesda Softworks). In Passage, you navigate an complex labyrinth to earn points; however, as you advance further into the maze you grow older and can travel less quickly. You also have a chance to picking up a partner to join you in your quest, and although doing so can prevent you from accessing certain areas, you gain more points the further you travel with your companion.
Jason’s passion for his work, and their powerful impact upon traditional gamers and non-gamers alike provide unmistakable evidence that games art art. I believe Sleep is Death and Passage are emblematic of a distinct shift within the gaming and art world; a movement away from gloss and sheen, and a revisitation to affect and process.
Off-Topic invites artists, curators, writers, and cultural workers to discuss a subject not directly related to the practice of making art. We would like to welcome The Post Family as our latest participants. They will be shedding some light on their favorite childhood games.
SMEAR THE QUEER by Chad Kouri
Smear the queer is a variation of another school yard game widely known as Tag or It. Also known as Kill The Carrier or Muckle, the rules are actually the exact opposite of Tag; all of the other players chase ‘it’ also referred to as all-on-one. There are no out of bounds, no teams and no winners.This player who carries the “it’ object (most commonly a football) does there best to avoid being tackled or smeared by the other players who are attempting to take the ball away. Once the ball leaves the hands of the carrier, the “it” position is filled by whomever has the guts to pick up the ball. More often than not the name of the game is repeatedly yelled out while playing. Seeing how there are no real winners, technically the game is endless but most games only last one recess period. Kids have also been known to sabotage a friendly game of catch by tossing the ball and yelling “smear the queer” immediately making the receiver of the catch a target. There is some debate over whether or not the name is offensive because the idea is everyone wants to be the queer and the point is to be the queer longer than anyone else but we can probably assume that it was not named with good intentions.
Smear the queer is not the only offensive term that is found in the school yard. Other derogatory sayings have snuck into child vernacular after decades of use by adults without us noticing like Indian Giver (one who gives something only to take it back with obvious negative implications against Native Americans) and “Yellow”(a coward or traitor with suspect origins in the early American hatred of Oriental immigrants). Of course one day the children grow up and more than likely understand the meaning of the words and stop using them but I can’t help but think how twisted all of it is. Oh well, it was a fun game and I have not had a sudden urge to tackle any gay people so I assume I’m no worse for wear.
FOOT TAG by Sam Rosen
A school wide phenomenon at Lincoln Hall Junior High School (circa 1997). While other schools were focusing on more conventional sports such as Football or Basketball, even conventional one-hand tag, Lincoln Hall students were pioneering a new sport, a sport with the speed of tag and the strategy of hide and seek. Read more