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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 July, 2003, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
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Artists showing their games-influenced work at London's ICA seem to be living the past, argues Daniel Etherington of BBCi Collective in his weekly games column.

The ICA in London is hosting a season of multimedia exhibitions, films, talks and events dubbed Radical Entertainment.

It is designed to address modern mass media technologies and our relationships to them.

Gaming is a key area that the season engages with. But it is not without its problems.

Two of the works directly involve console games. I Shot Andy Warhol, from the Beige ensemble, consists of a hacked version of the NES console light-gun title Duck Hunt.

Another called RSG-SMB-TAB consists of close-up shots of the hands of the creator, Alex Galloway, as he plays through Super Mario Brothers, alongside printed data of the buttons he presses.

21st century games

Although these pieces obviously say something about the inclinations of the curators, as examples of work that engages with video gaming culture they both seem oddly stuck in the past, nostalgic even.

Dead or Alive: Xtreme Volleyball
Are not Nude Raider images or the patch that strips bare the ladies of Dead Or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, both subversive gestures?

Nintendophilia notwithstanding, both Duck Hunt and Super Mario Brothers date from the mid-80s. In video gaming terms, that is medieval history.

These works are a valid part of the dialogue about gaming culture, but the pre-eminence in this ICA season of two works based on a piece of hardware launched in 1984 begs the question - where is the work that engages with contemporary games?

Modern mass market games, and the corporations behind them, are begging to be satirised, deconstructed and reconsidered by artists, hackers and coders.

This does happen, but there is an enormous disparity in terms of the resources available to the developers in comparison to those available to those critiquing the culture.

Not only do mass market games have enormous budgets and large teams, they have also got substantial marketing and litigation machinery.

The gaming industry itself does, however, throws up subversion from within. I reckon there is a great subtext to Resident Evil 2 about our compliance to, and complacency about, corporations, for example.

Plus, we live in a world that is strung together by the internet, which allows for the dissemination of freeware, mods and even the lowest of common denominator snubs at licensing laws and copyright.

After all, are not Nude Raider images or the patch that strips bare the ladies of Dead Or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, both subversive gestures, even if they do not make it into the ICA?

Daniel Etherington writes for BBCi Collective, exchanging views on gaming, music, film and culture.

Different game, same voice
16 Jul 03  |  Technology


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