Computer game environments are deceptively varied, but at their core tends to be a maze. Confining the player to an environment that clearly shows progression and achievement, the maze acts as a virtual mirror of the shopping malls, city streets and galleries that make up the 'maze' of everyday life. But the push towards increasing realism in computer games has rendered the simple mazes of Pac Man and Super Mario Brothers an anachronism. Games are no longer always defined by 'progress' in a strict sense - ie, defeating a level - but have become focused on creating an environment where the player is allowed the freedom to explore; one that looks and feels like the real world.
With this as a backdrop, two threads emerge. On one hand the exhibition looks at works that explore the computer game environment in new ways, from within the screen. Whether bringing rich, stretching environments to the forefront (with Flower or The Night Journey), or making modifications that subvert existing game environments (CuteXdoom), or highlighting the imagined game space (Player Map Archive, Collosial Cave Adventure), these works bring new perspectives to the computer game environment.
But what about the relationship between the real and the virtual? The exhibition also highlights the effects of blurred boundaries between game environments and physical environments. From re-enactments of video games 'in real life' (COSPlayers), to augmented reality games (Rider Spoke Liverpool, LevelHead), to works that bring game data off the screen (What It Is Without the Hand the Wields It, First Person Shooter) the exhibition revels in the confusion of real space and game space.
By invading both in-game and real life spaces, these works help us understand the nature of the computer game environment and the role games play in contemporary culture.
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