The Game’s Afoot: Video Game Art @ Boston Cyberarts Gallery


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Text by Sam Nickerson for Boston Art Underground–
Video games usually create breaks from daily life, but Boston Cyberarts Gallery’s The Game’s Afoot: Video Game Art provides no such respite. Together, the six games curated by George Fifield make a solemn arcade.

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Anthony Montouri’s Debtris simulates the life of a recent college graduate, where the player performs menial, entry-level tasks (stacking Tetris shapes) for minimum wage, which is spent chipping away at overwhelming student debt. Fake plants and wicker furniture—not to mention the antiquated monitor on which the game is played—give the impression you’ve moved back to your parents’ basement.

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After each inevitable ‘Game Over’ in The Adventures of Sisyphus, Montouri’s classic arcade take on the Greek myth, the player is asked if they would like to play again. There are two options: ‘Yes’ and ‘Sure.’

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Montouri’s Into the Void with Yves Klein—part side-scroller, part vertical frogger—uses art history to weave a convoluted message about existence. It’s cerebral and addicting, but impossible to beat.

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More intriguing on a technical level, Rob Gonsalves’ games ditch joysticks and buttons for more participatory interaction, whether it’s feeding an office full of software developers with a canister of virtual food in O.f.f.i.c.e.A.n.t.s. or tossing a basketball hooked up to x-axis accelerometers in Campaign Horse—a game of virtual Horse where missed shots spell out actual insults exchanged
during the 2012 election. Between the more realistic mechanics of participation and the subject matter, neither feels much like a game.

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Airlock Park is the most unsettling of the bunch. Victor Liu sought to create a video game with no ideology. What he ended up with was a game without play. Using a Playstation controller, the player navigates a technological nightmare world, where old video game graphics and video stills without context are strung together, repeated, and suspended in space. There is no sense of bearing and no
objective—Airlock Park is a media purgatory.

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The show’s title, as the wall text reveals, refers to the Shakespearean expression for closing in on fleeing game during a hunt—that the hunt has begun. But there is no ‘closing in’ in The Game’s Afoot; each game confronts ongoing frustrations of modern life—from debt to the corporate office—without much reward. Still, its hard to resist starting each game over and over. Perhaps this compulsion is at work outside of the games as well.

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GET THERE: Take the Orange Line to Green St.
SEE IT: On view until April 14, Opening reception March 15, 6-9pm
MORE INFO: http://bostoncyberarts.org/gallerypage/

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