[January 22nd 2007]
From the digital art festival MINE06 in Denmark.
Photo: Thomas Petersen.
Challenging Joypad Domination - Game Art for the Body and the Brain
- An Interview about EdgeBomber
The game art installation EdgeBomber by the young German art and gaming group Susigames contributes to the current trend of augmented and physical games in a creative and intelligent manner. It involves embodiment to a much higher degree than traditional games. The users build levels in a platform game by placing pieces of duct tape on a white background. The tape pieces are scanned by a camera and the game can be played.
EdgeBomber was developed in an artist's residency at ZKM in Karlsruhe in 2006, and has already been shown at several digital festivals and venues around Europe. In October 2006 the piece was on show at the digital art festival MINE06 in Denmark where the augmented installation mostly attracted crowds of youngsters who became deeply engaged in the game. Emil Bach Soerensen asked Susigames a few questions about EdgeBomber and physical gaming in general.
EdgeBomber activates its audience in a fun and creative manner. Can you tell us a bit about the basic principles of the game, and why you think it is so popular with the audience?
EdgeBomber is based on the idea of using the surroundings and objects from the real world in the gameplay. The most important aspect is the inclusion of the haptic effects of the real world. The creation of the virtual environment by the use of duct tape produces the content of the game - the real and the virtual environment become connected. So EdgeBomber is not a 'ready-made' game: it requires you to think about the gameplay on a different level, because it needs the integration of the real environment. It actively involves the user in the development of the game - you can't just consume it.
We have chosen the classical Jump'n'Run genre - a genre which has slowly passed away over the years - as one of the basic principles that constitute the game. Other aspects are the graphic representation and the gameplay as such. The world which we have created might be a little odd but it has its own charm. An important principle of our game is that we renounce the presence of violence: in our game violence is only visualized by collapsing chairs (inspired by IKEA) and gory explosions of sausages.
Watching people moving back and forth and sticking duct tape on the walls in the EdgeBomber installation, how do you think the physical interaction adds to the gaming situation?
Screenshots from EdgeBomber.
The interaction might be the main reason why so many people like the game. In some of our exhibitions there are people who only want to use the duct tape to create funny and complex game fields. In order to do so, they use a broad variety of objects and even their own bodies. The creation of an EdgeBomber installation is not only the preparation of the game, but also a manifestation of creativity itself. In the gameplay the players recognize if their duct tape constructions are working or not. If they do, the players earn a feeling of success, which inspires them to go on playing.
In our exhibitions the players created such fantastic and funny worlds that we decided to upload playable copies on our website (www.edgebomber.com). With those level-maps we break another border: the snapshots of the duct taped game levels are so diverse that they can be perceived as artistic expressions in themselves.
Alongside research and design strategies in augmented reality and pervasive computing, there is a trend in computer gaming at the moment, which tries to activate a broader spectrum of the human body in the gaming situation. In the commercial sphere this can be seen in products as the new Nintendo Wii or Eye Toy. Where do you think this current trend will lead the gaming scene?
Snapshots of various audience's levels from the digital art festival MINE06 in Denmark.
Twenty years of joypad domination is enough! We have to challenge the nature of interfaces. When we break with the traditions and create new ways of interaction, the spectrum of games and gamers becomes broader. It is obvious to us that we have to start using the human body as an interface. The physical body provides the most natural and convenient handling and one can connect more directly to the play instinct of humankind when the gaming situations involves different aspects of embodiment. It is foolish to think that games will continue to be only audiovisual.
Games become more realistic from day to day. Imagine sport games: while the images of the simulations are very close to reality the gameplay consists in pushing buttons! The Nintendo Wii is a step in the right direction but with the integration of haptic movements as a part of the interface you can go even beyond simulation and create a whole new kind of art experience.
From the digital art festival MINE06 in Denmark. Photo: Thomas Petersen.
EdgeBomber has both experimental, artistic and commercial potentials. Do you distinguish between these levels, and how do they supplement each other when you develop your ideas?
Predominantly we understand ourselves as a group of artists. This self-conception gives us the freedom to think in any direction and is an important aspect of our work. It enables our artistic understanding to evolve. To us the commercial aspect means that we can reach a vast audience. But of course we distinguish between the experimental, artistic and commercial aspects of our work. The interplay of all these factors is also very interesting.
We do not want our objects to rot in a museum. Our art should be used by the people. That's the point about gaming, isn't it?