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UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA RENO

1664 N Virginia St. Reno, NV 89557




{ The New Heroic Journey }
Developing Innovative Narratives with Indie Games


Benjamin C. Poynter




A THESIS DISSERTATION
SUBMITTED TO THE OVERSEEING
COMMITTEE OF THE AUTHOR
IN FULFILLMENT OF A MASTER
OF FINE ARTS CURRICULUM



April 2014, August 2014 [Version 1.1]


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{ The New Heroic Journey: Developing Innovative Narratives with Indie Games }


In a Permanent Save State, mobile game, played at 2013 UCLA Game Arts Festival.

{ Introduction }
In the following writing, I wish to discuss my experimental and aesthetic approaches to the 20
th

century art medium of videogames utilizing choice language propelled by the contemporary art world.
My desire is to investigate how my personal practices connect with the zeitgeist of the academic [serious]
game movement and if there is yet potential for the ‘personal in the political’. At the precipice of
videogaming’s expansion into globally mainstream, academic, and artistic facets, how does this
convoluted means of expression relate to a befuddlement by closed off generations and timeless tales while
appeasing a collective youth born into this technological breakaway who understand the expression like
clockwork? In other words, how specifically might indie games serve narrative when the divide between
our virtual escapes and daily news drama is less binary than ever before? This paper will take a cognitive
look at two of my own game titles and additional surrounding media, performance, illustration, and
animated art in effort towards making sense of what videogame lore can do for narrative and artistic
expression of a, still, very young digital arts field. In my radical endeavors, I hope to achieve normalcy.
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A mass produced lanyard around my neck had read “ISEA Sydney 2013, Benjamin Poynter,
University of Nevada Reno, delegate.” That date was June 11, Australia’s EST (UTC+10), and I was awake
during the earliest humanly hours so I could equip myself for an afternoon lecture to students and
international peers at Sydney University. The afternoon discussion topic was constructed around a mobile
game I developed throughout the long months of 2012, i.e. the space between my first and second year as a
Masters of Fine Art candidate. I conversed on not only In a Permanent Save State, my project in question,
but a grandiose scale Apple store woven out of packing material to house AdHoc versions of the application
and a live orchestraic performance to the game taking place in a downtown, Northern Nevadan fine arts
gallery. This banned title from Apple’s online store was conceived out of appreciation to overworked
laborers in Chinese factories. I soon discovered my emotional and personal identifications with these
members was quite political, as I emerged out of the confrontation an artist in unethical clouds depending
on which internet critic one begs to ask. I told a narrative of the interconnected afterlives of laborers who
took their own lives while assembling the packages of electronic devices which my game would be
rhetorically be played on. A wide survey of the media stream at day of release, all hyperbole included, might
judge me as a marketplace martyr or a person who should ‘submit himself’ to the same treatment. Of which,
I would consider myself neither. I wish to suggest that unethical treatment of data requires an unethical
response with that data. Turning the other cheek often leads to further corrupt treatment.

Capture of Story Generating Apparatus. Homage and bathroom of the overworld map.
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Just as the modern portraiture of America broods in dystopian air, the artist should decipher an
inner dystopia to draw upon and with. Components of beauty and escape tend to be a scapegoat to
confrontation and actualization in an age where functionality is key. Hence, I am digital artist, game maker,
and educator who thinks dystopia in spades. I feel I meditate in pessimism enough that such harrows
fluctuate as my streamlined identification with beauty. The content of my work can be harrowing, but the
visuals can be alluring if not deceptive. There is no more fitting vessel for me to exude these feelings, out of
nostalgic identification and contemporary trend, than the videogame. More so, in my position not backed
by a financier and corporate, AAA publisher, I speak my stories under the pseudonym of indie games. I am
a storyteller who has chemical disorders with verbal communication. Hence, I opt for visual transmission.
I develop my games using a gesamtwerk of several components, the most prevalent of which are visuals
and the software I interact with to create or house those visuals. I carefully select my tools, whether this
software is GameSalad (mobile apps), Unity 3D (virtual reality), and a smorgasbord of many other
applications that are paramount to my success (Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, 3DS Max). Lev Manovich puts it
eloquently in 2013 release Software Takes Command, where the pipeline of such practices began with the
birth of the Macintosh and shifted from raw code to what is described as ‘software culture’. In this workflow,
designers typically either incorporate elements rendered in disparate software applications, or move the
whole project from one application to the next and take advantage of each of their unique possibilities. [1]
As I will arrive to elaborate on, games traditionally take the shape of two opposing binaries:
narratology (visuals, story, and emotions) and computation (code, software, and functionality). This is
among the first notations I cover with students in Art 381, official title Critical Play: Computer Games and
Art, to frame the proper context of understanding and developing an indie game. Responsibly, I always
confirm with myself before tackling a creative project and its tools where I belong on the scale. The answer
is consistent. I am always radical to narratology aspects in a digital game. I champion lost values of
aesthetics from the forcibly eradicated Modernist discipline, while in the same instance borrowing or
exploiting the framework of a game like the unearthed, Duchampian object. The concept of a game, digital
or analog, has become so widely amiable as a framework, it is as enigmatic as the typical oil painter’s canvas.
The difference is, the game canvas is metaphysical, more resembling M.C. Escher than Midway.

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International Symposium of Electronic Arts 2013, rehearsing talk entitled
A Serious Game: New Media, Censorship, and the Spectacle.


Tracking back to ISEA, however, not only was I casting tremors on an already defunct moral pillar
with the story of In a Permanent Save State, but I had departed from a status quo of storytelling and art
making that I had always wished to dispute. In continuing my fledging practice with indie games and
upcoming Oculus Rift title Story Generating Apparatus, I wish to fulfill goals for revising narrative
chemistry in one fashion or the other. One might critique this as a violence to larger society as a whole, such
as theorist Maurice Benayoun in his ‘Duchampland’ exemplar during ISEA’s opening conference talk. He
calls for a frontier to create new meaning, addressing polarity between pairs including the art and
mainstream world, the media and analog world, and complicated versus simple. [2] If art is to be always
experimented on, without a thought example to build a foundation under, does that have solid meaning or
relevance to spectators looking inward to such foreign realms? All these criticisms of my own eccentricity
to be circulated as I awaited either my own engaging talk 7500+ miles away or a public execution.
Thankfully, the entire experience of the conference ended up as the former. Seeing the mobile game in
relationship to such controversys, I never desired to use the tales of fallen factory workers solely for the
exploit of narrativity, but to ignite a pressing issue under the axiom of aestheticism in order to highlight the
intensiveness of a pertinent political and personal issue. To suggest we need an absolute structure and
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frontier to create new meaning with new media art, or art as a generality, is to suggest society remains at a
muted still to begin with. It is simply not so. Society is always on a weary eyed, nine-to-five journey of
shifting vogues. So is the artist, who by the changing hour experiments to serve as a public mirror in need.
Speaking less as an artist and more as a forcibly asocial being, I always believe one should do what
tells a good story later in time. Not particularly to be the life of some party, but to do so is a simultaneous
structure of appreciating life and exploring what possibilities there are of interest beyond mechanical
production. I writ earlier that games were composed of narratology and computation. In literary jargon,
Russian formalist Jonathan Culler would refer to this as the syuzhet (style) and fabula (form) respectively.
In the panel ‘Narrating Identity’ at UNR’s CLAGS 2013 symposium, Philosophy MA Chris Anderson spoke
on the subject having used that distinction in his analog, blackboard lecture. He begs “to show how the
notion of narrative as “form-finding over bare sequences of perception” is closure-driven, and in turn recast
those dynamics as reflective of a species lust to experience virtual movement, and thus contest closure.” [3]
This loose expression declared to me that a good fable has a manner of subverting the path of a previous
good fable. As society will never discover its fabula’d frontier of meaning, it will be more so ambivalent in
discovering syuzhet of how stories are consumed. Narrative algorithms between the cinema, the literary,
and the still image are an interconnected impressionism designed to keep interest in the humanities, never
allowing a second of contemplative room for those outside of the magic circle of creating such works.

My illustration of components media narratives share. Inspired by Unit Operations (Bogost)
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My existence as an artist flounders in a skim neutral between concrete reality and artifice. Form
and style, respectively. That paltry line is both a perpetual component of my identity and how I come to
understand a world I code narratives about. I cannot supply an inarguable definition of art, for the term
shifts as much as the conditions of its historical politics do, yet creating art work is a series of interpretive
alchemy in my eye. Art is observing the parameters of [socially defined] reality and regurgitating it either
through visual creation or performance in established, neutral spaces. Some might even cast reality and
planet Earth itself as a ‘default world’. I especially do. My artwork in the second half of this paper (Story
Generating Apparatus) elaborates on my personal life story in reference to art making with more depth,
but I can declare that my upbringing is one which rendered me willfully ignorant to the suffering, angst,
and tribulations of the default world. More cryptically, I always wish to frame my physical existence in the
manner I value my inner existence. My fulminating distaste for the default world has grown to the point
where even the most escapist of pursuits, fictional narrative, has become a flat, shell of a spectacle to
experience. Even the academic study of media culture witnesses all forms of new media referencing and
checking balances of one another. Films drive games, games drive music, music drives film, and so forth.
The notion hops about as if all media were a singular, morphic being of time, e.g. Postmodernism.
Everything has been done before. Thus, a trial emerges, and it is one which drives my practice and
experimentation. How to teach again what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand
times, throughout the millenniums of mankind’s prudent folly? That is the hero’s ultimate difficult task. [4]
That noble task is already branded with futility, in just alone my home country already funneled by
polarity between the fundamentalists and liberals while a globalized world desperately searches for a
unified language to share. Why should my voice as an artist be so relevant, when how I think is mostly a
publicity of introversion? There’s the revelation: our humanity is a shared introversion and we all share
missing desires which form the algorithm of the Lacanian real. Or the formula “$<>a”. The objet a functions
as the cause and aim of desire, as a “piece” of the Autre that incites the subject’s desire. For Lacan, the
subject’s relationship to the objet a is an impossible one. To seek out the subject of desire is not to achieve
it, but only to readdress its function of fantasy in the matheme “$<>a”, read as “the barred subject’s
relationship with the other. [5] Society shares an ambiguous trauma of chasing something unattainable, to
complete an infinite quest of the real. So who is to confirm that we share a unified account, or even a unified
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confirmation of what stories were actual in history? In a montage of not truths but fictions colliding like
waves from our desires, the best exemplar for following passion or making sense of the world is through the
advent of innovation. We are drawn to the unique, because it is unique things we chase. When we take belief
in a work of art because it is honest and truthful, it is only catering to a fantasized requirements for what
we wish to be truthful. After all, dreams are personalized myth. Myths are depersonalized dreams. A myth
was once a romantic dream which now belongs to society for eternity. A myth was once a romantic dream
that had no relevance to any algorithmic matheme outside the self. These are the proverbs I take with me
into each game, new media, video, or any expressive project. This is my research and synthesis between the
theoretical and preferably highly visual. I emerge into and from a world of distant fantasies and nerd-dom,
always at odds with functional, necessary things to live peacefully. This has been commonwealth since my
toddlerhood. Thus, I act as a double agent: I indulge myself in escapist pursuits, but never lose
consciousness while operating in the dreamlike sustenance the culture typically offers. My mission is best
illustrated in Ethan Gilsdorf’s 2013 release Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. I needed to put myself face-
to-face with these escapist pursuits. Before, as a kid, my [game] obsession was a haphazard consequence, a
symptom of being lost. I was oblivious. This time, I would get lost on purpose. I wouldn’t be escaping again;
I would be excavating. [6] Life itself is a narrative, told ambiguously. I now wish to speak on two labor and
visually intensive game projects which wove a surreal story out of the political, the unethical, and my blood.

Illustration of the heroic journey; 1. Separation, 2. Initiation, 3. The Return.
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{ In a Permanent Save State : A Dystopic Story of the Spectacle }

In a Permanent Save State, mobile game artwork triptych. Of stages 1, 2, and 4.
{ Games as Canvas }
To reestablish my stance on the scale between narratologists (visuals) and computationals (form)
while arriving at the discussion of digital games, I am acutely liberal to the narratology aspects of them as
a maker. As a consumer, I adore both sides of the spectrum. Yet, as a maker of a videogame work, I am
earnestly aware of a critical variable all visual artists would be wise to take into notice: limits. As an
adolescent budding for tech, I was raised on the miracle of a sketchbook as opposed to programming code.
I would draw ten images before writing a page of code. Perhaps this has resulted from the succulent dining
of fruit within a public school system in the conservative Southwest. Instead of teaching programming, most
schools with computer literacy curricula teach programs. These basic skills may make them more
employable for the entry-level cubicle jobs of today, but they will not help them adapt to the technologies
of tomorrow. [7] I am a born and bred part of Manovich’s software culture to a tee, exploiting the
functionality and strengths of individual software without ever needing to visualize the intestinal gore and
skeletals of the machine. Such philosophical upbringings are not to declare that I renounce the theoretical
or functional altogether. Concretely, my mission is to synthesize the components of visuals and concepts
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together in one organic package as a practicing artist and writer. That is my mission as a storyteller through
game logic. However that I mention my interests are liberal to narratology, I do have a distaste for binaries.
This leads us to a changing of the guard with narrative through digital games. Since 1972, and
arguably earlier since some like to include such prospects as the Cathode Ray and MIT’s Spacewar!, Pong
gave narrative a new potential for establishing a new, ambiguous framework for telling stories within the
homestead living room. Of course, with no more than a pixelated ball moving about the screen with equally
pixelated paddles, the narrative content was skeletal at best. This, for me, is an elementary point of
fundamentals. Until now from a date four decades and some quarter change ago, the computational
functionality of what makes a ‘fun’ game has plateaued for the most part to the desires of human behavior.
What actually shifted in chemistry since then is technological determination and enhanced visuals for how
a single developer’s story may be realized from thoughts to screen. Over this duration, the code framework
and functionality of how to make a game prosper became, in essence, shareware and a conduit for today’s
DIY movement. The framework of creating a digital game became publicized, much to the chagrin of digital
magicians keeping the act at bay. During my adoration of specifically video art before games, this evolution
resulted in my own creative ‘selling in’. Postmodernity made a developer and storyteller out of me. Instead
of fearing the amorphous shape inserting visuals into a game might take, I saw that making a game had as
much potential as graphite on an egg shell canvas. Not to say that developing a game is less taxing on mental
stamina, but the potential persists. In humanities, one never stocks potential, but follows through guessing.

Slide from A Serious Game lecture. Online Foxconn articles juxtaposed. 1/2012 and 9/2012.
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It was a year past this revelation and Masters start that I had read an 83 page report by Students
and Scholars against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM). I was enamored towards a faction of deceased,
Foxconn workers who assembled the microscopic components of my imagination and livelihood. I
recognized that how fun the to-be serious game would be was of trivial concern. I recognized that a
videogame, and most categorically a mobile game, was the most optimal canvas to represent the causation
of these Apple-commissioned factory workers who were dearly close to my heart and identity by that point.
After all, I once was a kid laborer myself in my undergraduate who threw around heavy boxes at a moving
company to clam my way through a BFA media degree. The existentialism and blazing summers of those
bobtail trucks were the heaviest gravity I’ve ever felt in this lifetime. I had two games of influence in both
hands at the instant of decision. In the left was artist Natalie Bookchin’s The Intruder (1999). I witnessed
up-to-date work of her making in Los Angeles’s LACE gallery, spoke to her in person, and was inspired that
she was more gallery artist than interactive artist. Intruder was a chain of 10 games that deliberately
appropriated existing, classic game source code to detail “two closely bonded miscreant brothers enmeshed
in a hopeless triangle of psycho-sexual possession with homoerotic undertones. Finally one of them kills
her to end the tension between the two men. Game over. Story over.” [8] The idea that such an appropriation
could summon an emotional lore of that caliber was poignant, even if visually bankrupt. It inspired me that
my minimalist aptitude when it comes to creative game mechanics would flourish in the methodology of
Save State’s resolve. Shifting tones, on the other hand, was Phone Story by Molleindustria a.k.a. Paolo
Pedercini. In the wave of mainstream and independent echoes both, this is the original indie game to
address human rights violations in corporate commissioned factories. At this point, Molleindustria has
been active for a decade in the realm of serious games, e.g., games for a primary usage and directive more
promptly geared towards social matters than entertainment. I was inspired that such a shrewd,
confrontational work could persist well on a stage where the audience are wholesale appreciators of
maximalism. The title itself was minimal in comparison to the mechanics of a AAA title. The narrative broke
into three pixel-punk stages: African mines where one role plays as a gun toting militant, Foxconn camps
where later one can rescue a jumper from suicide, and Times Square in New York where iPhones are being
handed out via slingshot. My anomaly for why Save State needed to exist: this was a human and personal
matter to me. Developing this game about deceased workers was like laying flowers on my own grave. It
was a memento mori on a global stage. It could’ve been me dead. I used what I had to paint the canvas.
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The social movements of indie game practices around the world further encouraged me, even
months into development, software programming, and bone jamming hand-drawn illustration-animation.
Every working hour I convinced myself that Save State would be lost in a blast wave of thousands of other
developers attempting to accomplish goals I wanted to, politically fueled or not. I was well beyond the point
of caring whether the project would suffice for my midway. I knew the work was sufficient enough to stand
tall in the Sierra Arts Gallery in downtown Reno to an exemplary degree. I wanted Save State to be an
innovative chapter in educational games as a whole and bleed into the viral arteries of the blogosphere. So
I convinced myself every time I doubted myself how badly I wanted the dreams of the message of my
potential deceased self to be. What could I do as an artist that no other artist, much more human, would do
in their right mind? Developing a partially self-referential game about political suicides soon to be banned
from a world traded public store was the most radical idea I could think of in terms of no one else doing it
in their right mind. Proceduralist rhetoric inked by the pen of Georgia Tech’s well acclaimed Ian Bogost
reaffirmed my consideration of the game as an activist device as opposed to exclusively entertaining device.
It was among the first utterances in How to Do Things with Videogames, after promptly dismissing a unified
definition of art, relinquishing games from a rudimentary critique from ‘dead scholars’ that games cannot
be art. At a time when videogames focus on realistically simulating experiences, proceduralism offers
metaphoric treatments of ideas. At a time when videogames focus on player gratification, proceduralism
invites player introspection. At a time when videogames focus on facilitating user creativity, proceduralism
lays bare the subjective truth of an individual creator. [9] The nozzle from which a spectator gains meaning
from a videogame in the fine art context seems less cryptic when framed by the potential rhetoric and
movement suggested by Bogost. The decisions a viewer makes when comprehending a work of art weaves
all the difference when it comes to appreciation. In a digital game, the notion is bolder; only the decisions
are not limited to metaphor, as when it comes to the static image, but the decisions a player makes inside
the virtual space of a game are equal or isolated parts metaphorical and physical. The decision between
going up and down might be the difference between two completely separate sets of prose when it comes to
a lore. Such is why up and down are the only options allowed in stage one of In a Permanent Save State.
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All mobile game stage scrolls, installed live in Sierra Arts gallery, downtown Reno, NV.

{ Games as Political Speech }
“So long as the realm of necessity remains a social dream, dreaming will remain a social necessity.
The spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains, expressing nothing more than its wish for sleep.
The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep.” [10] What is presumably necessary for the basic sustenance of
living conditions has always been tied to what is trivial and marketed as secondary commodity, as Guy
Debord would illuminate on with the Situationist International landmark publishing Society of the
Spectacle. This statement serves as a beta alibi for the relevance of games in the stratosphere of communal
narrativity, yet as an alpha preposition that games themselves are the very object of an ill society’s troubles
when discussing mere simulations of appearance and would be best fitting to lend criticism towards such a
critique of societal degradation. One cannot help but think of the electioneering process when considering
simulations of a game villain and his proposed new world order, fronting appearances as opposed to
substance, and relaxation in one’s own virtual world once the dotted line is signed on. It is a politician’s job
as a defense mechanism to lure one away from facts and reprogram the voter into collecting their ballot for
a percentage gain. The politician is typically to be a concrete foundation and reliance on which we can base
the most important decisions of our nation’s development. Yet, as evident with juvenile bickering within
America’s own Congressional halls or other corrupt institutions ‘about’ educating the masses, a lot of virtual
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reality goes into the curriculum of the Commonwealth and the common wealth. Hopefully, this alleviates
me of all crimes to declare that indeed a mobile game is a proper, expressive form to deliver commentary
on serious issues. This is in spite of rudimentary attempts by an anonymous spokesperson from Apple
obtusely requesting rogue developers to “write a book- don’t make a game” instead of release poignant apps
onto their marketplace. This statement was found published in an online interview after a wave of mobile
apps were removed from the Apple store for sporadic reasons. [11] I cannot fathom that the makers of titles
such as Sweatshop HD, Endgame: Syria, and several more were enthralled to glance through such a
indiscreet response from echelons reflective of Occupy Wall Street or even the age-old Boston Tea Party.
What a sensitized atmosphere it is when statements offered by the elite class against makers of ‘non-serious’
objects of artifice are even further convoluted and artificial for their own prosperity. The whole concept of
serious seems trivial in that effect. So enters In a Permanent Save State into the market: a serious game.


A screen capture of my mobile phone, receiving a ‘Removed From Sale’ notice from Apple.

En route to the culmination of Save State, I researched not only in acute detail the social conditions
behind each seven laborers’ tragic suicide, but social conditions of the living who surrounded them as well.
In my title, the game dealt with traditional aspects of the Chinese afterlife including passing through a
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messenger upon entry into the underworld, division into the p’o (hell) and hun (heaven) souls, and
ephemeral travel back to a state of reincarnation with the living world. Each stage of the game, totaling
seven for each of the seven workers who took their own lives, represented a segment of passage through the
Chinese afterlife. However, to truly translate the tragic, emotional reasoning and lessons behind each
worker’s pain into proper social commentary, I found it effective and a necessity to alchemize details of
their death as reported on Earth with their tribulations in the underworld. The best way to frame this
concept would be through example. In the third stage of In a Permanent Save State, entitled After It, the
player is the deceased hun soul of Li Hai who has ascended into a heavenly pagoda. This is an epilogue to
stage two, Saving Face, where the player rescued the memories of their family’s faces before their soul
ripped into p’o and hun. In this stage, they must chase a bank note up the heavenly pagoda tethered by the
Jade Emperor high above. If the note is not reached at the proper timing, Li Hai must simply pray to it as
it ascends without him. If properly timed, Li Hai may latch onto the dollar as if it were hugging a
supermassive plush doll and rise above with it. Regardless, the Jade Emperor hymns a baritone vocal of
wonder about the player’s questionable decision. The bank note tethered by the Jade Emperor raises two
metaphors: one of Li Hai’s dream in his heavenly afterlife and the money which was delivered to his family
upon his suicide. According to reports, the amount given to his family upon death was equivalent to what
he would have earned in slave labor from Foxconn working his entire life. This real life circumstance
correlates with the passage in Chinese folklore about how hierarchies translate from the living world to the
underworld. If one was a peasant or serf in life, they would be a peasant or serf in heaven. If one was royalty,
such as the Jade Emperor in life, they would be royalty in heaven. An ultimate lesson is created by this
alchemy between the living world and underworld, where even in death, a barrier to desire is evident. A
Lacanian real, one might conclude.
For the denizens of the Motherland, there is a duality in and of itself between a higher quality of life
desired and a consideration of excess which might point to a doppelganger Debordian spectacle and
crumbling of human situations. I draw from a polarity of sources: one a documentation of a 2009,
collaborative art show in Shanghai entitled Bourgeoisified Proletariat and the opposite an account of
contemporary Chinese economics dubbed The End of Cheap China by Shaun Rein. Individual chapters in
Rein’s publishing detail separate facets of the Motherland’s economics which otherwise may have been
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indecipherable to the unfamiliar reader. For the Chinese, seeing improvements on a day-to-day basis leads
Chinese to strive to improve their own lives alongside their country and to focus on making money. The
drive for wealth is a major reason why fewer are willing to toil in factories or sell their bodies. They want
the Chinese version of the American dream. [12] In Bourgeoisified Proletariat, each of the several individual
artists associated with the art show are interviewed with six to seven pressing questions which they must
answer. When queried about the desire for wealth in China, artist Want Xingwei declares, “after satisfying
the basic requirements of daily life, money achieves its purest state in a bank account: a perfectly abstract
number. Wanting more things is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.” [13] It is debatable whether
Xingwei’s response is an overbearing effect of the Cultural Revolution which still looms like a dark cloud
over many beyond a certain age, or perhaps a clairvoyance of China rising to power and potentially
succumbing in culture like the ‘Western world’ has. Guy Debord has woken in his grave as we converse.
Humbly, I would liken this relationship between Rein’s prediction of a rising China against their
government with the relationship between a game developer and his marketplace where he ships electronic
goods. This may serve as the Steam outlet or other marketplaces for a variety of indie game developers, but
for our arguments, we will consider Apple’s App Store. I would sketch an earnest portrait of the App Store
as having an abundance of power and a way they like to ‘convince’ their public, be they consumers or
developers, how they may utilize their services. However, as evident by Save State’s [un]ceremonious
removal, one can use the services all you want as long as ball is played. One considers, either as a more
luxurious citizen of the Motherland or a developer in Apple’s utopia, what kind of services one is getting if
some are allowed to be modified or altered upon entry, if not terminated. What all this abstraction does
accomplish here on earth, however, is make everyone and everything more dependent on highly centralized
standards. Instead of granting more power to small businesses on the periphery, the net ends up granting
even more authority to the central authorities, indexers, aggregators, and currencies through which all
activity must pass. [14] The relationship between the Chinese craving a higher value of life and place in the
world, potentially unseating America as we speak, is a third world rendition of the first world problem
digital producers have with their respective marketplaces. Apple sits within ‘gardened walls’ so to speak.
The power is centralized enough to raise questions. Much like our aforementioned, convoluted politician
who begs of his voter to submit to their new world order, if one accepts that everything in the vast library
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of the App Store is true to the dime in representation of a serious issue, then that humble, theoretical stance
is just as artificial as the leaves within Apple’s gardened walls. Even the most holy of elements are curated.


Planning data and storyboarding for iMac game The Dreamer, pre-dating Save State

During the inaugural term of my procession at the University of Nevada, I eccentrically labored
over my first game project entitled The Dreamer: You are Now Part of the Spectacle. As the title would
suggest, it is a narrative that took place in bulk within a fictional dream. Returning back to a quotation from
Guy Debord, this setting is in reference to the Situationist ‘degradation of emotions’ as well propagated by
goods of capital and commodity. The player is a politician who is at the mercy of a town hall riot to be, with
a minute until midnight to conduct a solution for the school debt crisis or be pitchforked. Thus, the
politician Dramamines himself on the podium at the stroke of 11:59 PM and succumbs to a dramatic coma
where every second until midnight is an individual level to be progressed through to arrive at the solution.
His solution is heavily influenced by enemies in the game, who take the form of the biggest spectacles in
America: an anthropomorphic fry box, a suicidal Mickey Mouse, and of course a smart phone. This project
is the precursor to In a Permanent Save State, which gave the mobile title the initial dubbing of The Non-
Dreams. This is to reflect, that as earnest as Save State was, the element of the bizarre flourished tall.
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{ Games as Mental Illness }
In a Permanent Save State is decisively a single player experience, released in a console era where
multiplayer, team battles, and social resonance pervade as the primary means of interaction with
videogames. Considering myself less as developer than consumer in this statement, I am much more antsy
to boot up an online match of Stronghold with my copy of Red Dead Redemption than peruse through a
railed RPG where the sole witness to levels of stats is my lone self hours at a time. One might consider the
ambiguous prospect of multiplayer innovation in storytelling where multiplayer distorts a narrative from
its intended form and allow it to follow an abstract mode dictated by sixteen interpreters at once. After all,
a game is an activity engaged upon by one or more individuals in order to maintain his interest in
communication in life. [15] A narrative is not as such without a reader to reflect the rhetoric back to the
author in manner of critique. It is precisely that algorithm in terms of the visual arts, story or no story
associated. The audience is the final collaborator. When it comes to developing an innovative narrative in
the 21
st
century, the theory of a monomyth would at first glance be yesterday’s news. Too traditional.
However, I would pursue that not all gamers are conditioned to coexist with other consumers of a
game to the better cause of narrative or even harmony. The sole stereotype of a gamer, if we are to humor
the caricature, is one of introspection, rejection of alpha human tastes involving food, sex, or success, but
never a romantic attraction to repetitious machinery. Thatgamecompany released a critically acclaimed
indie title in 2012 dubbed Journey, which in passing addressed innovative forms of narrative by presenting
online multiplayer with one nullification: voice chat was disabled. One of the most innovative multiplayer
titles in the last several years emerged not as additive sculpture, but subtractive. When one limits a player’s
access to the plethora of plug-ins developed and competitively added by neighbor developers, the maker
can force or simply allow a player to value the options actually available to them. Remember: a government
or app store that grants its users all the power is susceptible to giving its people no power. Such is why I
suspect games are off-putting for a rogue’s gallery of critics who cannot seem to find a proper entry point
to understand ‘these weird things’. It is the catch-22 of too many options with no frontier to base an origin
of meaning, echoing Maurice Benayoun’s concern back in Sydney. To advance so hastily into forceful social
environments would aggravate the autistic and Asperger’s afflicted masses who have come to rely on the
shelter of games to begin with. Autocracy in narrativity is not dead, for we are conditioned to monomyths.
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Often our own. But not to romanticize the solo too much: there is beauty in the online community that is
unrivaled in terms of mental health if nothing else. Yet, I plea that in a society where men slowly isolate
themselves in bubbles of grandeur, the number ‘one’ is still relevant. There is meaning in the one-on-one
conversation between an artist and their consumer. Single player experience is a bandage which quells the
emotional soreness in us all. Even in virtual reality. This experience is the virtual in reality: pretending
which eventually shifts into being. If the founder of Scientology wants to convince us that a game supports
our communication in life, perhaps some of us are especially better off communicating alone.


Still from Journey, game release from Thatgamecompany. Online, muted voice interface.

The form of social awkwardness that Asperger’s engenders is machinelike. Of course, this doesn’t
mean that people with Asperger’s are subhuman or part machine, or actually like machines- it means that
their social awkwardness is created by difficulty in reading the human communication that machines also
find difficult to read. [16] This admittedly shy gaze is a troublesome allegory to the manner of my work flow
as a visual artist, an epitome for ‘trapped’ situations my characters find themselves in, and the subtle way
in which I value a game narrative. It has not been covert that my preference on the scale between
narratology and computation is the former. To advance the issue further radically, I wish to make interactive
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works that make a single player feel at full ease and in their own digital sanctuary. I speak notably in the
context of Save State, as if a player were discovering a kernel of a news story (re: newsgame) but without
the pressure to engage in conversation. The ramifications of the political can be understood alone. The
mobile title is a single player’s heroic journey as seven different souls: workers who lost their lives to mental
instability at the hands of economic distress. The machinelike conditions which these unfortunate people
in Foxconn slave labor camps were subjected to must become the handle of the player who operates them.
Such operation of this game through multiplayer would be a poor design choice and sooner exploitative.
The way the story of Save State is told is in multitudes of seven workers, yet the community present in the
game narrative is separate from the community playing the game, i.e. single player. This manner of making
seven dead workers share the same dream, so to speak, is a story device physically of translating the political
issue, but emotionally of treating the dearly departed as if they may share their troubles without shying as
they would in the living world. In spite of their causation in life, the dead are never alone in passing. Just
as in spite of one’s journey for their monomyth, they are guided by everyone else who has walked before.
My successful habits to a professional degree in my own personal life is, for better or worse, thanks
to my personal automation and losing battle with bipolar disorder. I am at a persistent struggle to discover
easy conversations with people to no avail, so my feet are always on the step for situations which may place
me in such a nirvana. My needs may have forced me to travel a continent away, north to Canada for a
graduate symposium, or east into New York City to be at the podium for the Games for Change festival in
order to have rough odds of connecting with someone intimately, but it is better odds to my weathered
condition than looking someone in the eye at the café and complimenting x amount of things. Hal Foster
even writes of Andy Warhol in Return of the Real: “If you can’t beat it, Warhol suggests, join it. More, if you
enter it totally, you might expose it; you might reveal its automatism, even its autism, through your own
excessive example.” [17] I knew the business I was digging into when I wanted to operate at a higher echelon.
The art world is a sick, disturbing, confusing place that everyone wants a slice of. I reverberate that I wished
to develop Save State for that no other person in their right mind would do it. I wished to tell a personal
narrative that would be ethically in the right, but due to its obtuse shell, would be interpreted in a deep
shade of wrong. While a lot has been argued back and forth about whether computer use or gaming might
cause spectrum disorders, direct observation alone has revealed that [gamers’] digital behaviors closely
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mirror that of Asperger’s sufferers; a dependence on the verbal over the visual, low pickup on social cues
and facial expressions, apparent lack of empathy, and the inability to make eye contact. [18] My Western
devastation put me in a perfect moment to role play in third world conditions for a half-year in time. I
possess Eastern tradition in my blood and lineage as a Japanese-American, but developing Save State, I
truly believed I was a Chinese laborer at the mercy of a world without a shred of remorse for vulnerability.
It would be useful to illustrate at this point that Chinese culture exists under a severe censorship of digital
material and rights, thus free enjoyment of console games much less developing games is out of the
immediate question in that region. In a twist-of-fate, we come to accept Japan as the mecca of Eastern style
games and how their wares seep down into that full divide of the world. The lonely island seems a lot bigger
now. In an interactive work such as In a Permanent Save State, though the nationality is deliberately
Chinese, the cultural portraiture of a game involving it is much like the interdisciplinary Kanji which China
shares with Japan. The visuals are key, as they are defined by persisting economic and political barriers.
Some might mention a skeuomorphic rendition of traditional, Eastern art style blossoms
throughout Save State in a variety of tones. In my defense, there is commentary over all of the hand-drawn
art and animation which pays homage to the traditional aesthetic of a Chinese hell scroll and the research
done to accommodate the folklore of Eastern afterlife. But as a yang to such yin, I am a pseudo-Japanese,
mostly Caucasian male, in America of all places attempting to be the one to assert this narrative on the
multilingual world. What makes such an eccentric identity the prime cut of choice to oversee such
responsibility? Cultural appreciation, at its rawest form. It happens. No less in record throngs these years
between white Americans and Japanese culture, most prevalent through online interface. To illustrate, role
playing games in America are largely polarized from role playing games in Japan. The temporal framework
for the role-playing game in Japan has been primarily computer based from the outset. The evolution of
role-playing game mechanics as a practice formed by a collaborating group of players does not exist in
Japan. [19] To put that in human terminology, as opposed to courteous, Asperger’s machinelike
terminology, Eastern role-playing is decisively geared towards the individual and social illness as a point of
origin. This might conquer the riddle of why several Eastern developed games are much more difficult and
in-depth narrative wise, to the more ‘invested’ player. Discipline, xenophobia, and overall mechanical
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behavior make ‘Easternization’ less of a policy when it comes to the style of developing a game, but a state
of mind when it comes to understanding why a role playing narrative in a videogame might be so contrived.
In closing, to perhaps pose a portrait of how automated our world actually is in terms of outlook
and technological superiority, here is a passage from Simon Winchester’s The Man Who Loved China. “Until
the discovery of the Sutra in Cave 18, it was assumed- one might say it was arrogantly assumed, that a
westerner had printed the first book. But here was firm evidence to the contrary: here was proof that a dated
document- the Chinese translation of a Sanskrit Buddhist text- had been printed from blocks of wood 600
years earlier. Here was immutable proof that a technique long assumed to have been a monopoly of a
European inventors in fact owed much to far more ancient creators, in China.” [20] Perhaps due to Western
determinism, patriotism, or sheer macho misogyny, society likens a majority of mankind’s achievements to
the more ‘colorful’ hemisphere. Per the discovery accounted for in Winchester’s autobiography of scientist
and Chinese empathizer Joseph Needham, the Eastern world preceded Western discovery of a timeless
technology by a significant degree. This is not to suggest determinism that the Western world should
concede all milk and honey to our new Chinese overlords, nor should the Motherland let a quaint sigh from
not devastating us once and for all. This is to suggest society has all been under the automatism of a
competitive, autistic mind since benchmarks of data and recording it were established. As well, if we
attribute a sense of hierarchy to this, the most focused and tortured mindset often is the victor.

A woodblock print: the Diamond Sutra, oldest print in the world, discovered in China.
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{ Games as Viral Continuum }
October 12, 2012; approximately at the digital toll of 12PM. My politically fueled ‘monomyth’ about
seven lives anemically lost to slave labor through mobile game took on a form that was everything aside
from mono. In a Permanent Save State went absolutely stereo, much to the attentiveness of The Verge,
Salon, Kotaku, Gamescenes, and the ever charming Forbes which I would place on the same formidable
echelon as Apple as far as troublesome elitists with a motive behind their quotes go. All of a sudden, my
identity lent itself to categories such as “I used to take art classes with that guy at Oklahoma University!” as
opposed to “that was the guy who sometimes went crazy for routine video projects.” The day was a spectacle
in and of itself: banned from the app store, shifted from meek to controversial practicing visual artist, led
an entire orchestra in a soon to be Italian art magazine published performance in tribute to the fallen
workers, and ended it with a small clique of friends drinking a beer to a televised MLB postseason game. I
would consider myself a visual artist on the lunatic fringe with unrealistic expectations of projects tied to
the labor and time sunk into it. Yet, the whole atmosphere was still mind boggling as to how much the vision
during production took shape. I was expecting a tech blog article at best. What I received was a miniature
international incident to turn in for my midway. The situation unfolded in a way I hoped. That in visceral
duality led to equal parts my manic production and depression over the next five weeks afterward.
My visual work and emotional investigation attained a new frontier of recognition, yet however
through the cumulus of viral interpretation, many of my personal affiliations with the Asian laborers who
lost their lives were transfigured into less than noble causations. Some commenters with apt, keyboard wit
concluded I may have exploited this subject matter for personal gain. A sizable population of the attention
directed towards Save State thought the celestial, fantasy based setting I chose misrepresented the severe
gravity of the situation propagated by Apple-Foxconn connections and misgivings. Just the contrary, I
believe: these young men and women were considering anything but the political implications of their death
at the moment of. The human mind is at a passing meditation whilst on the edge of all things existence wise.
Well Exhibit A might query of me ‘how do you know such details in bold print?’ For the sake of brevity, let
us just assume I understand the articulate details about it. If Exhibit A is still not convinced, I could lecture
Exhibit A into a state that would make Exhibit A lose faith in humanity. With the fantasy narrative
assimilated into the political context, I am not promoting mindless promises of escapism nor am I
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suggesting an intense meta-narrative rivaled by only the most self-indulgent indie directors Tinseltown has
to offer. That game comes later in the document. This mobile game was something that I identified with as
far back as the January of 2012, in that fantasy and the aesthetic of analog folklore was the optimal route to
proceed forward with. Strangely enough, something that was visually fueled desired to pierce through the
status quo of what we consider political, important, and concrete in our various societies. Our politik now
is a dreampolitik as the personal is forever political. Above all else, In a Permanent Save State as an island
of labor unto itself among the rest of my portfolio, but it feels right at home with my statement en mass.
The mission is no longer escapism, but excavation. I am a practitioner of digital media and independent
video games in the contemporary art world. Dreams I have within are at the labor of belonging in a world
all society knows. The work I author commonly dimensionalizes when propelled by the themes of virtual
reality and experimental narrative. New media, as an omnipresent network of interactivity, has perused
gray fields between the continents of fantasy and reality. My existence and work explores how reality
dissolves into a representation of its own being through the access of new media, imagination, and
prosthetic capability. There is no greater simulation of all, even greater that a game world in the clouds and
in blinding lights, than the way we consider our electronic devices of spectacle and desire. In that many of
us never question the human force behind them. They just appear, and we smile.


Those Who Assemble the Dreams of This World, large scale installation, interior.
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What frames a digital game as such an easy target for criticism when it lends itself to commentary
on more serious issues? Or for that matter, even if said game was given the initiative to solely be the
interpreter on such crucial matters, why must the product fit a particular, corporate neutral aesthetic as if
it were designed to respect some form of establishment? It is often enough I make a search request through
the array of gamesforchange.org’s game page, which features the most highly rated works, most played, and
brand new entries alike on different tabs. My personal disaffection with some ‘serious’ and ‘educational’
games lie with this: the visual is not a true enough representation of the true-to-nature intensity behind
issues such as water deprivation in Africa, military drone strikes, natural disaster aid, and more in the
category of massive, social misgivings. This is a statement which would function as an apt critique of Save
State, even. I can forebear the counterargument now: ‘well, illustrated graphics are hardly the best conduit
for representing the gravity of the problems either. At which point, you would sooner become a political
satire cartoon.’ Precisely. A pristine, spotless aesthetic in the form of neutral, metallic metals alludes to an
expression commissioned by that of a government or someone too distant to truly ‘identify’ with the issue
to begin with (re: uninspired journalism). If such a device in that form were to attempt a viral attack, it
would read far too saturated in similarity to the average news article. At which point, the man hours and
salary spent to creating the theatrical display of a digital game could have been more wisely spent typing
proverbs into the blog bubble and clicking ‘post’. Subjectively, I would position my mobile title outside of
this apt critique for its efforts to divide itself from a true-to-life paradigm. Elements seen in the game which
attempt to remove itself from the physical world is its afterlife setting, its affiliation with visual devices seen
in fantasy based worlds, and subtle techniques such as voice overs from the developer which render the
effect more personal than the standard news article.
The answer is that our central theme is the struggle between the satirists and the censors; and it is
the satirists of the left who, by mocking the political, economic, and military elites of their own regimes, are
the most likely to provoke retaliation. [21] To display the severity of the issue is to make a slight, and very
calculated effort as an artist or reporter to ‘offend’. A cel-shaded, cartoon graphic inspired representation I
would argue is farther emotive of the lower tiered societies who more often play the role of victim in these
worldly, serious cases. Taking for example’s sake Gonzalo Frasca’s newsgame September 12: a cartoon-
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simulated perspective of the Middle East suffering their own bombing after the terrorist attacks of
September 11
th
. The cartoon aesthetic, satirical or earnest, performs the parallel task of presenting a fantasy
that these ‘outlandish’ events might happen while tastefully suggesting that it could be an actuality. My
suspicion is that society has evolved into a media saturated world whom with gradual fermentation is
discarding any illusion of the promise of clean-cut, machine-like vision. Eventually, the citizens with the
street view of regional atrocities might learn how to illustrate themselves. With luck, make games, possibly
putting artists like myself temporarily out of theoretical standpoints. Regardless of their approach, the
aesthetic will not be pristine to represent a world at peace; the visual will be disjointed and maker-like,
where formality in artistic or journalistic technique will become untrustworthy as a source. To consume
satire is to be reflected one’s own secret voice they are often too shy to admit out loud, for emotional barrier
reasons or oppression by oligarchy. To consume the news as raw data is to act as another cog in the machine
which thrives on such massacres that serious games, or reporters as a whole, wish to see neutralized.


Mobile game installed at University of Oklahoma Lightwell Gallery for alumni exhibition.


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I have deserted In a Permanent Save State in the past. What it is good for now is a symbol of
potential, helping me find opportunities at a commended institution to express my passion of teaching in a
college setting, and an ultimate branching off platform from where and how I will take a significantly liberal
180 degree turn to my current Thesis work. The lore remains social, but shifts in vernacular from the
political to the visceral, nostalgic, and emotional. This thematic turn is absolutely not to suggest that I
disdain the political currently, for it is embedded even in my most personal practices (re: “the personal is
political”), but that I wish to explore it in further avenues that one would not immediately consider. I want
to take the critique in mind of games as ‘illustrious news articles’ and bring it to a deeper, heartfelt, and
realm without doppelgangers. I feel I’m more cerebral, and honestly more convoluted, than a headline.
Let us return back to the International Symposium of Electronic Arts in Sydney for a fragmented
moment. The talk was successful, as I was approached afterwards by the director of FACT (Foundation of
Art and Creative Technology; Liverpool, UK) for a potential to present work in a show entitled Time and
Motion, an international installation of media all about the severity of blue collar malpractice. I trotted away
with my work in their catalog for the section and inevitably, I suspect, a connecting of the spheres to a
summer residency I will take on at ISIS Arts in Newcastle summer of 2014. Save State also saw a nomination
for Best Serious Game at the 2013 IMGAs: the Oscars of mobile games. My ephemeral voice in the political
world emerges from a guttural realm in my heart and not a calculating one who can manipulate people so
well. I was at that international, professional tech conference for being social and being the ‘futile’ in
‘resistance is futile’. I was there in Sydney for the masses of digital media and politik alike believe me to be
social, but in actuality I am very, very personal. I protect my inner worlds from such realities. At that turn,
a bizarre but oddly fitting concept struck me. I had been doing some sketches about a certain character: an
avatar named Chevy the Cosmic. I had spent contemplative hours developing new work on the 3D plane. I
felt as though the soil I stood on were wireframe and that my own skin was skeuomorphic. When a gamer
has been working with the same character over a period of months, he comes to care about that character
as an extension of himself. Even if his real world identity has never been associated with the character, his
real world time has been invested in making the character a member of the community. The player has
something at stake. [22] Thematically moving forward from my exercise in displacing my identity, my next
move as a visual artist was clear. The avatar amount in my projects shifted in morale: from seven to one.
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{ Story Generating Apparatus: A Narrative Within of Existentialism }

Story Generating Apparatus, development stills. Environments, Oculus still, and Chevy
{ Games as Self-Portrait }
When I was a shaggy haired miscreant in the annals of a junior high drama class, I illustrated four-
panel comics on wide-lined ruler paper. This creative series, which I aptly dubbed The-One Acts for the
drama class conceived in and its disjointed narrative, was in lieu of clamoring for a structural understanding
of acting like everyone else. Hence, this may serve as evidence as to why my video performance method is
eccentrically animated. Enclosing on the point at hand, the main character of The One-Acts was 15-year old
Elliot Terrance, the owner of a small vendor in Chamber City called VG Mix. It was a quirky, techie shop
where sword clashes, intensive rounds of juvenile swearing, and instances of mythological beings walking
into the store were a common setting. Elliot as a characterization was a reflection of myself: shaggy, waste
tinted hair, an omnipotent smirk of madness and vulnerability, and the ill-informed clothing decision of a
turtleneck in June. I illustrated 250 editions (re: notebook papers) of Elliot’s crusades, buried all of them
in a shoebox somewhere in grandma’s den, and lost sense of him for a long duration. Over years, nostalgia
fermented for the first major ‘series’ I ever made. Even at amateur level. As good an origin story as any.
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Fast-forward this prologue to the summer of 2012 where I am at fringes with my creative stamina
while placing more distinctive strokes on In a Permanent Save State. I grew frustrated enough to cease all
mobile game operations for the evening and pull-up another task: the prospect of my thesis in two years’
time. I close the game’s software file on my MacBook and opt to create a fresh text file labeled
‘afterthesuperbossexperience.txt’. Elliot, to say the bare bones, had grown up. I scripted on that text file
that Elliot still remained as owner of the VG Mix in Chamber City, yet the setting of his new adventures
would be 60 years from when he was a young man. Elliot Terrance, game enthusiast for life and willfully
ignorant fantasy admirer, was now at the twilight age of 65. All supporting characters in The One-Acts had
either been wasted by father time, my perception of the depressive factors of time, or a hybridity of the two.
Rob Walker, the ladies-man skater, was rewritten to be a paraplegic. Charlie the psychotic stuntman still
does his wares in the Chamber City junkyard, only against doctor’s strict orders. Don the bassist took his
own life after his Russian mail order bride left him for unknown reasons. Jessica, Elliot’s girlfriend and co-
owner of the VG Mix, left mutually and moved to the Far East with her family. Times were hard for the cast
of The One-Acts. I erased the text file. Even I could not bear to treat my old ‘friends’ this way. However,
what I could not erase was the lingering threat of my nostalgia coming back to take full control of whatever
project I would do next. I have a love-hate relationship with nostalgia. I always believe nostalgia, translating
roughly into pain itself, should be the ‘subject’ of a good work of art and sparingly the ‘adjective’. With the
reboot of The-One Acts, I would easily accomplish the latter over the former. Who would give a second
glance about these sporadic fragments of my memory? They’d sooner have to care about my life story.

Elliot, drawn in precise style to art experience of the time. Star of The One-Acts.
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My nostalgia began to erupt to a state where I could no longer contain it as an afterthought. It would
need to serve as the ‘subject’ of an upcoming project without being watered down a cognitive sense of urge
(re: stupidity). I began having legitimate concerns about what the future of videogames would be, even, and
if my desired livelihood could withstand the passage of time and undoubted criticism that would be laid on
videogames as a structural form. Not to mention, I was recalling the axiom that games are by nature ‘a thing
nobody takes seriously’ and that videogames are a gesamtwerk of several other procedures making the term
videogames have no structure in and of itself. I left the memories of Elliot alone, so he could forever be a
15-year old selling the dream of capitalism in game disc form. However, a new avatar came to tackle this
lingering finale of the question ‘will videogames live to be an old man?’ This avatar was Chevy the Cosmic.

Final 3D, digital sculptures for Apparatus star Chevy the Cosmic. Who is really me.

We arrive at a conundrum suggested by the paper title alone: the heroic journey. Who are the heroes
we as a society are conditioned to admire and throw our utmost weight behind? Hulk Hogan? Odysseus,
created by Homer? Homer from The Simpsons? A sociopathic teen who owns a game store? Superman?
Jesus Christ? The self? Indeed, it might really be the self, for we always wish to transpose a little of
ourselves into the avatars we either create or follow in mainstream narrative. Joseph Campbell puts it best
for me, in relation: “Dream is the depersonalized myth, myth is the depersonalized dream; both myth and
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the dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamics of the psyche. But in the dream, the forms
are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions shown are
directly valid for all mankind. [23] That statement constitutes centuries to the secrets of monomythic
characterization unraveled and tarnished. All iconography in character form begins at a stage where it a
speck of sugar in the mind of a writer versus the daunting stream of the mass media sphere. Eventually,
such a character or icon goes through a plethora of evolutional stages to where the avatar becomes less of
the initial, personal dream and more of a myth which all society can share. In some creator’s case notes, the
evolution into myth might constitute a desecration of the core, intended character traits; re : personality.
The counter-argument would supply that the iconic figure is so much more formidable in notoriety, because
it feeds off the support and desire of a mainstream full of those who understand such character traits,
regardless of closeness to heart. It begs assessment: how many beings from mythological status to FOX’s
Sunday night lineup are truly a representation of their author? At first thought, even my own response
would be an empathetic ‘who cares, as long as the show is good’? Yet, I believe it to still be a significant issue
trucking on into the age of a Walter Benjamin-ian ‘mechanical reproduction’. The personal is everywhere
now, and at the same time, dissolving. Social media comes to mind. Bogost writes, “The narrative assembly
of unit operations is taken for granted. Jenkins’s arguments call to mind recent research that attempts to
align narrative with cognition. AI researcher Roger Schank explicitly argues that ‘we think in stories’.” [24]
If the personal is so pertinent, why might it seem that the emotional value of stories we continue to
hear over time and know are deeply felt registering less as such? It is because we are conditioned to the
algorithm of emotional impact in narrative. It has been mastered and we have become far too conditioned
to mastery. Ironically enough, what might be profoundly emotional as a standalone story would now be
cliché if compared to the pantheon of other works in its class. I have determined that emotions, dreams,
and the self are now disintegrating at alarming intervals across a mass consumerism of immediacy. We
want stories fast. We want ‘emotions’ generated fast. The best way to generating stories and emotions
quickly? Reference the machinelike algorithm codes down in countless film reels, novels, prose, game
cartridges, and theatrical plays alike. It has evolved to a certain point that with all too recognizable hero and
myth archetypes, certain creators are not even perplexed to ‘bother’ with an initial dream which has grown
from the emotional self. For a paycheck, for the convenience, or for a contemporary artist hell bent on
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lethargic appropriation in the shadow of Postmodernity’s dark side, a creator is keener than ever to perform
this. The age of mechanical reproduction and dismissal of the ‘personal’ in the multi-tiered assembly lines
of digital games is killing dreams as we know it. I had my first taste of denying it when I gave my life to a
teenage misanthrope named Elliot. I have been developing a repeat performance on a grander, academic
and technical scale with Chevy the Cosmic for project Story Generating Apparatus. In a desperation to
experimentally wedge a little auteurist soul back into game narrative, I am revealing and sacrificing the
personal aspects of my life. If In a Permanent Save State hinted at my troubled past, Story Generating
Apparatus is giving the PowerPoint lecture. All will be revealed in high-definition, 3D virtual reality.


Snippet from Apparatus game prologue graphic novel. Death encounters Chevy.
The 3D indie game is an exploration based title and the story will be as follows. Per the words of
Chevy himself, in reference to the game environment he is in. We will find Chevy at an old age, washed up
game character with mere seconds to live. “This is… it was… the Crossroads Outlet Mall. Made out of brick
and mortar. Right here in the heart of Oklahoma City. You could say I was raised around these plain parts.
All I’ve ever seen is you through this machine while you saw me. All I’ve ever touched is everything you’ve
touched while playing the machine I’m in. If all I am is the wayward memories of some Okie… So be it. It
feels human. It feels real. It doesn’t feel like a game. No matter. This arcade, hell, this whole mall will soon
detonate. And along with it my consciousness. I’m in the last Chevy the Cosmic arcade machine, here. I
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guess that makes me the last Chevy. The world moved past Chevy the Cosmic, replacing him with impossible
simulations of reality in the living room. I’ve been left to die in time. In seconds I shall. I’m waiting.” The
remainder of the graphic novel prologue containing this dialogue has Chevy escaping sure death, breaking
out of his classic arcade machine into frozen reality. All of the blinding explosions as a glitch, haptic
interface for the Oculus Rift headset to be played on are suspended in mid-air. The player’s objective: have
Chevy visit his life memories in store malls and become at peace before he dies and succumbs into the
afterlife. And one more thing: those soul shattering, post-mortem memories are my own.
Underneath the glamorous surface of commodity fetishes and media stars… is “the reality of
suffering and death.” The tragedies and Marilyn, Liz, and Jackie in particular are said to prompt
“straightforward expressions of feeling.” [25] One might suspect Chevy the Cosmic is a pop art doppelganger
of one international megastar Sonic the Hedgehog (SEGA). Sonic is an emblematic totem of the sunshine
during my youth. Fittingly enough, Sonic must be the talisman of my moonlight of adulthood, only donning
a new mask. Taking the raw conceptual mechanics of pop art further, I liken this narrative relationship
between myself and Chevy to an unquenchable loop of pop gaze exchanges. The face of me is the face of
death, for every beating of my emotions is only to give life to this ‘avatar’ who is by default lifeless, blank,
and directionless if without the prodding of a joystick by a player. At the mercy of a machine from the past
(Oculus?). The face of Chevy is an easier allegory, lending his iconic likeness of any furry, anthropomorphic
game character over the years through advanced enough technology towards the gaze of Ms. Monroe
herself. Pop art was a significant design choice as well for Apparatus, as the entire overworld map of the
Crossroads Outlet Mall reverberates in enough glitch Technicolor to make even the most bargain bin 70s
soul album cover blush. Chevy himself wears a coat of digital, pink fur. It is the hue of imprisonment, as
evident by likenesses from Barbie to a Thesis exhibition at UNR from colleague and friend Brian Krueger
for The Unknowability Center. Pink and pop is nothing more than a character’s desire to give a middle
finger to any and every establishment, if re-contextualized into an actual humanoid character.
Time is frozen in the ‘mallworld’ of Story Generating Apparatus, aside from the identity of that of
the player maneuvering with their WASD keys and mouse amidst the calamity. Chevy is able to deliver
various monologues pertaining to a select memory in view, thus making himself another identity able to
break the laws of time as well. The narrative mechanic (not game mechanic, mindingly) of freezing time for
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Chevy to attain existential peace serves as an allegory for the ‘pocketing of time’ and life moments a
fermenting social media society does on a daily basis with mobile and digital interfaces. This attribute is not
solely a modern phenomenon either. The personal clock became, upon invention, ‘an ever visible, ever-
audible companion and monitor’. By continually reminding the owner of ‘time used, time spent, time
wasted, time lost’, it became both ‘prod and key to personal achievement and productivity.’ The
‘personalization’ of precisely measured time was a major stimulus to the individualism that was an ever
more salient aspect of Western civilization. [26] In videogames, the computational division of time is all too
procedural. In partition to identity, it is the atoms which compose just about every social myth about us.
Ranging from the township Bazaar to the Xanga account aside a Geocities site. Our lives are glamourized
pockets of time. So it is with gusto in accordance to Chevy’s [my] memories in Apparatus. What is the
difference between this game and a social media profile? Not much, in fact. Only the form Apparatus takes
is a game, which even in the midget fight of ‘low art forms’ takes the win over social media. It is the
assessment of games as a more noble expression and its mysteriousness as a ‘diary’ form which lends itself
as an intriguing storytelling interface as opposed to a more fetishized, commoditized interface.
Literary devices and nomenclature from neighboring realms give backbone to the essence of an “I”
in relationship to videogames. Take Roland Barthes into account, dispensing in Death of the Author,
“Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance of saying “I”: language knows a subject, not a
‘person’, and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffices to make language
‘hold together’, suffices, that is to say, exhaust it. [27] This says a milestone, unbeknownst of the time of
creation, of the duality between myself and Chevy the Cosmic. Language is the skeuomorphism which
makes a reader pretend that the author is not ‘actually’ referring to his or her self. Any utterance of desire
or phrase, beyond the allure of language’s beauty, is autocratic. When I was behind the microphone
performing voiceovers for Chevy the Cosmic, I decided to take this subjugation further and give Chevy two
tones: my emotional, human one (the original default) and Chevy’s iconic one symbolic for the ranks of
Sonic the Hedgehog and even an abusive Mickey Mouse. The decision was also personal, as the distinctive
and hectic way of delivery these tones have is a euphemism for my bipolar disorder. The splitting into two
tones hardly made the unified personality of Chevy [me] any more disparate. If what Ronald Barthes
suggests is actual, ensembles, odd couples, and even mythos are all synthesized to ‘one’ author’s wishes.
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{ Games as Space, Gallery or Virtual }
I could classify into the bin of ‘wandering’ visual artist who was born after the catharsis and death
of history. As Nicolas Bourriaud would outline as his paradigm in The Radicant or that Jean Baudrillard
would echo with congruent precariousness in Simulations, we are in a society of shared global language,
history which ended once it became the hallow sphere of Postmodernity, and endless light waves of roads
with advertisements and empty signals. This passive murder of portal between myself and what is eligible
as dreams and memories in artwork is my greatest asset conceptually and aesthetically. Conceptually, for
it enables me to defibrillate meaning into my role as a nefarious videogame character all for the sake of
‘high’ art. Aesthetically, this phenomenon takes an odder-tone, between further obscure crevasses of
existing media, existing visual theory to accompany them, and notebooks of new movements emerging from
the enigmatic to the headlining (re: the New Aesthetic, game criticism, new media conferences). I see this
ambiguity not as a difficult frontier to explain, but as an opportunity to instill my own personal frontier of
meaning for the tactical battle between Modernity and Postmodernity allows me to create visual art
however I please. As explained in the alpha section of the paper, In a Permanent Save State, my visual
expression is rooted in Modernity for the struggle and desire for fundamental visuality is prevalent. It was
with the theoretical that I took my own common illustrations and animations into a playful sense of self-
appropriation and objectification, as if handled by another collaborating human altogether. Or as Lev
Manovich would highlight, a software culture of the artwork travelling from software to software until it
finally achieves optimal form for the all-too-realizing mass media consumer audience.
This prospect is my alibi for ultimately claiming that the physical is more emotional and lucid than
we at face value consider, and vice versa. When I have spent a thousand additional hours tailoring the 3D
sculpted visuals of Story Generating Apparatus alone, separate from the computation and scripting of the
game, there of course comes with it the nagging baggage that “indeed, the digital is physical, thou shalt deal
with it.” After modeling all 2.4 million polygons of a Debordian spectacle in form of a Southwestern
American mall, the builder of such an environment commonly falls in love with the more or less tangible
form of their creation. Especially one of such emotional and cognitive investment. The lines have blurred,
for social interest has blurred between what is physical and directly the dream of some architect or what is
emotional and the dream of a society. My aesthetic is grounded in this liberal crusade for the ‘invisible’.
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Two in-game virtual reality stills of mall/memory locations. Movie Theater and San Francisco.

Technology wants to be like us, and we kind of want to be more like it. And we’re going through a
period now of incredible uncertainty and a huge ethical negotiation of how technology and us see the world
and how that changes. [28] James Bridle underscores this as one of the few marquee paradigms of the New
Aesthetic: not particularly an art movement in the vein of Surrealism or Impressionism, nor a fortune
cookie level superstition designed to have an arrive-and-proceed effect. It is a synthesis of the visual
language of how humans see the world now ‘as’ machines. The boom of children who dreamed of seeing a
worldly architecture based on their various nostalgia of VHS rewind screens and 8-bit pixilation have now
assimilated control of occupations mapping those dreams on city walls and towers. Apparatus makes
affluent commission of this precarious, visual ground, serving not merely as the fantasy which desires to
see a society embellished in glitch camouflage, but the social reality and stucco walls which this dream must
act upon to create a new aesthetic to begin with. It is crucial that attributes such as escape and desire are
not the ultimatum of the game’s narrative: there must be a Lacanian barrier from desire to bestow gravity
on the drama at hand. It is important for the machine (Chevy) to be interpreted as a human (myself), which
unsuspiciously and dumbfoundedly, is attained through the hell storm saturation of machine vision. In this
desperation to witness a world in dreamlike stills, wireframe and colour induced prismatics alike, is a
willpower to suggest that there is pain being clawed away from. That pain is evident among the white bread
walls of Crossroads Outlet Mall amidst unceremonious death. The dichotomy is an eccentric balance
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between the do-gooding farm boy archetype and battery-powered buzzing of Chinatown allure. They hardly
belong together, but through being melted in a same kettle, the resulting taste and formality of it is so right.


Examples of the New Aesthetic pervading in society. ‘Machinelike’ vision.

We might consider that a game operates in ‘virtual’ space, specifically as does Story Generating
Apparatus, but we should consider the potential as well that ‘processes do not occur in space, but define
their own spatial frame’. The institutional gallery space is not a leasable entity until it is first declared so by
a seeking buyer and director of correct mind to transform the space. There is nothing to prevent this space
from being reconfigured later from a chapel of ‘high art’ into the latest installation of a fast food empire. As
the author, when I assemble a mall in 3D sculpture from my memory which has been appropriated from
true to life experience, I wish to make the player believe in reality to a barred extent and define the space as
partially true. This is to additionally argue that because we play and experience immersive, exploration
heavy games such as Proteus (Ed Key/Dave Kanaga), The Graveyard (Tale of Tales), and recent award
winning Gone Home (The Fullbright Company) in the default realm of humans, no matter how artificial the
world appears to be in terms of visual or narrative provocation, the expression is always tied to the default
realm. I simply believe a viewer cannot experience fantasy without shards of reality to inform its very loose
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but very visually enticing appearance. Just the same, reality is but a social definition based on the loose
fringes of hierarchy who deem what real ‘is’. What is an artificial tale of immigration and economic struggle
to the first world is a documentation of everyday life in the third world. Psychological space is referenced
just as often as materialistic and real space. The practice of representing space is drawn as much from these
internal states as from the experience of material space. While at first this seems like the most elusive of the
phenomenological categories [material, representations, memory], one can recall what it is like to revisit,
after a long absence, the place of one’s childhood, or a place of personal or collective trauma. [29]
In addition to the three indie titles just mentioned, I wish to put forward a couple of additionally
very recent, very bizarre, and incredibly acclaimed titles dubbed The Stanley Parable and Passage. The
former, a single developer title (Davey Wreden) built from the source engine in 2011, is an immersive,
narratively driven game explored in 3D rendered space. The latter, another single developer title (Jason
Rohrer), is a 5-minute long 100x16 2D scroller where you play an entire lifetime from beginning to end.
What I take into attention about Parable as a consumer of games, aside its American Beauty aesthetic and
atmosphere, is its willingness to test the boundaries of categorical space and allow rhetorical meaning to
function as actual objects. In the game, which is arguable if it is a game to begin with (I admire the argument
it raises), you begin in a pristinely rendered office space. The starter space in Parable is an office space of
many white collar nightmares amidst Midwestern America. Yet, the end points of the game are numerous
and in the dozens. How to attain a specific ending of the game is determined through a series of choices
made throughout the text and narration present in the various spaces. There is no shooting, maiming, or
physical violence in The Stanley Parable. The only violence to be felt is of the cerebral assortment. In an
age of duplicity, having entry level developers carbon copying the platforming template or any genres
equally repeatable all in the name of systematic gears and Capitalism, to see such gears exist in sheer
rhetoric and imagined meaning gives importance to the way we define spaces outside of the physical. A
game is still very much a game, even if the visual and typical game assets consumers of such objects whom
are conditioned to exist solely as mental figments. These invisible pathways, in fact, are a direct analogy to
the conceptual demeanor in which we consider the critique process of a still image. A consumer will make
subtle and silent judgments about the value of a piece before confirming a decision. I recall even the Dada
master himself in Duchamp championed Chess over the art object for the decision making process behind
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Chess was more artistic than the visual image could ever be. The rhetorical and imagined decisions in space
have the potential to create deeper meanings and shared frontiers of meaning. Jason Rohrer’s Passage is
more literal about its perception of space, but in the same instance profoundly prose. You move a low-bit
character and his companions to be from left to right, which is a representation of that avatar’s entire
lifespan. The idea of space, imagined or real, is equivalently subversive if compared to The Stanley Parable.
Passage is very much aware it is a computer game. Yet, in a single stroke of movement and minimalism, it
conveys the deepest emotions palatable. All of one’s existence compressed in a five minute canvas.
Without delving too deeply into semantic spaces, I wish to put forward the idea that there are three
tiers of spaces that society interacts with on a daily basis: material (default world), representations of space
(maps, globes), and spaces of representation (dreams, memories). I would ask of any doubters to the
prevalence of the very latter space or even the center to consider how often the default world is referenced
over the amount of times the spaces of representation are referenced. This is not to include the frilly water
cooler conversations of ‘what was your dream last night?’ or even the exploits of blood drinking vampires
borrowing their aunts’ Mazda on a late, Saturday night at the community softball field. A human’s interest
in life is directly tied to the imagined spaces and imagined potentials of where they could be at later on. This
is applicable to even the most satisfied human with a healthy balance in livelihood, for the emotional state
of stillness and comfort is a precarious desire in and of itself. Perhaps I am speaking from the binocular in
contemporary, American economics, but no one is safe where they live and survival is the American dream.
Survival is to vehemently push away from what is inevitable into a realm of dumbfounded fortune. More
importantly, the realm of the unknown. At once, I believe, our perceptions of the material world are
artificially constructed. This has more to do with the central tier concerning space hierarchies
(representations of space; maps, globes) than the third. I had the fortune to hear a keynote talk from Brian
Rogers at the International Symposium of Electronic Arts in Sydney, and in opposition to what was often
construed as a ‘love fest’ between the inner tech clique, Rogers gave a fundamental talk about spatial and
perspective drawing. Amidst visits from the likes of WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange and media art pioneer
Michael Naimark, I found Rogers’s keynote the most noteworthy.
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Still slide from talk A Shy Game, given first at the University of Alberta annual ADGSA conference.

When a human stares into the distance of a long alleyway or a city infrastructure, the very ‘end’ of
that perspective is always barricaded by a perpetual fog. No spectacular person, aside from Superman from
comic book lore, can witness all spatiality in a straight line all in one moment. What must humans do to
affirm to themselves the deeply craved for ‘control’ over space and time on Earth? Maps. Directional
pathways. Signs. Any kinds of indicators on a physical level which allows the make believe of ‘control’ over
space to take effect. The most detailed and in-depth of any contour map represents itself to be pristine
mastery over representation of social constructs over the last two centuries. On buildings and structures,
we include textures and color to resist ambiguity in lieu of aesthetic ignition to the senses. I proclaim that
if the average human mind had cognitive control over the depths of space and time even on a mile-radius
scale, such as onslaught of retinal power available would discard the need for visual prosthetic. The
inclusion of mapped textures and color, especially both on a scale of the default world and a game engine,
resists the ambiguity of being not visually dull but unidentifiable with a social praxis of the world. For
Aristotle, even though the universal form is accessible only through thought, it is nevertheless accessible in
the material world. [30] We maintain control over materials, for it is the portal into claiming control over
the unseen. Who is to govern what is a false representation when the structure on true representation or
even terminology of the governing faction (re: Art) is materialistic alone? The material is the real.
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“The Naked City”. Situationist Topographical map of a French city based on dreams and emotions.

With this artificiality in place and a preexisting millions of believe in such artifice between Live
Action Role Players (LARP), online videogame warriors, and even those who reference their mobile device’s
‘map’ command on an unscrupulous basis, it is now the mission of creators for that artificial realm to ensure
that the assets placed within blend seamlessly as possible into the make-believe to feed the mouth of social
definition a healthy sized course. That is not to say, however, that the assets should cater to the demand of
proper shadows, lighting, scale, and surface texture. I had a kind, elderly woman approach me after I gave
a talk on Story Generating Apparatus for the Art and Design Graduate Student Association at the
University of Alberta, Canada on part of their Performative Ecologies symposium. She proclaimed to me
that she could realize that cartoons from the Hanna-Barbera era or even our modern day, 3D videogames
were ‘believable’ for they could not emit shadows. This is was light of seeing my character Chevy the Cosmic
give personal monologues about his, or rather my, life with real-time shadows as a 2 minute vignette of a
15 minute short feature I animated and rendered for the game. It was real to the old woman, despite the
character and tale being deliberately not real. Michel Foucault may have inadvertently said it best in What
is an Author? when it comes to the kernel of games and upholding a sense of simulation and referenced
space all developers work towards, 2D or 3D. “Writing unfolds like a game that invariably goes beyond its
own rules and transgresses its limits. In writing, the point is not to manifest or exalt the act of writing, nor
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is it to pin a subject within language; it is, rather, a question of creating a space into which the writing
subject constantly disappears.” [31] For Story Generating Apparatus, Chevy must disappear into his
surroundings as an actuality, just as my deepest emotions and characteristics must disappear into him to
prolong the narrative.
For games as a whole, however, the goal of visual, organic assimilation is not always the ultimatum.
At times as well in development, binaries and altercations between differences interfaces of space might be
paramount to the clarity of a developer’s expression and the understanding of a consumer. One might
harken back to the success of the Final Fantasy game series, and how its expression is far from a unified
overworld, but a chain command of several different user interfaces (the overworld a main hero travels
through, the battle screen one goes to when initiated in battle with foes, and menus used to customize skill
points whenever a character has ‘leveled up’). The tactics of “leveling up”, of seeking out story-irrelevant
combat in order to improve the statistics of the players’ avatars is, ironically, outside of the fictional
temporality of the game, which is generally only driven forward by the passage into new zones. Inverting
the customary relationship between time and space, it is the passage through geographic space that creates
the tempo for the passage of fictional/historical time. [32] The veil between these interactions with different
spaces in Apparatus is scarce, if not non-existent. I believe the most correct time when these separate
spaces ‘within’ games are used are when they cater most optimally to a game’s narrative needs. Indeed, this
is an instance where narrativity dictates the computation of a game. Not the other way around. For a heroic
journey like Final Fantasy, one of course needs the multitudes of instances where a player checks their
inventory and launches into hundreds of battles in order to simulate the effect of such an undertaking. For
a much smaller, paltry in scale game like Apparatus, the situation is so much more personalized. And most
importantly, Apparatus is the anti-thesis to the heroic journey: the mundane journey. We focus on Chevy’s
life outside of his archetypical XYZ (separation, initiation, return) venture that had occurred in his golden
days within the arcade machine. For alphabetical sake, the A-W journey. To galvanize the A-W journey as
if it were a grandiose epic like Final Fantasy would veer too hastily into caricature or worse a mindless
satire of Sonic the Hedgehog’s life. Most poignantly, these are my life moments at stake which as much as
I objectify and trivialize my existence at times, I wish to treat them with respect if the audience is to treat
the narrative in Story Generating Apparatus seriously.
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{ Games as Narrative Data }

Process captures of recording the voice to, and animating, Chevy’s 3D model in 3DS Max.
Thought and feeling are inseparable. When they are torn from their complex relationship with each
other and improperly defined as mutually exclusive, the cognitive can become mere logical process, the
cold, dry, and lifeless, and the affective is receded to the visceral, the primitive, and the unanalyzable. [33]
In layman’s terms, these are the trials and tribulations that a nerd comes to demonic clashes with. Yet such
is the way society perceives data to act in unison as a net embodiment. In fact, you could consider all the
census data, demographics, numbers, and information as a whole on the world’s various international
circles as the invisible president of the planet. The information gained on civilization dictates what
psychoanalytic trends are available in cinema, the design of our morning coffee cups, the spacing of the text
in the daily newspaper (wherever newspaper is still printed), and feats of experimental game design. What
this leads to: data, as a net entity, is a life form all its own. The handling, or mishandling of it (re: Edward
Snowden), has advantageous, humanly effects with whoever is closest to it. What this entails for the game
developer, or for that matter new media artist, is the challenge to treat data as if it were this superfluous,
organic form living and breathing and respect it accordingly. Traditional media relies on the annals of art
history and ways to integrate it into the zeitgeist of contemporary media. New media is all the same, only
seeking a way to integrate itself into the zeitgeist of theoretical Modernisms from prior decades and through
reliance on contemporary events finds a cove in the now. It is the axiom for a 3D modeler, even.
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Consider 3D modeling software such as Blender, Maya, 3ds Max Studio, LightWave 3D, or Google’s
SketchUp. These applications provide the techniques for defining 3D forms which were previously
“hardwired” to different physical media. As with image editing software, new techniques can always be
added as long as they operate on the standard data structures already used by 3D software. The most
common ones are polygonal models and NURBS models. The former consist of flat polygons, the latter are
defined by smooth curves. These data structures are the new “materials” that software substitutes for a
variety of physical materials used by humans to create physical, 3D forms such as stone, clay, or concretes.
[34] Data lives and breathes as does the socially understood ramifications of physicality interacting with
mountainous surroundings. When Chevy is assembled deliberately by a machine (3D modeling) to act as a
soulful human with my voice, the task is made easier knowing that the substitutions for Chevy’s various
behavior (save, speech, copy memories, paste memories, react to public disaster) already exist on a physical
praxis. His emotional contribution to the narrative is just that much more affective because he goes through
the loop and handicap of having been a robotic character in nature. A robotic character with things so much
like humans. Consider the omnipresent cut and paste. The algorithm to select a word in a text document is
different from the algorithm to select a part of a continuous tone (i.e. raster) image. In other words, “cut
and paste” is a general concept that is implemented differently in different media software depending on
which data type this software is designed to handle. [35] Case in point, Story Generating Apparatus is not
the only game I made out of using all of my 2.4 million polygons worth of modeling the past year. I invented
a card game based on familiarity with a typical heroic journey and the objectification of homely life
moments entitled Architecture of a Depersonalized Dream. All visuals of the cards are dictated by a single
object (out of 330 of the best selections) from Story Generating Apparatus. Originally modeled in 3Ds Max,
their wireframe exposure in sketch-like, stylistic form is rewashed through Google SketchUp. Visuals of
more relevance are highest filled with As and 9s. Visuals of campy relevance typically rank 2s and 3s. Rules:
2 player game. Both players receive a shuffled set of 5 cards. Game progresses as player places a card on a
grid of ten slots, then allowing opponent to take a turn. The final objective: when playing, player must make
an attempt to capture their opponent’s cards by placing a card of higher rank to their respective left or right.
Cards may only be captured on their turn. Equal ranks cancel out. Aces are high. Winner is determined by
majority captures on a grid. Upon draw, play a tie breaker. The way the linear grid of Architecture is
designed, the game itself is like the heroic journey. Each card arrangement is a new, personal dream.
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Selection of cards (and design cover) of Architecture of a Depersonalized Dream.

A further pursuing of data (be it game-like or informational in nature) as more human than binary.
If data is for data sake, such as the personal data of a human, then how would one even begin to search
through what has been accumulated? Sooner or later any discussion of interaction and how it works turned
to debates over how to handle very large databases. After a database exceeds a certain size, it becomes
impractical for a human to search even the major listings in a reasonably short period of time. Thus the fact
of a database that contains, in the ideal sense, all the knowledge of humankind, doesn’t imply that such a
database is searchable. [36] It is not searchable, and it can never be searchable. Is has relevance to game
design, and a liberal attitude to the narrativity aspects of a game nonetheless, that if all of the numerical
values of a game are simply number crunching and strategy as a standalone conduit for interest, the purpose
of storytelling in a game defaults to a bland muteness. Why would one even tell a story? In the face of
innovation with game fronts on the narrative end, sometimes there needs to be an anarchistic, extremity to
subtract the computational necessities of a game from the equation in order to make a more profound point.
In an age here the mechanical is prevalent, capitalism grinds like the gears of a trap in Super Meat Boy, and
nerd-like behavior commands the interfaces we adorn, injecting humanity into the vast, unsearchable sea
of ‘games’ might be a viable waypoint to not only stand out as an individual title, but prosper. On the brink
of innovative technology on the horizon, perhaps the best frontier for new meaning are the fundamentals.
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Just the same, one might ask “why even tell a story with videogames?” Why have a viewer immerse
themselves and sludge through all this ‘data’ when viewing it cinematically is just the same? Why print
Moby Dick with ink? The answer is direct: the technology available at the time in its front-most conversation
with society will tend to have the most potential for educational, storytelling, and emotive value to influence
the masses. Videogames have a lower hand with that argument in this day and age. The destructive elements
of them have coincided with the constructive for about as long as the medium has seen home entertainment
production. Same could be said for the written word however. When the written word poem replaced
spoken poetry, at once our reliance on more cognitive, ‘Situationist’ measures were cut down by the
guillotine of emerging technology. Specifically, I believe the video game form is the most ironic form of
‘trust’ you can bestow on a viewer in a game. Rather than believe the potential, subliminal lemming drag
that an auteur might deliver as part of a feature or short form documentary, narrative, or animation, the
truth can be evident in a viewer’s mind about a work if they simply immerse themselves in the virtual reality
environment and come to personal decisions about the themes themselves. What other sea of thought might
games be in common with brandishing that sword? The fine art gallery. Why show work in an art gallery at
all? It is hardly ‘catering’ to the relaxation of an audience besmirched by the constant dreaming of the
spectacle. A crowd is further hard pressed to immerse themselves in finer realms than sit at home and press
play on their subscription of Netflix (or worse, your archetypical first person shooter game released in
2014). Trust in the game. Trust in the art. If one believes in the potential of higher forms, it is there.
Deciding what to do with infinite data to create a work of art is very much like coming up with an
idea from scratch to initiate with. A direct methodology: even the infinite is measurable. Not quite the whole
‘I love you times infinity plus one’ shtick, but near the vicinity. Cantor’s key innovation is important. Since
the infinite is not mathematically measurable, Cantor needed to devise a replacement for the measurement.
Instead of trying to compute the size of the infinite, Cantor focused on the numerical order of different
infinities, representing them as sets: “By a set S we are to understand any collection into a while of definite
and separate objects m of our intuition and thought.” [37] I may speak subjectively toward this ideal, but no
item is too saturated or complex in nature that cannot be deciphered via story or artistic form. Whether the
complex shape is legible to the public afterwards is a conundrum to itself. So when I insert my livelihood
into a mechanical memento mori in gamified form, the complexity of ‘style’ is not at stake. Only the ethical.
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{ Games as Epitaph }
I developed Story Generating Apparatus for personal reasons, beyond the bureaucratic need to
fulfill my thesis. If that were alone the goal, I would have tackled another obtuse political game and subject,
calling it a degree. I desired something more investigative than that. Whether or not I am poised to teach at
an academic level upon my departure from the University of Nevada Reno, I will hardly be apart from the
‘learning’ process of my life. As a professor and with blessing future doctorate candidate, the terminologies
relating to learning will be replaced by research. More will be expected of me, as I have come to expect more
out of myself month by month studying at the University of Nevada Reno and fending for myself in
scenarios not limited to the classroom. I created Apparatus as a book end to the translucent first chapter of
my existence on Earth. I did not create such an attraction or personal mori for the educational realm. I
created it for me. It is my hope that the mass media audience of the world or at very least game world
discovers a significant amount of themselves in Chevy (me), or relate the customs of their beloved game
iconography to Chevy. I am something of a fatalist in nature as well. Even though I am prompt with very
about every detail in my day to day being, I also feel to a profound extent that nothing is set in stone. The
wind will guide characters such as myself dependent on a mix of the political, fate, and fortune. If I perished
for some reason in the next years, Apparatus would suffice as a true enough biography of my life. True in
the sense that a game character in Chevy, or his real world, entertainment doppelganger, recorded my life
like an analog 8-track since I was a child. Chevy (e.g. Sonic) acted as an emotionless avatar which forced
me to implement my day to day troubles in his pointless troubles to make sense of such an escape in
videogames. That is more real to me that whatever anyone, perhaps even my family, could say about my
real world tribulations. Life moments such as my romance with a Russian graphic design traveller in San
Francisco, nearly drowning in a camp lake while counselors were making love, or enjoying a happy meal
amidst the white bread, city lights of 29
th
Street all belong to simulation. It guided me to this apex of
academic achievement, professional achievement, and graduation. So it must be doing something right.
Michel Foucault beckons once more. “Our culture has metamorphosed this idea of narrative, or writing, as
something designed to ward off death. Writing has become linked to sacrifice, even to the sacrifice of life: it
is now a voluntary effacement that does not need to be represented in books, since it is brought about in the
writer’s very existence.” [38] How faded I do feel. Much like my face in the accidental glitch of the universe.
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Glitch fusion between myself and Chevy and wearing the Oculus Rift virtual reality helmet.

Collaborators for Save State: Reno Video Game Symphony. For Apparatus: Tip Top Amusement.
In honor of the narrative itself, being that its main character emerges from an endangered arcade
machine species, and as homage to the luxurious history and heyday of arcade game culture, I am
converting as a majority part of my thesis exhibition the Holland Project gallery in Reno the space into a
breathing arcade. I will be assembling a machine of my own volition and craftsmanship to house Story
Generating Apparatus, but to fill the space full of nostalgia, memories and lament over the passage of such
a golden age, I will accompany Apparatus with famous titles of yesteryear (Pole Position, Donkey Kong,
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pinball, and Joust) to place the narrative in physical context with a slice of humble history. We think of
arcade spaces as a purely entertainment and commoditized venture, but what should not looked over is the
social impact of such realms which goes hand in hand with the mission of participative nature of
contemporary art. Arcades provide a good opportunity for people to get their hands on games in poor areas
where affording a home console is simply out of the question. In addition, as meditated on by Adam Pratt
in a good handbook itself for in rejoicing over retro gaming history, The Bushnell Theorem (easy to learn,
difficult to master) combined with the rudimentary technology of games in the 70s meant that a lot of games
brought people together out of necessity. [39] As Chevy might have expressive lore over, simulations of such
social bonding take a meta-artificial place in the living room of the family or teen. Something is lost in that
transition between the shared and centered. A lot more is lost than just association with others, predated
as early as the Parisian Situationist International in the middle of the 20
th
century. Economic viability is
lost. Jobs are lost. Livelihood is lost. When I passed by the Crossroads Mall in reality amidst Oklahoma City,
the catalyst space for the entirety of Story Generating Apparatus, I stared between the chain link barricade
that was once an open space between myself and a healthy round of Dance Dance Revolution at the arcade.
As a matter of old country fact, as I walked right outside that arcade space with a then romantic interest, I
kissed her for the first instance in this lifetime. Games can serve as an effective epitaph, most considerably
in the edifice of a personal, diaristic simulacrum like Apparatus. The personal is not defined alone, but by
the spatiality the personal inhabits. My space, most often at emotional zeniths, was the mall in a city forever
asleep at the expense of a Debordian spectacle. That city is one in dreams now.

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I choose such a performance in the virtual world, especially based in romantic essence of retro, to
suggest an inevitable mirror from the past back to the present. Not necessarily because I am blindly in love
with the visuals or the iconic characters born out of the time. We think about disco and the sparking glamour
behind such escape on the dance floor of a smoke-mystified Saturday night. What we do not consider
immediately is that immensely saturated environments with colour, singing, and dancing is an allegory for
the despondent nature of expectations in all of us. Lyrics commonly veer to the reflective, introspective, and
longing for something new. If it is not achieved on one magical weekend moment, it is lost for the next six,
unsavory days. Such a performance is allegorical. The figure of the romantic hero from the past is a
paradoxical figure in space, a recession that is also a return that evokes the avant-garde. For even as the
avant-garde recedes into the past, it also returns from the future, repositioned by innovative art at the
present. [40] The performance in Story Generating Device is between myself and Chevy on a metaphorical
pillar, but the performance is also between the past and present. This dissection of time, as if a needle were
twisting through the celluloid strings of the fates themselves, ensures on a mechanical level that the wider
audience appreciates an eccentric, timeless value. On a personal level, the storytelling device swims as if I
took a time machine back to the moments which mattered to me. Just as the life of Chevy the Cosmic flashes
before his eyes in intermittent stylization, I want to display my life in that fashion to illuminate the
glimmering beauty of what life can be in addition to the false signals such skeuomorphic glimmer gives. In
the prevalent age of social media and skeuomorphic values, critiquing beauty at face value (re: the likes of
Thomas Kinkade) should be at the very least a noble attitude to have. In new media or any medium. Should
the mission be of value, it will stand the weight of suns and the test of time. Or at least the scale of suns in
partition to an ADHD, expedited market place. The game will have a faint semblance of cult value. If not,
then Apparatus will probably function more similarly to the scale of human life against the multitudes of
galaxies. Maybe I hope for that. Maybe the concept calls for such failure. Then again, not a human soul has
seen the ending I have in store for Apparatus. Chevy the Cosmic will die. But he will go cosmic.



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{ In Conclusion }
I have focused my attentive efforts in this document to establishing innovative and unexpected
forms the indie game may take, from the viewpoint of two of my more accomplished works with In a
Permanent Save State and Story Generating Apparatus. I have brushed past the prospect of games as art,
considering the realm this paper is being conceived in, but I believe that conversation as a self-contained
identity is an exhausted one. Even beyond such scapegoats as ‘there are college courses on it now’ (from
Carnegie Mellon to my own old halls at the University of Nevada), the legality of the term (case Brown VS.
Electronic Merchants Association), or picking at the rudimentary walls thrown out prematurely by the late
Roger Ebert. Take into consideration a quote from a visiting theorist and artist into our ‘knowledge center’s’
Wells Fargo auditorium: Ian Bogost. “Lest one conclude that such examples are outlandish edge cases,
consider the artists who produced them: Duchamp, Piet Mondrian, Tzara, Yoko Ono, Jackson Pollock, Andy
Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Christo, Jeanne-Calude and Nam Jun Paik, respectively. All are celebrated
as major figures, whose status as artists would never be questioned. They demonstrate that “art” is hardly
a fixed and uncontroversial topic. Art has done many things in human history, but in the last century
especially, it has primarily tried to bother and provoke us. To force us to see things differently. Art changes,
its very purpose, we might say, is to change, and to change us along with it.” [41] In my humble and very,
very patient determination as of late, to proclaim a unified competition of what art should be is to cater to
an elitist manipulation which places well deserving expressions outside of the circle of adoration due to
personal, financial, or political reasons. I am done fighting the war that ‘games should be art’. If the
doomsayers in the heart of the desert still do not believe so, then in my response, ‘art cannot be games.’
Then perhaps the issue is not with confrontation, but on a social value, they are just so ‘unknown’.
I believe it to be substantial for developers and consumers of videogames alike to not only conceive the
blessing of en vogue it is granted as an expressive form, but even more the responsibility the form has of
dictating a main component of cultural status quo. As we have established, videogames are an ambiguous
mirror to the avant-garde movements of a century and some change prior. Of most notable highlight, I put
forth Surrealism which possesses the destructive aesthetic of Futurism and Dada without actually following
through on such juvenile promises. In a game, everything is a digitized warfare contained graciously in the
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shell of a plywood box, akin to Surrealist cinema. A key separation between the games of today and the
oddball, romantic potpourri of 1917 is that games can serve no meaning with sheer inventiveness and crazed
brush strokes alone. Digital games are canvases which need formality and structure to function before
motions such as Impressionism initiate. In layman's terms, radical statements and pretense for radicalism’s
sake are not too effective in a society of surveillance. To put a political play on words, a liberal game
developer may just be a conservative developer who had never witnessed a true creative crash or failure.
This goes for games' (for that matter, new media's) pretense as primary expression along with the
crowdsourced creations that occur every day in its wake. If the goal, as a developer, is to suggest an entry of
technique into the pantheon of innovative techniques, hundreds of artists now have that potential mapped
down on a diner napkin. A radical statement for the sheer purpose of being radical is as effective as
bludgeoning the child with cerebral palsy during flag football. First, it's a playground which videogames
essentially are, so there is no point in casting needless importance to a thing which is intermediate in nature
as a default. Second, the person often attempting radical techniques in art mostly makes the attempt for
subjective, aesthetic reasons so they can make them cleaner and more 'formal' later. As evident from the
title of this entire document in full, I am a proponent of all things fresh and of the moment as long as such
motives prove to sculpt a frontier for new meaning. When radicalism becomes less than its initial resolve to
knit a more positive functionality for society, from spectrums ranging across anti-war protest to the author
fabricating facts in a steroid scandal, its only purpose is to disrupt the author's immediate social perimeter.
For that matter, online social media interface. At which point, radicalism dissolves into a social clique of
pranking and flirtation. The advance guard was a Modernity in itself and thus responsible for actions. The
avant-garde with the backbone of Postmodernity without Modernity tends to be undisciplined and
unfocused. This is the challenge for videogames as they age, and so it may not die while aging: teach again
what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand times, throughout the millenniums of
mankind’s prudent folly. That is the hero's ultimate task. That is my task as a visual artist.



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Final Word Count: 19276 Pages: 51 (excluding cover page and bibliography); 43 in text, without images
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All images within are creations of the author or documentation of the author’s work, barring five sources. As follows, sources are: (1) http://
www.redeemedreader.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/heroesjourney.jpg , (2) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/
9006988/Mass-suicide-protest-at-Apple-manufacturer-Foxconn-factory.html , (3) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/business/global/foxconn-
riot-underscores-labor-rift-in-china.html?_r=0 , (4) http://thatgamecompany.com/wp-content/themes/thatgamecompany/
_include/img/journey/journey-game-screenshot-13.jpg , (5) http://www.esotericonline.net/group/buddhism/forum/topics/the-diamond-sutra