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Situationists and Pervasive Gaming

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The example drawn by Causey contrasts the illusion of Gulf War I – of cut together clips, narrators, and news packages – to the rolling embedded coverage of Gulf War II. ‘This is happening now’, the spectacle says, ‘there is no room for editing or cutting, we use embedded reporters, there is no room for simulation; this is reality’. In this age of celebrity and self-deluding X factor hopefuls, we no longer only find our desires maintained as needs, we find our dreams regulated too. This corruption of the data-flow of contemporary life extends beyond ‘reality TV’ to 24-hour rolling news, the advent of the ‘real-time’ and ‘social’ web. We are led to believe that the data we receive is live, uncut, and true. Through these tools the spectacle embeds itself in our lives. And in our Technoculture capitalism has a new currency: information. Facebook, Google, Youtube, we are now data packages, not only are we consumers, but we are consumed. It is the ‘interior body of the material subject’ where the battle for subjectivity must now be fought, in our selves.

A heavy task indeed, and a harder one as the remnants of reality are fundamentally altered rather than hidden by the spectacle. But we have a fight-back on our hands. The advent of the social-political online world, the wiki, and the prevalence of online gaming, also points towards a trend in narrative consumption and rebellion – this is the player as protagonist, everyone as editor, this is a gasp, a cry, a demand for the opportunity for us to eschew our bit-parts in the spectacle. To take control, to remake our selves, our surroundings, our ways of seeing.

This is the movement from audience to participant.

A new way of being is starting to emerge, it is imperative to bring the arts to that world to report from it. (Thompson 2009)

The situationists, I suggest, have provided us with the tools to deal with the spectacle, and phenomenology the way of seeing how we are embedded.

Phenomenology was the first movement to focus on the specific conditions of human embeddedness in an environment, and to make visible the phenomenon of the environment itself. (Moran 2002, 5)

Phenomenology emphasises “world-constituting consciousness” (Moran 2002, 22) – an understanding of world-constituting processes is important in order to examine all aspects of the spectacular world. Art is the realm of the double – of re-representation. Nowhere has this been truer than of the theatre. But it is also true, now, of a new world: the virtual.

In virtual worlds, technology is widely allowing us to reclaim the reporting of our world, to take control over data, our information. Online spaces must be reclaimed, prevented from being colonised. It may currently be a place where our data is bought and sold, but it is also a place where we can take control, trade data on our own terms.

The online world is deeply involved in new trends of narrative and world-constituting. We see echoes in the avatar/online game, of theatre’s actor/play, and on discussion and image boards – we find the void, anonymity.

Anonymity is fuelling subversive attempts to opt out of the organisation of myth, to bomb the spectacle. Just as the Angry Brigade of the 60s and 70s

Cultivated an image of a large, diffuse, and unidentifiable collection of dissenters: ‘The AB is the man or woman sitting next to you. They have guns in their pockets and anger in their minds.’

Now we are too many to know each other […]‘THEY COULD NOT JAIL US FOR WE DID NOT EXIST’ (Plant 1992, 126-7)

In the last century the situationists called for the

Invention of a new species of games. The most general aim must be to broaden the nonmediocre portion of life, to reduce its empty moments as much as possible. […] The situationist game stands out from the standard conception of the game by the radical negation of the ludic features of competition and of its separation from the stream of life. (Debord 2004, 45)

This is exactly what Pervasive Games do. Pervasive Gaming is a fluid term for location (often) urban-based games. The Pervasive Gaming collective Hide&Seek describe their work as “social games and playful experiences” (Hide&Seek 2010). They are somewhere between computer games, and the games you used to play as a child, they have also worked with pioneering theatre companies such as Punchdrunk on what they term ‘Multiplatform Immersive Theatre Experiences’ or MITE – using virtual and real worlds, and exploring narrative in the spaces between them.

In this study I am widening the definition of ‘Pervasive Gaming’ to include all performance strategies that involve augmenting personal or environmental reality from a player-as-protagonist perspective.

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