InitiativesBreaking The Game

In 2006, Workspace Unlimited together with Wayne Ashley developed Breaking the Game, a series of interdisciplinary workshops and online symposium that brought together competing theorists and practitioners to build, debate and reflect on virtual worlds, computer gaming, immersive technologies, and new possibilities for artistic practice and experience. Taking place both online and offline, the workshops opened up the art of game modification to the contingencies of everyday life, where virtual technologies increasingly mediate physical spaces and human movements in very complex and dynamic ways.

Networked across multiple cities, we organized the symposium around three core themes: “Hybridity”, “Overclocking the City” and “The Virtual as Interface to Self and Society.” We asked participants to consider gaming and other virtual technologies in relationship to building and designing cities, navigating and experiencing urban life, constructing identities, and creating and maintaining social interaction.

Architects, visual artists, filmmakers, choreographers, anthropologists and curators considered how these technologies and associated audio/visual cultures impact the work and ideas of their disciplines. For example, how might anthropological fieldwork and ethnography change if its practitioners had to create a 3D virtual world rather than an essay or a book; if anthropology’s disciplinary object was an updatable, media-rich, networked, and navigable space, rather than a text? How might online gaming and modification continue to challenge and expand the boundaries of filmmaking and public performance? How could the design and implementation of a “real” building have an ongoing relationship to its networked and virtual double? Can a public’s social interactions, exchanges, and modifications inside a virtual building impact the meaning, form, and function of the same building in real space? Breaking the Game hoped to inform and newly challenge the efforts of a growing community of artists and designers who mine the resources, code, and aesthetics of video games.

Finally, Breaking the Game asked: How might the symposium itself become re-mediated as a 3D networked virtual world? How can we play with, think about, and continue to debate the workshops’ themes inside this space, using the language, tools, protocols, software, and interactive possibilities of gaming culture and technology? In order to accomplish this, select participants were encouraged to explore their ideas in other media (a webpage, movie, animation, performance, a piece of software, or a series of digitally recorded interviews). Workspace Unlimited integrated these digital artifacts into a new virtual world, created in collaboration with a core team of students and practitioners. As a final challenge, the team led the last workshop session inside a 3D world, networked across several cities with participants from Rotterdam, Belgium, New York, Seattle, and elsewhere.