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Oct 28, 2005



We had a discussion here on TN a while back regarding the validity of throwing visual assets out there for unmediated perusal. While lacking significant text-based description, Robbie Cooper's work certainly exhibits a certain bias merely in the selection of exhibition participants (skewed in this case towards the less mundane and more interesting), but we can still take a lot away from the indvidual photos and screenshots, soaking in detail and nuance that an author might not think to describe in text. All of this then contributes to the larger context our brains develop around the social/psychological facets of gameplay, perhaps even behind the scenes, in the realm of unconscious thinking. I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink and thinking a lot about my own propensity to 'think without thinking'. My overarching conclusions are coloured by such a range of data, both consciously and sub-consciously intergrated... which is how I rationalise, I suppose, soaking up so much seemingly irrelevant stuff - someday it might find its way into a holistic view. To answer Julian's question more directly, images do absolutely complicate text-versions, but in a necessary way that gives credence to the role of audience as interpreter as well as the heretofore sacred interpretation of the skilled scholarly practitioner. I see it all as part of the larger shift towards more participatory media (and more collective approaches to academia?). In Robbie's case, he can leverage this predeliction and create a visceral and persuasive images-only case (whether he realises it or not) for the acceptance of diversity in MMO environments. But he's an artist - perhaps it would be wrong of a scholar to do the same thing?

BTW, I have a selection of photos to share, too. All sorts of game-related stuff from China, Japan and South Korea. Maybe some of you all can extract information or meaning that I'm likely to miss.


Thats an interesting point about the acceptance of diversity in MMO environments. I'm surprised that some MMO players seem to find it unsettling to see people that they don't associate with these games being displayed. The selections that you see online and in articles are edits intended to make the project appealing to those covering the project. The book will have many more images. "Ordinariness" is very interesting to me and I don't intend to leave that out. But you also have to bear in mind that with so many different cultures participating in these games, what you might think of as being exotic is bound to be present. The Indian film industry uses parts of England and Switzerland to film dream sequences. What is exotic to some people is mundane to others. And somehow, if you display a shot of a guy in a business suit and huge pebble-thick glasses, next to his text avatar of a description of an elf, it becomes exotic. Or at least it does to me!


Personally I think that the real life in any form of art exists in the moment when you engage with it on an emotional level. Your intellect can tell you why that connection occurred and, of course, that process is very important. But for me there's a little bit of magic involved that explanation can't recapture. People who're completely unrelated and unfamiliar with the world of games and MMO's are moved by the images from Alter Ego. Maybe living, as we do, in a world where identity and community are fluid and rapidly changing, theres something in there that speaks to quite a wide audience. Alot of people outside of the world of games have talked to me about the persona's they use in different social contexts- after looking at the images. It would be great if the project helps to heighten people's awareness of diversity and complexity amongst gamers and even in ordinary life generally!

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