web - Provocative Play – FACT 2024 Symposium
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Tue 27 Feb 2024

Provocative Play – FACT 2024 Symposium

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How are artists, designers, and makers using games to help us explore alternative ways of individual and collective being?

Games and the technologies that are used to construct and play them are now used in the production of theatre, film and dance, and orchestras regularly perform game scores. The popularity of Gabrielle Zevin’s best-seller Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (2022) has recently brought the behind the scenes ‘making of’ indie games into the book club mainstream, with a film adaptation in the works. As we collectively move through the mid 21st century, how are artists, designers, and makers using games to help us explore alternative ways of individual and collective being?


Professor Deb Polson (RMIT University), Dr Johnson Witehira (Indigenous Design and Innovation Aotearoa), Vidya Rajan (writer, performer, artist), Jarra Karalinar Steel (artist)

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Watch the video with graphic notations by Jessamy Gee

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Hi everyone, my name is Deb Polson, I'm from RMIT, I'm the Professor of Digital Design and also a Director of a brand new centre called the Centre for Digital Ecosystems which isn't quite launched yet so please don't ask any questions. But today we've got this amazing panel around provocative play and essentially we're looking at how games teams and games engines and game approaches can be adopted in non-game context and what that means for us and how they can be agents for change. One of the common things for all of our speakers I've realised through talking with them is that what we do through play is smuggle in the hard stuff, right? So our games aren't about overcoming tasks to save a princess or win a race, we've got other motivations and for games, games have motivation mechanics, agency levels, adoption processes and progress algorithms. So how do we adopt these sorts of things to tell different types of stories and how do we make unwinnable games as well, like not all games can be won especially when you're looking at climate crisis. So the way we view video games is that their world is usually interactive and how you play in these worlds is limited by the rules designed by the makers of that world. Does that sound familiar? Does that not just sound like life, right? Like we all live in a world of rules made by people we've never met. So in a way a game is just a slice of that life and telling one's story but what it does is helps us concentrate on a story to be told by a designer or an artist. And so today we've got this amazing collection of artist designers. Now all three of them reject labels and titles so I'm going to let them introduce themselves. We struggled, we struggled to say exactly what they are and I totally get that because we are what we need to be at any given time. So we've got Johnson Witerhira from Wellington, Aotearoa and he'll be talking after me and what we'll do is just give you a bit, just a quick presentation to show you our practice as a way to contextualise the questions. So bear that in mind, we're going to try and give you just a snapshot of the sorts of things we do. So what we might do is I'm just going to kick off with some of the practice I've done in games for the last three decades and one of the first games I ever made was with ACMI and there's people in this room who made that game with me, I just didn't know who this is and it was a game in place. So if we go to my first slide, I didn't really know what I was going to talk about today so what I normally do is just throw a whole bunch of work on slides and then figure out what I'm going to talk about on the day when I've listened to all these other wonderful talks which were just marvellous. So I'm just going to talk a little bit about the kinds of work I do, it's always with small games teams, so normally with me as a game designer, a games programmer, a technical artist, usually a UI person and a sound designer and they're all here today, my team, hi everyone. So basically we, small teams, no project takes longer than a year and they're all made as part of an academic process so usually on the side. So none of the games you see, don't expect to see slickness of an entertainment game because we have six months, three months and low budgets to make these sorts of things so in that context, small teams over small amounts of time with very small resources. So the first type of game I make, a lot of the games I make are games in place and really they're about kind of, but also they sort of transform that place and one of the games we're working on right at the moment, do that clip, is it's with a partner, industry partner who owns a lot of the buildings in the city and in regions and what we were thinking about was we make inside out games so we make a world in a virtual world and then we present that back in a physical space and what we're trying to do is instead of making these kind of wow things in a, maybe in a museum or anything, what we're trying to do is transform people's everyday mundane spaces and not just to be delightful but also once they've seen the delight, how do we then challenge them into a more contemplative state in their everyday places? So one of the ones we're making at the moment in this transition, Ugly, we talk about making ugly spaces beautiful worlds and this was the one page pitch I gave them and we got funding from, just these two images, that's it. And we've made this world, well Iris who was here and Caleb made this world, a technical artist, a games programmer and we basically made a world of a virtual forest and I know, I know why make a virtual forest, the real ones are better, totally agree. But this is about reminding people in place what is lost and what is at risk and we've made this beautiful world and then what we do is we go and scan the physical place and put that physical world in the virtual one and then work out how to make that. So for example this is a pretty bland, awful transition space from the chaos of the city in a car park where you're probably going to fight with someone and basically we project these worlds on there and they're interactive and we've got this idea that when you go in that elevator you're inside a tree and as you're going up and down you're going up and down inside that tree and you're also learning about the local forest. So this forest is based on a lot of the things that we have observed in the Lilydale area, the forest around there. And you know we make these interactive so we put sensors like floor, just basic industrial radar scanners that know where people are and basically as you walk past you rustle trees, you disturb bees. So there's these little delightful things but then there's going to be some messaging in there about the forest themselves. But my favourite thing about doing games in place, and sorry to talk really fast, I've got a big counter, Familiar Strangers is one of my favourite things. Like when I first made the game with ACMI I understood what it might take, how a game can motivate strangers to cooperate and to compete in a space, in a public space together. How do you help people cross that threshold together and become Familiar Strangers? So I sort of based it on something like battleships, I know sorry, but basically what this game was is there's a projection of this ship is going down at sea and you're basically in this control zone and as you walk around on this grid. So basically there's the ship and there's like fires breaking out and water spouting and you have to go and run and hold onto that and stamp out the fire or hold the water as a robot comes on the boat and fixes it up. But then there's a cooperative moment where the Kraken is awoken and this Kraken arm comes up and waves around and everyone has to line up to protect the ship as the Kraken arm comes down. But also what happens in this sensor environment here, it can tell how many people are in there. So it makes the challenge fun for one person or 20 people. So it builds its capacity for cooperation and what I love about these two is there's usually more people spectating than are playing. So you're creating a spectacle as well and you're also creating a lot of noise and one thing I did realise when I first worked with ACMI and NGV, these institutions actually want noise and vibrancy in their spaces. So I kind of took that quite seriously. So this gets pretty noisy but it's just really basic. It's just sensors on the floor, projected world. I'm going to scoot through. This is a much bigger version of that and ask me later if you want to know about that project. But this one here was a much bigger zone using the same whole theatre was covered in sensors and you went to this virtual world. So but one of my other things, other than familiar strangers, is the extreme collaborations you can do through games. So the Beatles wouldn't have been successful if they were all drummers. My team is so sick of hearing that. But it's really, really true. So if you kind of, I've collaborated with a lot of different people and showing them how games, so this one is one I worked with plant biologists and nutritionists and I basically made you know when you can go into a world and you can kind of customise an outfit or a car. So this is going in and basically I've learnt everything you need to know about plant biology and plant growth and you basically create a fruit. It's infinite. You come up with its segments, its seed placements, its colour, its texture and where the segments fall and what height and protrusion rate they're at. And basically I then went, well and then we have a machine learning behind it that comes up with its likeliness. So there's a banapsicum, part banana, part capsicum and it comes up with the genetic changes you'd make to get that fruit. All right. Then I thought why, why try and plant this? Why not just print it? So then I worked with the materials scientists who came up with an agar solution for 3D printers and we printed when a kid comes in and makes a fruit they can print it out and then eat it and they can also digest whatever nutrients they're lacking. So in some parts of the country it was potassium, some parts it was magnesium so we would smuggle in the nutrients. And that got a lot of attention and we made that in like three months because it really is just extreme collaboration, making sure you get all the data and then put it together. This is a VR world where kids in hospitals, so we went with hospitals, they put on the VR, suddenly their room fills with water, their bed turns into a boat and they play games with other kids all alone in hospital rooms. My family likes that at Christmas, that story. I've worked with Marvel as well to come up with a visualisation of their massive 90-year-old universe. I basically come up with the films and the characters and then you can explore what the characters' connections are like who shares skills, who shares origins, who shares artefacts. I am the Marvel whisperer. And Marvel studio executives now use this when people are onboard Marvel so they can see what the vast universe is. But the really interesting thing about this was seeing it in GOMA in Brisbane and watching how people perform their status of knowledge with these sorts of things, which is really, really nice. And that's how people play games too, is they sort of perform status in it a lot of the times And then I just took that model and QUT asked me could I do it for researchers? Who are their partners? What are their methods? What kinds of themes and thematic areas they work in? And we could find connections across those. Thea will be very upset with me showing that. And I'm just going to work with fashion designers to come up with a system where they digitise their fashion and then it gets shown on big screens for people to interact with, like I did with Marvel. Basically, you stand in front of this screen. You overtake the Iron Man or someone else. This was so fun to watch because either people dabbed, but whenever the Hulk came on, for some reason everyone Cossack danced. It was so weird. It was like constant. There was constant patterns there. Anyway, I'm down to my last minutes, but some games are hard to win. This is my favourite one that I've made. This is for cotton farmers to change the kinds of pesticides they use in their practice. Basically they set their priorities. What is your environmental priority? What is your effort? What is your yield? And these are cognitive values. This is their values they set up there. And then it runs a whole season and it tells them according to their values which pesticide they should be using. What the farmers work out very quickly is, I've either got to change my values or my pesticide. Ergonomists use this to go around to farmers and change the sorts of pesticides they're using. We made this in six months and it's actually changing what toxins go into the waterways in Queensland. So these are the kinds of things that some games can do. So I'm not, we're doing another one plastic, so I just rambled then. But basically I just wanted to show you kind of how one team can produce, kind of can collaborate with a lot of different people using one game engine to create these different types of experiences and tell these different stories. And it goes from not just visualising complexity of systems or playing around with the connections between those systems or experimenting with decision consequences. It's actually about helping them take action. So that cotton game for example, at the end of the game you print out your order for the year. So you actually now have an order system at the end of what pesticides you're getting throughout the season. So that's me. And I think I'm going to hand over to Johnson to talk a little bit about his practice and then we'll just kind of do a ten minute introduction each and then we'll go into some questions. So thanks very much, Johnson. Kia ora tātou, nga mihi o te ata nei. Ko te mahi tōtahi, mihi atu ana o iwi hau kainia. Ki iro ni i tērā, mihi atu ana o ki Bill Nicholson, he kai kōrero. Just to first, a little acknowledgement to the people of the land here and to Uncle Bill for welcoming us into this amazing space. Secondly I'm acutely aware that I'm a panel with three other waihine, with three other women, so I need to make sure that I acknowledge the other amazing people I'm on the stage here with. I'm going to try and talk slowly for ten minutes. I'm going to kind of just really focus on one creative project and in some ways how the stars align for me to end up creating a video game. And I'll talk a little bit I guess about the longer journey for me into this space. So as a student in high school finishing up around 99 I wanted to be a game designer. I was obsessed with games. I remember going to my neighbours who had computers and knocking on their door. I didn't even know them and asking if I could play their computer because I could see they had one through their window and they'd let me play it. I'd be this random kid in their house playing the computer. So I think some of my friends around that age maybe the relationships were formed because I found out at school that they had computers and I could play games with them. So I was very obsessed with computers but you know video games you know being able to I guess be a game developer that wasn't even a thing in the curriculum. There was software, there was programming, that didn't sound very sexy. I really loved art and I really loved this digital stuff and because I couldn't do video games and when I looked at art I thought I want to get paid before I die. So I saw graphic design. I kind of went to this open day of my last year of school, found this amazing design school and I thought okay this is really cool it combines technology and computers with art. You know there's two things I've got a real interest in. So I started there, I started at graphic design school and I thought I can learn the skills to make art and maybe later on I can come around to making art. So I went on this long journey through design which I absolutely love. There's kind of three versions of me these days. There's designer Johnson, artist Johnson and formerly still got a toe in academic space Johnson but it started with designer version of me. Went through very traditional graphic design skill you know learned about typography and Swiss and Bauhaus and German design and all those wonderful things you know about that European design lineage which I'm still fascinated with I'm still a typography nut. But I started going through that process I guess realising firstly there was only three of us out of 200 students who were Māori at my school in New Zealand. There was something kind of missing there and also looking at old photo albums in my house and realising that the only thing that was Māori in the photos was the people and as someone learning about designing, trying to do design I thought it was like I was in the matrix you know I started to develop a bit of a twitch I think because the only place I'd see my culture you know is at our Marae some of you will be familiar with our meeting houses and those things and around that time I started to make my mission in life is how do I make everything in New Zealand and Aotearoa more Māori how do I bring my Māori culture to everything. At the same time I've always recognised my pākehā my like a European British Scottish ancestry as well you know those aren't things I try and hide away or that I'm not proud of either you know for me it's this journey of bringing those things together. So went through graphic design school did my masters which was a gestalt based analysis of Māori carving to try and understand the principles and elements in Māori design. I thought I was really clever took that over to Māori visual arts school to do my doctorate realised that a gestalt based analysis of your cultural history is a very European way to put a lens over what you were studying so I had a bit of a process of decolonising I guess you know my the way I understood and looked at Māori art and design and then I went to my doctorate and there I was just really interested again in how I might articulate and kind of develop Māori principles for thinking about and talking about design because there were no guides for me we've got heaps of carvers we've got heaps of weavers we've got heaps of ta moko tattoo artists like highly skilled experts with a ton of Mātauranga Māori like this massive knowledge base but for someone doing like designing a typeface designing toys you know and this particularly in graphic design where we know it mixes into this commercial space there was nothing there to really guide me so I ended up going from this traditional graphic design space over to a contemporary Māori art school luckily enough getting to know Bob Yankee as my supervisor some of that mahi for some of you who know Bob and there I was able to work a lot with Māori artists and Māori communities and to be supported by them to start to explore things initially though I just became the in-house graphic designer so everyone's catalogues ended up designing they designed a typeface as part of that work but later on I came around again to making art and making design I'm sorry making art and bringing these tools I'd learned from design into that practice this clicker can all work let's see I'm pointing out yeah I'm just I just want to show you you've seen an image up there do you want to come give me your hand just there oh here we go it's slowly going through so these are just there's just a couple more stills and I'm going to show you a little video from this playable artwork I made in 2000 and around 2016 but I've just continued to iterate it and build on different platforms but when it came around it was I had a side conversation with a curator about this idea to make a playable artwork and the reason I wanted to do it is you know my whānau my family they didn't take me to galleries or museums the art I engage with was in comic books and in video games and I thought well here's a cool tool can I just use this to try and make some art as a way to engage with Māori you know as a way to gauge with communities where I know they're not going to these spaces but it's something we can we can kind of play with I thought art's a really kind of fun and provocative kind of space that I can kind of do things and twist things around a little bit be a bit Māori and would say you know be a little bit more adventurous and so I made this I made this kind of parallel playable artworks as part of the show and one of them you play a Māori character one of them you play a missionary and in each of them you arrive in Aotearoa New Zealand and you go across the landscape and an interact with things in different ways I'll see if I can get this video playing and I'll just because I think the this is the thing that really seems to pique people's attention and this was the the artwork we play a missionary figure arriving in Aotearoa this is about two and a half minutes so it's perfect and I'll narrate some of this and you can watch some of this but you know whakapapa is really important to me so genealogy and making sure my art practice is really connected to the history of Māori art making from the 1830s to 70s there was this real growth of Māori painting in our carved meeting houses and there was a really there's really beautiful paintings of figures throughout so I use those as a basis to generate these figures then when people look at these they think I've made them to look like this really you can see where they come from so you can play this literally play this like my own brothers the missionary is picking up tongues that's so that he can make a Māori bible and colonise us faster so he can kind of power up and this is a really gross oversimplification right of the Māori engagement but what was useful is in the gallery space this tricked people into the art they would wander over to it they would pick up the controls and just start playing with it and a lot of Māori would say this was fun but I'm real conflicted because I was just colonising myself as I was as I was playing through this artwork you know andfor me I liked that you know some didn't like it you know in the in the parallel artwork where you're a Māori character arriving you go across the landscape clubbing seals and whales and things because that's also what happened and this elder said to me that she didn't like that she didn't want to bring her grandchildren to play this game and I said you might not like it but it's what happened and I said I think you should be worried about them playing Grand Theft Auto you know rather than worry about the kind of content in here but yeah I just realised that there was so magic in this when so much magic when people would kind of walk up start engaging with it start playing with it and then start having kind of deep reflections on what was happening and what they were kind of doing throughout this this little one's almost at the end if you can see they become the Māori figures become lighter their clothing changes obviously our tā moko you know our tattooed faces change and all these sorts of things almost Thomas this is based on Thomas Kendall a really well-known missionary and some of more of our I guess prominent institutions turned into different institutions and got merged into other sorts of institutions as well so it was it was funny for me this long process thank you going from the years of graphic design to making all these things and when I finally made this I'm like I finally made it to make that game design stuff I wanted to do as a teenager now I'm on the New Zealand Game Developers Association for video games as the voice for Māori in that space but yeah it's just it's really exciting it's really fun the way you can kind of invert things and create and they're really engaging so yeah kia ora koutou hello hope everyone's going well so despite this shameless avatar of myself um it's actually my nightmare to talk about myself especially my practice because it requires you to have a degree of self-knowledge that I find threatening but let's have a go so this is a still from a work a video work that's part of a larger work I made that I'll talk about a bit later but it's basically a representation of growing up online in the noughties and how that felt to me and I think it's a cool place to start because unlike you I didn't uh grow up with this sort of burning desire to be a game developer or with my eye on that and I've been thinking about why mostly prompted by this talk um again too much too much reflection but I think it's because when something's like air you're not really thinking about it so you know I was a casual gamer and it was very online as a kid but yeah it wasn't it wasn't like something I considered my direction as part of my practice my kind of where I started and what is still part of oh is it this one still part of like a large part of my work is in theatre and I've done a lot of text based theatre which is like your more traditional plays this is a still from a red stitch show this is from our brandy at the malt house thank you last year and those are like kind of things where you prepare a script and you hand it off to a director and then you turn up on opening and then you see it but my actual training in theatre and the form that I really love and continue to practice and experiment with is this might sound a bit cultural studies lecture for a bit so bear with me but it's called contemporary performance and I know that's a term that many people are familiar with this is a still from a UK company called forced entertainment who I've been really influenced by and I'm just going to talk about some characteristics of this form of making and training and I think the game devs in the room might be like oh you're talking about the same thing we do but it took me a long time to understand that so contemporary performance is kind of a form of performance that unlike traditional theatre which is often a narrative is not really interested in the three act structure so much as starting from a point of an idea or an experience to explore and how that makes people feel and how to escalate the concept of something rather than actually finish a story in a really linear way it's also very interested in liveness and that's a huge part of my work and by liveness I guess it's the acknowledgement that we're all in this space together the audience are a really important part of the work in fact they're essential to completing it and so audience agency is something that I've been thinking about a lot from the time I started making again parallel there with gaming it's also something that has I think an innate politics it comes out of like a very political movement in the 60s sort of about relational understanding and the systems we're working in and a lot of the methodology you use to create this work is basically games and play-based making so often we'll be in the room we'll create structures with rules to break or to see what kind of relationships develop through them what ideas develop through them and sometimes like this this show for instance the whole show is a like a Q&A with the audience so that's like a structure and how do you break that structure and we often use that even like to devise the work itself yeah so that's kind of and that that form of playfulness is really important when you're making it and playfulness with collaborators and a real sense of like non-hierarchy in the room and the fact that the work is better because to play something you often need you need more than one person so a lot of my work's been influenced by that a lot of my indie theatre is comes from that form and so a lot of my early works were I guess exploring if we're talking about like rules and systems like what are the rules of the body when it walks on stage what is the difference for the rules for like white femme queerness or brown femme queerness yeah what's inter-Asian uh dialogue and how does that relational understanding manifest and then playing games with the audience as we go I've also worked a lot in comedy evidence and comedy is a kind of like a subset of this form it relies on the audience it relies on being very responsive and there are also rules that you kind of break or like try and escalate there as well um yeah and sometimes you're bitten by a swan a few years ago I made this participatory artwork called The Lizard is Present and I don't know if people know but the artist Marina Abramovic she did this famous artwork called The Artist is Present where she sat opposite like celebrities in a gallery and stared at them and they stared back and they cried and you know I'm sure it was very moving but uh for some reason the phrase Marina Abramovic got stuck in my head and this was and this is the result and I think I was thinking about like the deification of celebrity artists and and and just the art world and how venal and corrupt it can be and basically at the time I didn't think of it this way but what I ended up creating was an ARG like an alternate reality game and it was sort of this this durational performance that like took place first of all these happenings around like the creeks in Melbourne and like people would just start participating in it and it went on for a year and ultimately we also got like serious art critics to write about it like it was real which is like part of the play of it and yeah eventually ended up in this like massive gala uh where people walked the green carpet and like were tweeting about it and I think what this really opened up for me was this idea of creating play in yeah that was green face creating play in different modes so like the people who were online were finding different games to play there and people who were IRL in the gala had their own thing going on and it was also like a really interesting way of yeah starting a cult in a sense and like understanding how how to get people in real time at that level and in those many modes sort of collaborating on world building in a way that's delightful so I guess oh yeah and that happened uh I guess I want to talk a bit about the internet but I don't know how much time I have I guess the internet's always been a big part of my work even the stuff that's been a bit more like just stage based this was a show about like uh cat fishing basically as a game through the mode of Pikachu and Pokemon Go as the pandemic began and I think this would have happened anyway I guess like a lot of our work went online and I started to do more like performance work that was situated completely in the online sphere or brought like online elements into real space uh this was a work for dancers where they were controlled by live scrolling remotely and then I made like because the pandemic kept going I I got commissioned to make a game and I never actually realised I'd never made one just for the browser or digitally and it's just a twine game called real time cancellation adventure it's still up at liminal magazine and I had the best time doing it you basically play as somebody on your way to receive a very coveted mentorship from a woman of colour but she's cancelled along the way like on the tram on your way there and you have to take a side but obviously things go really wrong what I found really interesting when I was sitting there like coding this was like how it reminded me so much of actually the kind of ways I made performance the sort of how I was thinking about the audience how I was thinking about affect and movement as we went through it there was also a rat then I decided to like focus more on browser based work and this is probably like one of the major things I've made recently it's called in search of lost scroll and it's a speculative fiction game slash I don't know performance artwork that's fully for the browser and I was really interested in examining how in the future like what happens to data ethics and I just had this position of myself being turned into a bot and all my data like used to basically help people chat in an old folks home because that's probably what my tweets would be good for so you play as somebody and I've decided to also I want to die so my bot asks you to delete it and you kind of have to decide whether you want to do that or not and as you do the internet glitches and we kind of like travelled through basically a time machine of the last 15 years of growing up online yeah there's I have put if you want to if you can get your phone out before this ends in the next minute uh there's a QR code where you can talk to me and yeah I will ask you to delete me but and that will launch you into the game so it's just uh it may be a bit confusing but you may just want to talk we trained it on like too many tweets too many embarrassing tweets uh and a few people have actually thought it was me sitting there talking to them which is not actually very flattering and at the moment I guess now that I've I feel like my brain has dissolved the boundaries between even thinking of separate forms or spaces for my work so I've started to work more deliberately with game developers and this is a work that I'm making for Arts House that will hopefully go up next year and it literally maps like smashes the two forms that I'm interested in together we use like an audition process for actors uh and map it onto like generating mocap avatars but like that's the mechanic I can explain that more when we're sitting down and I'm also making something for ACMI which is for games weekend I'm actually now that I'm thinking about I'm not sure if I'm supposed to show this just yet so I'll keep I'll keep going I'll go back somehow uh yeah we can go back to that but yeah that's with a developer called Ian McLaudy and that's been a really interesting process as well of working from someone's more technical instincts and then bringing kind of I guess my interactive understanding of things and we're making a slot machine that's a bit weird yeah so that's that's sort of where I'm at at the moment if you missed out there you go thanks Hi all, this is my nightmare so bear with me. Yeah, and I'm not very organised with this so I'm just gonna wing it, okay. So my name is Jarra Karalinar Steel, I'm Boonwurrung, Wemba Wembain and Trawlwoolway. Wominjeka to the land of my ancestors you are currently on. I am someone who has done a lot of different random things when it comes to the creative arts you know I've been I've studied fashion design costume theatre props set construction I've done film I've I used to design websites when I was a kid which is I realise now is actually I designed them as games and I didn't realise at the time unfortunately GeoCities doesn't exist anymore so I can't show you all these amazing little magical moments of the late 90s that I created and now realising oh that was a thing this work uh that I'm showing you uh of a previous work that existed uh that now is thankfully gone for I don't know hopefully a long time but it's up to the councils I guess using my augmented reality possum spirit so this was done during uh the 2020 uh first lockdowns I was studying my masters of public art how do you create public art uh in a lockdown basically was a thing so I had been wanting to do augmented reality for a long time um and so I created these kind of possum spirits was sort of the design was based on a dead possum I found and I just kind of built that from there and then I got uh all my friends and whoever was interested to take that 3D model use Adobe Aero to take that possum spirit wherever they were or their little special spots or their you know I had one friend who was in Brooklyn New York and took it from their rooftop while they were locked inside so that was really an interesting project and I think the collaboration of working with an audience was really something that I really enjoyed uh and I always have fun with my little possum spirits, my walert murrup which I didn't put in here but there's also physical forms of it in Stephenson's Lane right next to section 8 and 30 Dirk if you want to see some physical ones at night I also have them in this game that was a collaboration with playable Melbourne and it was for the Clarendon Street Arcade uh I did all these designs a big part of my work is actually doing you know my own versions of designs from uh southeast Kulin nations my Boon Wurrung heritage because we don't see that enough and that comes from us so I included that in this work as well as my possum my walert marups and my mother did the languages so you take little possum and there's four players and you go on a journey to uh discover language and it will mum will speak speak it back to you and it just goes on but the more people that come in uh the sounds kind of blend together and it becomes an orchestra which is really beautiful uh it's called Yawa which means journey in in Kulin sorry I'm just I'm not good at this so hopefully I get through this so there's another photo of people enjoying it uh thanks to Troy for sending that to me last night and then this work was uh more recent this was a projection piece that I did for now another with that was curated by experimenter they were basically like we really want to support you in doing something interesting I've worked on like a lot of 3D models and stuff like that and uh so we kind of animated this and I worked with uh the VU Hive Lab to help animate it in After Effects and uh I wish I could have put a video in this because it's what it is is sort of like a poem in a way so you have the what I see is dancing ancestors and then these flowers and it slowly reveals like I am I am my ancestors I am my ancestors revenge so that idea is basically you know taking back you know these spaces using the tools which you know the intergenerational labour of my mother and my my grandmother and my great great grandmother you know Louisa Briggs and just sort of going hey I'm going to put these things in space where they belong because this is in docklands on our country and this these are some of the elements of the piece so I created this for ACMI's 2020 NAIDOC week also during lockdown and they're just like with my possum spirits and the flowers that I used I also had an art tram in 2021 uh and then after that I became the curator of the Rising Melbourne Art Trams and I've done it for the last three years and it's been really special because not only do I get to uh work with incredible artists here in Victoria that are from my community but I get to showcase them and and show a different side of what Aboriginal art can be on a public you know it's probably one of the most successful forms of art in the city because it goes everywhere and it's movable and you know especially when this was out it was right before the May lockdown and uh you know I was getting messages from people who were like I'm really struggling and this brought a bit of sunshine my day so the trams have been really special to me look out for the new lot in June and the ones currently on the tracks now and yeah so uh this was a really special moment uh we have I have a bunch of large scale public art pieces in language around the city uh they're permanent pieces this was part of Flash Forward I think it was 2021 I can't remember days anymore and this is you on country because I you know I think we forget that yes it is a city it's built up but it's still sacred land it's still country I have so many people like you know a lot of my community be like I'm going out to country and I'm like I'm already here like this is country for me and uh there's other works there's actually four in the series one of them is still not out yet but I've been assured that they're fixing it and it's gonna be out in April and that'll be really special but they're around and I think you can find more information on that uh on Flash Forward's website this was a piece I did for ACMI's How I See It uh which was open during the early part of last year the idea around this was one I wanted to do a game and I wish I saw your arcade game uh previous because that would be like oh awesome uh so yeah and I grew up going to arcades a lot like there used to be a time zone on Burke Street and I wasn't allowed to go in the ones on Russell Street because you know like people would you walk past there and be trying to get you to get drugs and stuff and my mum and dad like no so we'd always go to the time zone and I kicked my brother's ass in uh Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat until he got better and so I wanted to bring that kind of nostalgia of an arcade uh into the ACMI space using my own visual iconography I collaborated on the game uh with Charlotte Allingham who did the beautiful artwork in Dolly and we inserted like people from like kind of a Malaga like that's mum actually the redhead but uh others were sort of amalgamation of people that we had in our community like aunties and uncles and stuff like that and the idea was like to be in a world that is it's Melbourne but it's a it's a future where our culture and art and our our existence is taken more seriously and inserted into the country so there's parts where you know you get off the tram and you walk past Tanderrum Square you know why is it called Fed Square like you know I know it was launched during Federation but you know Tanderrum Square you know the statue of Flinders is no longer down there you know St Paul's is gone sorry uh you know and uh I had the I had some patterns inscribed onto the machine it's somewhere in storage here hopefully they'll tour it again one day and the statement for them it was just a game and for us it was life is kind of a two thing oh sorry I'm so slow on this uh but it's sort of like how our gameplay isn't taken seriously but also the way that governments use our cultures and our connections to country is a game for them so one minute where you know it's born in a wrong country and suddenly it's not uh so that was a big thing and a part of that and then I've done augmented reality art sorry I will finish up soon thank you with Troy Innocent and the 64 Ways of Being Troy was great to work with and has been a really good collaborator and you can take a little tour and mum tells the story of the area and you kind of can do a little walk with augmented reality game uh and that's it so thank you. Wow that was fantastic so we had some questions that we kind of shared but I think we've covered a lot of it but is there anything more you might want to say about what kind of aspects or attributes or mechanics aesthetics of play and games like why games why why are you adopting them in your practice? I'll jump in there like one of the things I I found I learned was how hard it is to make a bloody game you know I'd made lots of video art made lots of projected art and I thought I'll just make a playable artwork you know it won't be that hard make some characters make them do stuff it was so hard took so long and you know and for it I knew that for it to work that had for the magic to work it had to look and feel and function like a real like a polished game I've never had to like play-test artworks before you know I was never been this kind of technical nightmare it's like I was like when I the first time I tried to design a typeface I was like oh easy it's just a font you know it's just these letters and it took me like two years to figure out how to do it so yeah I learned a lot about how to make games I don't know if I'll ever do one again I thought sadly I play games about once a month these days because I'm just too busy doing all this other adult stuff you know so I thought I it's almost like I had to make a game so I had a chance to play some games so yeah. But what about what might you take from that you might not make a game using a game engine again but what might you take from that that might segue into other parts of your practice like I love this thing of like you know a personal game has to become communal when you need to work out how to use different technologies and things. I just it's probably two things one was it's a really useful way to extend to an audience beyond the gallery and there was one really reason you know I mentioned earlier I really want to make it as I could have art go out beyond this gallery space even though I love working in it and I guess in terms of the practice it was the other thing was games are a really useful way to trigger one to make it into into engaging with really complex and really challenging ideas so I'll try and I guess I'd probably really try and take those forward. I think that was common across and I think that what you were talking about in terms of taking them out of the museum context but it's even taking them out of the game publication context as well so Jarra you also do games in place as well like what did you learn about the sort of the the opportunities and limitations of kind of games and play in place in that kind of way? I think for me I think it's partly like you know I'm a bit of a jack of all trades so I can learn a bit about everything but not having like the exact skills to like you know do the thing I want to do which is great though because as I've you know built my practice I've learned I can work with people and I'm not in isolation all the time with my work and I've made incredible people in my life and you know through I didn't mention it but working with GUCK who you know I can be like hey I want to do this thing let's do it and Troy also has been a really great supporter in that as well you know I I've come kind of a long journey to get to games which is something sorry I know it's not your question but you know it's something I've always wanted to do but like you there was no one there was no access to game making in the you know when I graduated in 20 uh uh well it was 2001 everyone was pushing us into tech and I could code and I made websites and I could do all these things but I was like I don't want to do that everyone's going to tech there won't be jobs and I was right and I also wanted to do creative arts because everyone got you know there was too many of us and you know I just there wasn't opportunities and I think as well you know when you're you don't have that and you don't have belief in those things and you have big pictures it can be hard and you make them in the background but so make getting into games now has been really exciting yeah sorry if I yeah sorry I'm really tired today yeah I'm I mean the wonderful thing about you know I I got to watch you watch others play your game in Clarendon Street and that was really interesting that thing I think we mentioned also you know when you put stuff out in public has to be vigorous enough and rigorous enough to withstand the scrutiny on all kinds of levels you know the technical levels the all those kinds of levels and I guess Vidya when you're putting yourself in the performance as well that's even more so right yes I guess so I feel like the last few things that I've made I haven't had to be there either because they lived online or I'm working with other actors or performers or it just runs on its own like this recent thing that I wasn't supposed to talk about but yeah I I I think yeah you but it's a thing of like I guess in what you call in games on like emergent play and like the actor is just another element or the body or the person's another element of that and so like as long as you're present you can't go wrong as long as you've built like a performance machine or a game structure around it because that's just what that's what the intention of the game is to respond to that person yeah does that make sense totally yeah totally makes sense now and we've got also some questions which align with some of the questions we were kind of considering as well one of them was about how you know because a lot of us don't use games as they're designed to be used we kind of adopt adapt hack them to do what we need them to do so I guess like how can artists institutions groups sort of adopt kind of not even not just game technologies but game approaches play approaches play mechanics to to to move towards positive and even more radical kind of change within systems diversify your team a little bit also I think uh you know there's still a lot of misogyny within the games industry and a lot of racism as well and especially like I have you know there's a lot of games out there that you know they want to use our culture and our art and stuff like that and then they'll bring on someone as a kind of consultant or a young person who doesn't have the ability to know when they can say no or something like that and then it ends up being black cladded rather than us being able to create our own games and that's a big problem within the industry but also like you know they're going oh but there's no one out there to do that because there's no opportunities so we need to do more mentorship programs where people are paid to attend uh more opportunities to reach young people sooner to get into the industry to learn how to do these things because those skills are transferable throughout any industry but I think that's a big part of it and also compassion and I know this is a is a industry where you have to go go go you know there's little money there's little there's even little amount of time but you know especially when it comes to our community the work that I've done with GARC is we deal with so much intergenerational trauma deaths griefs and you know systems where we've had employment trauma that all compiles and stops progressive games and you have to have the ability to go okay let's stop let's not push this you know and it's hard but it is it is facts and it happens so those are things that I think is something that I think should be a bit better yeah. I mean I guess I was just thinking about you have to accept perhaps that the kind of player who's conceptualised for most games and this goes across art forms but I think it's quite stark in in like you know usually especially like triple a games and stuff is there's a demographic for that and there's a certain assumption like of conquest in a lot of games that's built into it just in the way you accumulate or or win like the win conditions of games and things like that so and who is that player that's made for and I think the assumption is this is a person who exists everywhere and is the default of the world but there are lots of other kinds of people who want to get very different feelings from things and I think it's not being deterred by the people who say that you should make it in that mode because those other players slash audience members exist yeah. I think they're building on that you know like their one conditions things or like the narrative is really interesting because I know when people kind of got to the end of what I'd shown you someone say well what's next you know like when's the game end I'd say it has it we're still colonised you know so the game hasn't finished you know it's still ongoing yeah there's a great talk by um narrative designer called Meg Jayanth called the Imperial Pleasures of Game Design and it's basically about this kind of thing and how that's the default point of view and kind of helped me understand that I realised that whenever I try and write something game like we even like make stuff oh I'm writing from the NPC perspective and everything falls into chaos rather than into a coherent win and to me because I do support humorously I think I'm all I didn't quite recognise it as like also a political point that like not everybody's trying to conquer or accumulate the world yeah that's a really good point I mean I think Eric mentioned stereotype engines and which was really interesting and also I think VR when it first came out was was called empathy machine which I think has been debunked thank goodness since then and you know I think games and play can also be consequence engines you know so it's not just about winning it's about learning the the consequences of action so it's a sort of using the kind of basics of the programming capabilities of game to kind of maybe just understand systems better and the interventions that happen in these worlds going back to kind of opening things up more in these sorts of spaces we had a little conversation earlier and I was saying when I first applied to Creative New Zealand to get funding to make these artworks I had video game all through my application and it got rejected because they don't fund video games I changed video game to playable artwork I put the same application in and I got the funding and I understand actually you know like they don't fund making video games but it's just it was a terminology thing you know that I had to tweak this thing to make sense and I know why they don't they're not given tasks with funding those sorts of things but it really bugged me actually afterwards because people keep going oh you made that we saw that video game you made and I'm like it's just a tool I said I made a playable artwork and they keep saying it and I keep getting annoyed because I don't think of myself as a game designer I just think of myself as trying to make interesting things I guess yeah thank you and I think what's wonderful is what you know we've all talked about is how games can be used as provocation tools not just saving princesses and winning races so thank you very much I'm sure there's everyone here is really keen to know what all of you are going to do next and so thank you very much for participating in this panel and we've got Jeff Williams next to introduce the next panel but please join me in thanking these wonderful panelists today.