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Ill Designed World

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“Some sort of pressure must exist; the artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.” ― Andrei Tarkovsky

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Second Life and Online Identities

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In information age, every part of life is changing dramatically. Second Life is a simulation where every user participates to a virtual world with their alternate personas in the form of avatars. It extends the physical life and adds a new layer.

Life 2.0 is a documentary about this issue. It tells the story of different people who have one thing in common: Second Life. The documentary explains how the family lives, jobs and social relationships can hugely change after starting this simulation. People can quit their wives or husbands, or even their children and start a new life with someone they met from there. Or, people can create virtual cars, houses and accessories and sell them in the virtual market of Second Life. Even Greenpeace can organize protests. So, here is a trailer:

My only criticism about this documentary is that it has only focused on individual’s lives. So, I found it relatively limited, there were little connection related to life itself. However, Second Life has also influences on the mechanisms of physical world. For instance, Adidas can invest 75,000 dollar for a virtual terrain (in a popular street) or Linden (creator of Second Life) may choose to decrease the size of terrain so that the value of every piece increases. Thus, as the title of simulation suggests, Second Life offers an alternative universe parallel to real life. However, it takes on a crucial role for defining reality and what is ‘real’.

In his ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ book, Baudrillard tells us that the world we live in is now hyperreal. All the images that surround us, including Second Life, suspend the reality. That sort of simulations  transform the reality as if it is something we can’t change or criticize. Unfortunately, there weren’t any comment on this fact in the documentary.

Moreover, it is possible to see many examples that tries to use this feature for their marketing. Eve Online and Mortal Kombat are two games that show how players immerse themselves into virtual worlds and their avatars, forcing people to think that how excitable it might become to be a part of this alternative reality and it leaves no place for thinking on the current, actual system that we are all members. Here are the links for them:

Eve Online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ok5NY_dzez8

Mortal Kombat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSxSyv4LC1c

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Devil May Cry and Society of the Spectacle

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Devil May Cry is a game created by Ninja Theory, a game developer based in England. Their latest game, shortened as DmC, is about a young boy who uprises against what Louis Althusser calls ‘ideological apparatuses of the state’. Metaphorically all the CEOs, bank managers, media presenters and politicians are depicted as a demon. In the plot of the game, they’re all the enemies that we need to fight against.

The name of main character is Dante, a signifier to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and he is alienated from the society and he is shown as a threat to city’s security. That’s why the system he lives in treats him as a criminal even though he doesn’t commit any crime.

The game always refers to marxist terminology without revealing it directly. It emphasizes the commodity fetishism and culture of consumerism. Furthermore, we have to mention Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle book here, as the game constantly reminds the player a systematic conflation of capitalism and mass media, and government’s policies to exploit them. In fact, the ‘spectacle’ transforms organic human relations into objectified relations among images (and vice versa) and the hero of game wants to reveal this truth, inform people about what is hidden in their unconsciousness.

I also would like to share a marketing strategy of Ninja Theory, developed for the promotion of DmC. Below, you’ll see an augmented reality application where some specific signs and visuals of the city transforms into different images via smartphones of users.

Digital games are the instruments of cultural production and in this case, DmC have been commodified as a commercial activity that transforms its artistic expression into a commercial value. Although it criticizes socio-economic capitalist structure, it serves as a spectacle to society. Hence, as Guy Debord says ‘In the Society of the Spectacle, all the promises of liberation becomes a part of the spectacle.’

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