Mock Band: The Simulation of Artistic Processes

I’ve had a recurring dream since I was a teenager, somehow riding
along behind my old car — it’s always the car I’ve most recently
traded in or otherwise lost — with a remote control in my hand. I’m controlling my car, which keeps rushing ahead of me, eventually disappearing around the corner where I can’t see to steer it,
and although I apply the brakes, I always hear a crash, then wake up in a cold sweat and feel very
relived that “It was all a dream!”

I installed a bargain copy of Grand Theft Auto III a few years ago,
since that game had gotten a lot of scholarly and journalistic
attention. I was happily driving through the city when I noticed that
many of the buildings in the back streets had low roofs situated near
slanted boards of some sort.  Naturally I floored it and drove up one
of those ramps, and suddenly I saw a rooftop auto playground that I
didn’t know existed.

As soon as I tried jumping
from one building to another, and was feeling a bit of satisfaction because I’d lined up the jump fairly well, the camera shifted to a different view
and tracked my car sailing through the air in slow motion.  While I was not in any “zone” at the time, I was still enjoying my
discovery of the hidden level enough that I found the shifting point of
view, and the feeling that I was losing control over my vehicle,
unsettling.  I wanted to perform the stunt, I didn’t want to watch slow-motion, third-person footage of the stunt happening.

While a game like Rock Band does involve players in a team and there is a joissance to be experienced that is not unlike group dance, the truth is that even the relationships between players is a faux social relationship. The players’ attentions are mediated by the TV screen which must be studied and followed like a script, rather than performing as a harmonious ensemble, riffing off the sounds created by one another. Indeed, you often have to ignore your fellow players’ mistakes if you hope to survive, and the only impromptu action you can take is lifting your guitar into the air to pretend that you’re doing a solo. Yet the pleasure of the game comes when everyone is working in uncanny synchronicity, timed with the pulsing lights — we win when become the stars on the screen by rote repetition of the programmed score, keeping the machine streaming prefab sounds in a steady and uninterrupted stream. Mechanical reproduction is the objective. It is, ultimately, the very antithesis of artistic production. — Michael Arnzen

Perhaps a better title for these games is “TV Show Simulator.” Car stunt sequence, music video, sporting event (complete with play-by-play commentary).  

I play with a 3D modeling tool called Blender. One of the filters you can add to your virtual scenes is lens flare — the effect of sunlight bouncing around inside a camera. That filter doesn’t add anything to the reality of the image, other than associating it with other mediated images that you’ve seen.