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Pony Island and Co.: Secrets of computers in the computer

We are exploring the space station in, say, "spoil". And, here, a non-supervised computer whose emails are just waiting to read us. We sit in front of the virtual screen, which now fills the entire screen, in front of which we sit in "real life".

Something interesting has happened: we look suddenly on two screens, nourished and almost consistent. The computer in the computer, a simulated user interface, is in the service of immersion, but has the opposite effect of subliminal: Instead of us – like in games – it disappears behind our screen, we see it in it, so to speak, and illusion. the immersion begins to decay.

Virtual desktop and user interface have evolved over the last few years, especially in playful and subversive indie games in their own aesthetics. In games and digital experiments such as "Emily Away Away," "Everything's OK," "Pony Island," and "The House Abandon," we never leave the screen, so to say, the "wrong" user interface becomes the only space free time.


    Andreas Inderwildi He lives in Zurich, but his soul left him long ago in the wondrous depths of cyberspace. He writes about video games for various websites and chatting @mashxtomuse.

Play nostalgia

"Emily is Away To" Kyle Seeley puts us in 2006 in the life of a high school student. Using the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) user interface, we send text with two other students, Emily and Evelyn, forming friendships and maybe even romantic relationships. We choose dial options through multiple choices, and then "touch" our response by random click.

Because of pixel graphics and modest resources, the illusion is rough but surprisingly convincing. Anyone who spent some time as a teens in teenage years on instant messaging platforms, sharing music late at night and discussing teenage issues, will find "emily" absent, too, immediately feel displaced in times that have passed apparently.

"Emily is Away Too" seriously understands the journey to the digitally-transmitted relationships and legacies of young people in 2006, but is not shy to play with format and aesthetics for the purpose of immersion. As you would expect from an IM, the game does not open in full screen mode, but as a window. There is a good reason for this because "Emily is Away" routinely breaches the border between the game windows and the "right" desktops and web browsers.

For example, Emily and Evelyn send us links to specially created game sites that, inter alia, mimic the older incarnations of YouTube and Facebook. "YouToob" is not just a facade, but also built-in YouTube videos, which actually allows us to access zero-year music videos that provide a sound background for playing, so to speak. Even sent files like chat logs let us "download" the game. Then we'll find you on the desktop again and we'll be able to open it.

Digital landscape

"Everything Will Be OK" ("EIGTBO"), "Desktop Labyrinth" by Nathalie Lawhead, has some similarities with "Emily is Away Too", such as outdated user interfaces and blur of game limits. But "EIGTBO" is all about celebrating chaos, fragmentation, audiovisual bugs and bugs.

Less than a game designed as an interactive zine, "EIGTBO" is a variety of thumbnails that you can click in any order. Behind them are often short vignettes or mini-games in a cartoon style inspired in the mid-nineties. Other windows open the imitation of the Windows 95 desktop interface or text files with songs and personal thoughts of serious problems such as despair or social injustice.

Despite the cute cartoon bunnies, abundant (deep black!) Humor and potentially nostalgic looks, "EIGTBO" does not provide a pleasant experience. Insight into intimate, day-to-day thoughts can easily leave the impression that we are placed on an unprotected computer and undermined the privacy of another person. Broken and outdated aesthetics make the game play as a program that is broken by the weight of your own age and that will collapse.

Aesthetic disorder programs reflect the psychological and existential insecurity and anxiety expressed in vignettes. Blurring the boundaries between the game and "reality" blurs this discomfort into the outside world.

"EIGTBO" and "Emily Away Away" show the collapse of personal history and the history of digital technology and reflect the personal experiences of individuals in the digital world. But the self-reflection and nostalgic knowledge of her historically inspired aesthetics are a two-edged sword. Because their self-reflection is generated thanks to the double effect not only of immersion and intimacy, but also disorientation and distances. And, as taught by Sigmund Freud, the (alienated) creditor always holds the potential of the wicked.

"Insert your soul to continue"

"Pony Island" by Daniela Mullinsa and "The House Abandon" by No Code scream out of those tensions of digital horror. Similar to the "EIGTBO", the digital spaces of "Pony Island" are archaic, broken and full duplex floors, but here are literally a demonic creation. At the beginning of the nineties, the devil created an arcade game that will save our souls. To achieve this, we need to move through corrupt, porous and unstable programs and user interfaces.

In specially inspired moments, "Pony Island" turns into a very convincing collision with an error message or imitates Steam messages by getting a name from their own friends list. What is real, what is false?

"Pony Island" suggests that this difference in digital space can easily be dropped. After all, every user interface is nothing but an illusion, a friendly mask that extends over an extraterrestrial and inaccessible digital space.

The "Leave House", on the other hand, is less interested in what's behind the screen than for what's going on behind your back. Our protagonist sits at the table and plays a text adventure in the style of the eighties. As in "Pony Island," the "Leave House" is initially transformed into a fascinating façade that will soon collapse. We realize that our protagonist of text adventure is exploring the same evil house where our main hero is sitting at his desk.

The game ends when we open the door in a text adventure, whose crunch is heard behind us, and we read the description of the player on the table on the screen. Do we share the horror of a player who feels the eye of his avater in the neck, or the horror of avatars, who understands that he is remote controlled by a strange presence? In any case, we no longer feel good in our own skin and we are alienated from ourselves.

One foot behind the screen

In many ways, four games could not be different but unify not only the cross-border aesthetics of "fake" user interfaces but also the common fascination with the paradox that the user of technology is outside and within the digital world. find.

We can never fully enter the digital world, but we can not completely avoid it. Once we interact with it, some of us will remain behind and leave a print, whether in the form of our personalized desktop interface, Word files, uploaded photos, online user profiles, or forgotten posting on a forum that has been rummaging through the Internet for years which come,

Depending on your point of view, this can lead to nostalgia or even metaphysical horror. In "Emily is Away" we feed the machine with the most intimate thoughts, while we "feed" our souls in "Pony Island". Nostalgia and horror are two sides of the same coin, and one always sounds in the other if it's just silent. We wanted to meet in the digital space – but at the same time, thought fills us with incredible horror.

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