April, 2014

My research is based around my existing videogame in development – working through and understanding its continued development through analysing notions that surround transformation or transcendence, through transformative, or perhaps ritualistic practice-led work.

Most of the initial texts I encountered lead me into theories and propositions surrounding play – and through these I identified strongly with several concepts; the concept of secrecy within play as an entanglement, transformation of identity, and the utilisation of mimicry. Identification with these theories was determined by my strong attachment to the butterfly symbolism I am aligning with the videogame.

Intuitively, I began to write poetically, and experiment visually with the idea of identity through portraiture. I would take digital photos of myself, and explore and alter their content without adding what I believed was a significant measure (additional photos, or external reference) of outside image sources to the file. I used the content-aware scaling tools in Photoshop to ‘pull apart’ the image, revealing and interpolating the stretched pixel data. These experiments were resolved through intuition, when I felt the image had transformed from being myself to ‘the other’ – a transformed subject. I am currently continuing these experiments to see how fragments can be pulled from the depths of these images and translated, in content specific roles, in level design and world creation, and additionally, narrative.

Through discussion, practice, and performative presentation, as well as through specific games I have encountered - this degradation and reconstitution process, this ‘throwing off’ of the medium’s logic, has been revealed to me as a kind of movement through videogames, that is, when I feel like ‘something is finally happening’ – narratively as well as spatially. For the time being, I will refer to these moments as breaks in the experience, of meditative, possibly repetitive barriers that, when broken through – activate an ‘awake’ experience, with an immediate quality of narrative, and embodied interaction. I am also currently interested in how I can adequately connect, construct, or arrange these moments, and what part ritual has to play in the act.

Somewhat related to these breaks in experience is reading that surrounds individuals who take part in the Ayahuasca tourism ceremonies in the Amazon – specifically concerned with issues exposed by their drastic transformation in worldview, lack of cultural context to process the experience, and the subsequent reconstitution and mental health issues.

Ritual will require further excavation and identification as I revise and concentrate the methodology I’m using. Recent discussion has made clear that the relationship that I have to this kind of work is somewhat of a reversal of usual videogame construction – working through self, breaking down self, to produce worlds, to discover narrative, as opposed to the traditional priority of narrative, and then to world and character design specifics.

Additionally, technically, at first I thought I was interested in experimenting with an alternative kind of interaction device like the Oculus Rift or the Kinect, and potentially I am still open to either of them – but the need for quick prototyping (which for me, means through quick image creation) means presently I am concentrating my focus on the ways videogames, with current, cheap controllers, and existing platforms can be utilised effectively to enable the kind of experiences I have described.

I feel like I’ve partly uncovered a pattern for methodology which is extremely useful in locating myself within the process of videogame and art making. Prior to the discussion and analysis of these play experiences, I’ve mostly utilised intuitive processes of doing this, and the textual reference and tension of producing surrounding documentation for this, and other papers has been valuable in the continuation and evolution of this process.


Huizinga, J. (1955). Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon.

Sutton-Smith, B. (2005). Play and Ambiguity. In The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology (pp. 296–313). Retrieved from

Moore, B. (2014) You’ll Want to Play This Game — If You Can Ever Find It. Retrieved April 04, 2014, from

Stern, N., & Art, A. I. (2014). The Implicit Body as Performance :, 44(3), 233–238.

Lewis, S. E. (2008). Ayahuasca and Spiritual Crisis: Liminality as Space for Personal Growth. Anthropology of Consciousness, 19, 109–133. doi:10.1111/j.1556-3537.2008.00006.x

OutSide Directors Company (1998) LSD Dream Emulator [Playstation 1 videogame]

TwinBeard Studios (2012) Frog Fractions [Flash videogame]. Retrieved from

Phil James