If someone asked you to play a video game you could never win, would you be interested in doing so? Because that’s the idea behind the installation Dot, from audiovisual artist Henrique Roscoe. Strictly speaking, it’s not a video game as we’ve come to know it, more so an audiovisual performance set up like one. The audience participates in “the game” by generating visuals and sound—using a custom-built instrument devised by Roscoe—traversing five “levels” that are themed as critiques of conventions associated with the video game medium.
Users help control the performance using the purple-buttoned joypads of the Super Nintendo, generating sounds and images in real-time. The look of the game is inspired by early video games like Pong with bare bones graphics and rudimentary electronic sounds. And the gameplay comes across like a more abstracted and minimalist version of the classic Tetsuya Mizuguchi title Rez, which explored the experience of synesthesia, the idea that, for instance, hearing a certain sound can make one see a certain colour.
As stated, the compositions are created over five different levels each, claims Roscoe, “criticizing some aspects of game logics”. The themes are: violence, downgrades, excess, standardization, and decadence. The first is a blood red screen with bolts of jagged white lines cracking through it, and the last sees both players falling to inevitable doom.
The overall effect is a pared-down, existential re-imagining of the spectacle we’re all used to seeing on the big consoles and games of today, and is reminiscent of Cory Arcangel’s Beat The Champ piece, where a curved wall of hacked bowling games provide an endless farce of gutter balls. Both games share in a sense of futility and melancholy, rendering the usual thrills of the video game hopelessly impotent.