Video game essays from the Anthropocene

Event Illustration

"It's hard to find something that characterizes current video games better than Twitch streaming and the format of let’s plays. The streamer is part of the soundtrack where he acts as narrator of what is visually happening in the game. The streamer comments, explains or undermines the game. Often, however, the commentary isn't relevant to the game at all. The essence of the video game is thus often pushed into the background of the viewer's interest and acts only as a backdrop for the streamer's own content which is often a spoken and non-verbal expression. Video game essays are a format that turns this streaming trend on its head. The soundtrack for the video recording of gameplay consist of scientific publications, excerpts from books and poems. These essays will anchor video games in the otherwise hidden ideological basis of extraction, growth, and ultimate devastation, which is the price of each victory."

Home / HUB - L. Polášková,  digital illustration, 2021

Video game essays from the anthropocene are a series of five-hour audiovisual essays that will be streamed during the Academia Film Olomouc festival starting on April 30, 2021.

The format consists of connecting a video game recording and interpreting soundtracks with essayistic, poetic or scientific text. Most of the blocks in this format deal with the devastation of nature and the critique of colonization and destruction as the ideological basis of game mechanisms. In essence, it is not a critique of games, but rather an undermining of widely used tropes of heroic conquest with an individual framework, where it is completely forgotten that in a devastated landscape after victory (and exploitation) it is necessary to live (migrate elsewhere and destroy and exploit there again) , as we do after a level restart or when we turn on another part of a series of strategies). These tropics are incompatible with the continued existence of our civilization on this planet and have no origin in games, but games take them uncritically and without revision into their inorganic virtual worlds.

Last but not least, the format for connecting video games and literature is also at the author's level: it is the poet Radek Štěpánek who initiates this collaboration, recites his poetry in sound, returning to Age of Empires II in the painting and revising the approach to individual playable nations. The project was illustrated by Lucie Polášková.

Maceška - L. Polášková, digital illustration, 2021  

Linking pairs game / text in individual essays: 

 About Landscape and Ecosystem: DiRT Rally 2.0 / A Societal Transformation Scenario for Staying Below 1.5C

 About Responsibility: Fallout: New Vegas / Dale Pendell, Velký záliv

 About collapse: Kingdom Classic / Vojtěch Pecka, Pohled do propasti

 About beginning: Red Dead Redemption 2 / Henry David Thoreau, Deník

 About mankind: Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition / Radek Štěpánek, Hic sunt Homines


The video game themed program of AFO56 doesn't end there. On the platform Watch & Know, You can watch the short film Operation Jane Walk, where the video game Tom Clancy's The Division is used to illustrate the themes of urbanism and architecture:

 And I created a virtual interface called Planet AFO56 in the application Gather for the festival:

Zdeněk Rychtera,

Dramaturg AFO56

Z. Rychtera - author's photo archive, 2021