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(ILR) Will Hallett

Case Study

My case study is the game Samarost 3 and other games by the studio Amanita Design. The game addresses, and the studio addresses throughout its works, computation as a theme in interactive journeys throughout game worlds and the underlying aesthetic tension between the organic and the biotic. As the player solves puzzles and maps, they engage in the cybernetic loops of nature and culture that constitute the algorithmically solvable problems of the game. This theme is composed according to forms that are describable in terms of degrowth, poor rural, or salvage aesthetics even as challenges of space travel, planetary realignment, and self invention are topical. In the studios expanded works, as in Samarost 3, the interrelated mesh of collaborations is itself a gamic element by which narrative and character are woven and perfected.

Conceptual framework

Samarost engages with the concept of learning in its contemporary form in which discrete substrates are themselves discretized by machine interpretations. By doing so within an interactive narrative, problem solving is established in an arc, bringing to bare Frederic Jameson’s insistence on the incompleteness of the literary form between syntax and plot. Keeping in mind Marx’s early philosophy, in which language is embedded in historical processes of labor, the model of learning envisioned by Samarost through its cybernetic aesthetic implicitly gestures towards a novel framework of computing. This framework functions via conversions of mechanical, non-electronic, objects into symbolic consistencies such as of a combustion engine into a puzzle. Such game composition raises up varying degrees of commitment to a pancomputationalist aesthetic as a question or problem, within the narratological frame of a story, of the relation between physical processes and language, of which the human is one particular positive example of matter in symbolic formation. Taking this mechanical-symbolic conversion as a paradigm of computation, the Marxist reading of labor and language is generalizable over nature in the historical condition of salvage in which rural and urban denominations enter decay. In the apposite sense, beauty is recast into a novel discrete process. This conceptualization draws on a recursive reading of Bracha Ettinger’s theory of trans-femininity based in Church and Turing, obviously Marx’s early political writing, and general discussion in media studies about gender, sexuality, and mental health. The extant political questions have to do with our investments in rural spaces within the relational familial matrix and the systems of movement throughout them that constitute images of freedom and dissent.


My project is in a fieldwork based video game that navigates the rural and urban field between New York City and the surround rural areas north of it. I am particularly interested in how the desire to leave is formatted in families and how transportation and the destination of the rural can be thought about in terms of symbolic investments in freedom that cooperate between the two forms of architectural space. As a resource to think political history and as an environment to experience society, the urban-rural derive is a beautiful zone to consider Samarost as a model for social practice.

This project centers on a lingering question about the desire to leave and its relation to the town and countryside pair. The aim is towards the creation of techniques of traveling, both material and immaterial, as well as the clarification of questions around these techniques that are personal and philosophical.

From the scale of a city’s negotiation with its rural zones to the personal dynamics of desire that accompany traveling, and the opposing cognitive modalities or the traveler - the witness and the transformer - the decisional frame granted to urban experience will be shifted experimentally through practice, albeit limited, and study.

Output will include drafts and sketches of a video game in development which includes substantial creative writing component and an ongoing series of prints from which the game art is being sourced. Conceptual writing on my conceptual framework will include broadly studies in psychoanalysis and Marxism and computer science, to consider the entanglement of libido, commodity, and territory.

More specifically, the theory includes the following intricacies: A close reading of Amanita Design’s games for their detailed expression and reading of computer science and for their depiction of that science in a sensibility of degrowth or salvage economy; how to consider the image of freedom in its relation to nature, terrestrial or otherwise, through travel and here to think the embedding of Marxist philosophy or sensibility in the techniques of informal economy both in terms of families and impoverishment. In this sense perhaps a way think transportation, travel, and subsistence here is in terms of formalization of informal economy in mutual aid debates and development theory of rural patchworks beyond inter-urban transport.

Further, how to consider the image of obligation in its to nature. If the image is cybernetics is always the entanglement of the bios and the nomos, how would we consider a Badiou-like model of biological-biological computation in which nomos is de-essential used through a reduction of it into the bios, even conceptually? In short, what is the nature of the political problem of bios and nomos today?

Or rather, following Alex Galloway, what is the nature of the political problem of the analog and digital modes of mediation today?

Further goals from this main question follow: To recognize the Marxist form in this question and in this pair as, for instance, a way of contextualizing the idea of computational reduction or genera; to begin thinking through the structure of libidinal investment in this situation in artistic practice, in terms provisionally of the real, symbolic, and the ego; to model, as a introduction, a kind of blend of gothic and utopian genre to imagine formulaically the mortal and production.

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