Monday, March 1, 2010

Best Before: It's a videogame! Fantastic?!

Best Before is an interactive performance where the audience creates the story of a country by manipulating digital characters or “avatars”. The evening progresses as binary individual and group choices are offered to the players. After an incredibly slow, methodical tutorial of the controls, some members of the audience couldn't fully grasp what they were supposed to do. There are so many avatars onscreen that taking your eyes off your blob would mean losing track of it in a sea of other, less important blobs. When the camera zoomed in on any character, I maneuvered my blob into the shot as quickly as I could. “You don't know who I am but pay attention to me!”, I thought, acting like a spoiled teenager. “Me me me!”

Some of your choices give your avatar an item. Over the course of the evening, I acquired a joystick, marijuana haze, a gun, and somehow managed to get a job as a game tester, lose it, and mysteriously re-acquire it. I wanted to be a politician, but because I had no ambition I was unqualified. I was smiling most of the way through the game, with the exception of some questionable group decisions: For some reason, the audience decided not to create an army, even after we had been bombed... twice. The in-game choices and real-life experience blurred at times, when the presenters offered some insight into their own lives regarding the choice that had just been offered to the players. Female characters pregnant at the age of fifteen were offered the decision to keep or abort their baby; One of the presenters was conceived when his mother was fifteen.

I clung on for dear life at the end of the night, when the magnetic wall of death pulled all the remaining characters to their doom. I died like all the other avatars: with a THUD, as a little blob-sized sack fell from the ceiling onto the stage. I left the event feeling a bit melancholy, reflecting on the decisions I made that evening, and how much they mattered in the end. As I made my way to the bus stop, I wondered if my own decisions would carry any real significance. I shook my head and smiled.

We'll see.

1 comment:

  1. Together with your formal review, you reveal a most perceptive analysis of this show, Charles.