As a supporting programme of the ongoing GAMES AND POLITICS Exhibition, the Goethe Institut Lagos treated Lagos arts, digital media enthusiasts and journalists to an evening of interventions on the video game culture and the disappearing walls between reality and virtual reality. The session was hosted by Alliance Française de Lagos/Mike Adenuga Centre in the sprawling new site. Friederike Möschel, Director of Goethe Institut Lagos, hoped this intervention will trigger public discourse within the space and thanked Alliance Française for the corporation. In his response, Charles Courdent, Director of Alliance Française Lagos was ecstatic about this programme, being the very first event at the newly built centre.
The screening: RETURNING FIRE, a film by Roger Stahl
For the culture-jamming activists featured in this film, these uncertainties were a call to action. In three separate vignettes, we see how Anne-Marie Schleiner, Wafaa Bilal, and Joseph Delappe moved dissent from the streets to our screens, infiltrating war games in an attempt to break the hypnotic spell of “militainment.” Their work forces all of us — gamers and non-gamers alike — to think critically about what it means when the clinical tools of real-world killing become forms of consumer play.
A most jarring intervention was that of Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi American artist, who had lost a brother in 2004 to a U.S. missile strike at a checkpoint, something which deepened his condemnation of the Iraqi War. In May 2007, Bilal began a 30-day-long project called Domestic Tension in protest of the Iraq War. During the installation piece, Bilal confined himself to a small room at the FlatFile Galleries, located in Chicago.
Although the artist was confined, he could be seen twenty-four hours a day through a camera that he had connected to the Internet. In addition to the camera, Bilal set up a remote controlled paintball gun that viewers could use to shoot him at any time. The gun shot foul-smelling yellow paint and emitted a sound as loud as a semiautomatic gun each time it went off. “I was hoping for 2 or 4 shots” he had said, but what happen was unprecedented. He was shot at 60,000 times over the course of 30 days by “shooters” from 128 different countries.
A most jarring intervention was that of Wafaa Bilal, an Iraqi American artist, who had lost a brother in 2004 to a U.S. missile strike at a checkpoint, something which deepened his condemnation of the Iraqi War.
“Consider gaming as tools to make a better world.”
The panel discussion was an attempt to situate gaming within the Nigerian cultural context and look at the roles of the media creator and emergency relief institutions in this culture. Featured panelists are Jumoke Sanwo (artist and cultural producer; creative director, Revolving Art Incubator), Chima Ngerem, (video game developer and lawyer), and Adewole Ajao (ICRC in Abuja and moderated by Aderinsola Ajao of the Cultural Programmes Department, Goethe-Institut Nigeria. The issues of war in games was seen as an overkill by Jumoke Sanwo who thinks the post-war reality of survival, social integration and rebuilding of infrastructure could be a better game design narrative in war games. “Consider gaming as tools to make a better world.” She had said.
Video games like Call of Duty, America’s Army, Medal of Honor, and Battlefield are part of an exploding market of war games whose revenues now far outpace even the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The sophistication of these games is undeniable, offering users a stunningly realistic experience of ground combat and a glimpse into the increasingly virtual world of long-distance, push-button warfare. Far less clear, though, is what these games are doing to users, our political culture, and our capacity to empathize with people directly affected by the actual trauma of war. For the culture-jamming activists featured in this documentary, these uncertainties were a call to action.