“Our dreams are a second life.” ~Gerard de Nerval
By Cat Boccaccio.
Video games are busy places. Gamers are constantly in battle, or saving worlds or destroying enemies or facing impossible challenges. These worlds aren’t meant for leisurely exploration, but are settings for action and adventure. Unless, that is, you are writer and gamer Andy Kelly (ultrabrilliant on YouTube), who has found a way to break free of the gameplay long enough to film some of the most popular environments in gaming. The haunting soundtracks in theses videos are taken directly from the game scores.
Dunwall, a dank, dangerous, plague-ridden city, which reminds me vaguely of post-Industrial Revolution London (though industry has taken a very dark turn) is the setting for the video game Dishonored. Clearly an adult game, there are warnings about blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, and strong language. Yet, Andy Kelly captures the innate beauty of Dunwall in all its stunning detail.
Portal 2 offers up a completely different world, with robotics as compelling as any vista in the city of Dunwall. Described as a first person puzzle-platform game, it eschews the bloodshed for a darkly humorous, clever, physics-inspired experience, as you navigate the sinister Aperture Laboratories.
Another favourite in the series is Columbia, the floating dystopian city in the violent first-person shooter BioShock Infinite. Set in 1912, the protagonist sets out on a rescue mission, only to become ensnarled in the bleak conflict between the brutal ruling class and the rebellion. BioShock Infinite is the most recently released of the three games (March 2013), and it is an absolute visual feast, demonstrating what talent, imagination, and virtually unlimited resources can accomplish.
How does Second Life, which is not populated by experts with unlimited resources, stack up against these lush, highly intricate virtual game worlds? There are breathtaking builds and art installations in Second Life, as explored and recorded by machinima artists like Joe Zazulak, and by Draxtor Despres in his World Maker series. It is ironic that Second Life, the perfect setting for leisurely exploration of the fantastic, is solely resident-created and limited by internal technology; and the stunning video worlds Mr Kelly introduces us to are meant solely as backdrops to the action, and explorable only by gentle hacking.
Andy Kelly has made 17 (to date) machinimas, each featuring a different game and location, in celebration of the beauty of virtual worlds. They are inspiring, to say the least.
For slum magazine.