12/10/2012 Doors Without Keys
The sense of a distant, contained potentiality. David Thomas talks about the appeal of driving through ghost towns, dreaming of starting a new life in each one, knowing it will never happen. I think I get a similar sensation by walking through someone else's neighbourhood on a chilly night and looking at lit-up windows from the outside. Tiny circumscribed spaces of infinite potential, life frozen in time, a kind of reticient promise that you intercept by accident. Large spaces and tiny objects give me the same feeling. That they're not quite to a human scale gives a sense of secret depth.
Every videogame, song, poem calls up a kind of phantom audience that it's addressed to as well as a phantom tradition to belong to: previously disparite elements which get knitted together when seen retroactively through something new. The sense of mystery and depth in videogames is sometimes just the feeling of not being a part of the audience for a work, or not being able to imagine a context which would make it coherent."What is the jagged blue thing meant to represent?" "Is this referencing a previous game?" "Am I supposed to be able to do this?" "Is this a secret?". Or when you find someone's private little webpage listing a mixture of tech demos and heartfelt projects, or the tiny community around some obscure development kit, or a list of strange titles for a system you didn't know about. You might not ever play them just like you might not get all the way through a particular title or have the time to figure out everything that somebody's trying to say, but that's okay because this absence can have a quality of its own.
All-encompassing holodeck experiences promise a limitless but endlessly deferred enjoyment in exchange for infinite amounts of free time. An alternative could be discrete, self-contained objects, worlds, histories - things that can be entered into at any time but whose central purpose is just to exist, and by the fact of their existence to engage a sense of curiosity or imagination or just an awareness of externality that can be carried with you after you pass by. I would like to be a builder of ghost towns...