Participation May Vary

Participation May Vary

2012
digital game / interactive installation

Participation May Vary is a game I designed for the Asian-American performance art duo Disorientalism (Katherine Behar and Marianne M. Kim) for the performance installations Brown Bagging and Quality is Our Recipe.  In this part of the series The Food Groups, Behar and Kim’s alter-egos, The Disorientals, encounter the iconic Wendy of Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers in a collision of gamification and the postindustrial labor of the modern food industry.  Participation May Vary is a Kinect game in which players work/play alongside the Disorientals in Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Brown Bag factory, producing fast-food paper bags, gleaning ketchup bottles from the garden, and relaxing with tai-chi in between shifts.  In this perfectly gamified production line, Nirvana is promised at the end of every work day, only to begin again with the morning shift.

One of the themes throughout Disorientalism’s work is the idea of mistranslation and cultural disorientation, particularly around issues of labor and leisure.  For Participation May Vary, I was interested in extending this idea into the game world through connections between repetitive labor and the repetitive play actions of classic videogames.  Disguising work as play gives rise to the notion of “gamification”.  In Participation May Vary, the disguise is ruptured through absurd misappropration of standard game mechanics such as jumping, collecting, and in the final scene, rolling up everything in the factory into an enormous Katamari-style ball, leaving the Disorientals in the black void of Nirvana.

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