A new piece by artist Jeffrey Alan Scudder allows its participants to play four copies of Grand Theft Auto IV simultaneously, gradually transitioning between each individual game environment.

This uncontrollable displacement from one instance of the game to another causes a jarring effect for players of the game. At the same time, it functions as a constant reminder that they are immersed in a completely virtual space, with its own set of limitations. The title of the piece itself Self-Actualization Replaces The Journey is taken from the name of an in-game radio station that was included in an aftermarket expansion pack, accurately describing much of what what participants actually experience within this type of modified interface.

Scudder tells ANIMAL:

In the way that film creates an illusion of movement through a rapid succession of still frames, games create an illusion of user agency through a layered sequencing of programmed input/output loops. I’m critical of certain language used by the game industry due to its reliance on an unequivocal belief that games empower players, providing them with more freedom and a creative outlet. Contrarily I believe people only enjoy games because, in opposition to reality, they limit one’s agency.

As someone who has previously experienced the piece, I feel that it’s imperative to note how effective the choice to use Grand Theft Auto IV is to this work specifically, not only because of its inherent cultural significance in being one of the first games to capitalize on the idea of open world gameplay but also due to its ubiquity within today’s culture as many of us were in a way “raised on Grand Theft Auto.”

 

Learn more about the project in greater detail here and here.

(Images: UbuZip/Jay Van Dam)