Glasgow School of Art, Dissertation Project
2021 - 2022
"Am I Pretty?" was the title of the video game I designed as part of my BSc research dissertation for the Glasgow School of Art considering the place of video games as fine art, discussing arguments of what art may or may not be considered, the history of games and how we can define video games, and how video games fit into the narrative of our definition and understanding of fine art culture.
The game is an interactive art game object that is intended to be played in an exhibition setting. Research using the game was conducted in the GSA's School of Fine Art, seeking responses to the thematic and the use of interactivity in art.
Genre: Art Game, Exhibition Piece
Development Period: September 2021 - April 2022
The dissertation was conducted as a part of my honours year studying BSc Immersive Systems: Games and Virtual Reality at the Glasgow School of Art. It was conducted over the course of nine months, from September 2021 through May 2022. As the first person to ever graduate from this course at the art school, I wanted to create a dissertation piece that considered the place video games in art, and more specifically, their potential wider use in fine art practice and physical exhibition spaces. Having experienced several video game exhibitions in person, such as the V&A Dundee's Design/Play/Disrupt and Berlin's Computerspielemuseum, I wanted to look at how art games could be better accepted into wider art communities, museums and spaces.
I established in my literature review that one of the primary components that are foundation to true "art" is "authenticity". For the conceptual design of the game, I specifically did not want to create an experience that felt forced for the value of the dissertation. To combat this, in an attempt to create a thematic more naturally, I decided to read How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design (2007) by Katherine Ibister, which specifically notes how games and interaction can be used to evoke a various range of emotions from players. Here, Ibister notes how character creation can often be a vessel for players identity fantasy's - such as by playing as the opposite gender or playing as your aspired gender, creating a personality that is exaugurated or charismatic, or simply by creating a version of themselves that they believe is "ideal". I compared this with my own experience of character creation when playing video games, and reflected on my own sense of physical identity. I often choose to create characters that are a replica of myself, but often struggle to break down the individual elements of my appearance that create that vision. This lack in sense of physical appearance is often referred to as a part of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
I wanted to create a small exhibition piece that would essentially be an artistic parody of character creation systems in games. The player is instructed to create a face similar to their own from a series of facial parts. The selection is randomised and there difficult to receive a consistent response from. Age and gender are obsolete to the fantasy. The game congratulates the player on how beautiful they are and takes a final snapshot before resetting - as a reward for creating the perfect version of them.
I wanted to achieve a visual outcome that did not represent itself traditionally as a video game, but seamlessly felt interactable. The direction that I wanted to approach this from would be to consider creating a visual that is a hybrid of traditional art mediums and the digital game. This "mixed media" practice has been used in other art games, such as Simon Meek's Beckett (2018) and The Maverick Flan Experience (2020). When conducting research into visual representation of different identity disorders, many of these often used a collage form, therefore, this was the aesthetic that I chose to obtain visually.
Hundreds of assets were created using cut-outs of facial elements from AI generated images of faces, license free, curtesy of ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Fonts were selected that complimented the collage-like feeling, such as "ransom note" typefaces. These were all later processed using Adobe Photoshop.
It was decided that the game would have a relatively short development period, roughly the length of a game jam. Development of the game was conducted over the period of a single week, including art, programming, calibration and finishing touches. Firstly, I imported all of the assets created during the development into the project and calibrated the face parts to the correct area of the screen, adding and testing collision. I went on to import and adjust other art assets, buttons and sliders. For the background, I created a video texture that projected itself behind the interactable UI. article effect events, post-processing and finishing touches (such as the ability to save images) were added proceeding this.
The design of the game was ultimately based on how well it would present as an exhibition-based art object. Ultimately, being created in a short timeframe and on the resources we had to hand, the display utilises a portrait-aligned monitor with a webcam mounted on top, and a mouse for function. Had we had the resources to hand, it would have been preferred to have used a touch-screen interface, but this was also fine for the purpose of the study. The exhibition is intended to be wall-mounted, similar to that of a painting. The exhibition was chosen to be exhibited in the School of Fine Art building of the GSA, rather than my school at SimVis. This was in order to ensure less of a video game bias going into the study. Care was taken to ensure the design of the piece fell in line with GSA Covid-19 and Health and Safety protocols.
Talks and Presentation
Proceeding the submission of the dissertation, the project was adapted into a talk - originally presented at Glasgow Games Talks in July, 2022. This talk includes the addition of slides (pictured below) as well as links to the references used for the talk and overall dissertation.
Role and Responsibilities:
Create solo project planning over a nine month timescale, such as Gantt Charts, checklists and other general organisation.
Using online tools for project and writing management, such as Miro and Mendeley.
Responsible for setting up and attending weekly supervisory meetings to discuss progress, share ideas and receive feedback.
Research (Literature Review and Study)
Conduct independent research for the literature review, including reading literature, articles, watching talks and researching video games and art games pieces. [References]
Conduct an independent study, approved in line with GSA Ethics and Health and Safety.
Create documents and forms, including instructions, consent forms and statements.
Design an execute a study complimentary to the literature review and dissertation thematic.
Designed the game within a one week timescale.
Research and consideration into how game design and interactivity can be used to move an audience, as well as the history of art games and their mechanics.
Art and Design
Conducted research into the different visual representations of identity disorders, as well as traditional art mediums, such as collage.
Created hundreds of individual collage assets using. Adobe Photoshop
Developed a Unity application within a one week timescale.
Implemented webcam functionality, with live feedback and screenshot capabilities.
Created custom particle effect systems.
Conduct research into interactive exhibition design and presentation of video games.
Design an exhibition with considerations to health and safety protocol and regards to Covid-19.
Set-up and exhibited within the Glasgow School of Art's School of Fine Art building.
Prepared and delivered a twenty five minute talk, condensed from the original text, at Glasgow Game Talks, 2022.