"The Open Sorcery Database Project" Proposal
"Open Sorcery" Definitions and Associations:
Overview of Features:
1. An Online Guide to Creative Game Content Exchange on the Net
2. An Online Forum for "Open Source" style game development and development of games for the Network Paradigm
3. An Online Gallery of Game Add-ons created by local gamers
4. A Dynamic Art "Search Engine" for gamer communities and artifacts
As with many other aspects of culture that are going online, the increasing networkablility of computer games is effecting fundamental changes in the nature of computer gaming. Of primary interest to this project is a horizontal broadening of the game development process, allowing game players to share more in the responsibilities of game development along with their cohorts in the game industry. From code to 3-D graphics to visuals, audio and storyline, the Network allows for distributed codevelopment and participation among game hackers and fans. The Network fosters a digital folk art exchange of game add-ons, accessories and editors. Or to characterize the phenomenon another way, open development at a higher level of computer game design is a meme, a cultural virus, picked up from the open source movement in the software industry, whose tactics and strategies have equally beneficial (although different) effects in the online gaming environment. One clear advantage to "Open Sorcery" style game development is diversification in game scenarios and content that reaches beyond the often narrow visions of the primarily male North American computer game industry.
"The Open Sorcery Database Project" is an art project that is composed of a database. (Lev ManovichDatabase as a Genre of New Media, Rhizome Digest, 10.29.98) Drawing on the art traditions of bricolage and the found object, "the Open Sorcery Database Project" sifts through pre-existing network data and reconfigures, reclusters, realigns, effecting new ontologys, new topologies and new visions. Rather than newspaper clippings and advertisements, photographs or sound samples, the "musique concrete" of "the Open Sorcery Database Project" is the database of shifting data chains and infobytes on the Web which are dynamically assembled and reprocessed into new patterns. Similar to "new genre public art", and its roots in public performance art, "the Open Sorcery Database Project" will operate in a public social environment/medium with artistic aims and strategies, engaging in an aesthetics that takes into account not only visual form but also includes community form and social interactive space.
The following is a description of the Open Sorcery Databases features in more detail than the brief outline presented at the beginning of this document:
The network provides material if sometimes temporal artifacts of game fan communities visibly inscribed on the surface of network topologies. Rather than modeling the web in terms of spatial metaphors like "information super highway" and "cyberspace", it can be useful to think of network data patterns as network topologies, "topos" in topologies from "placement" rather than space--data that is defined by its relation and placement in regards to other hyper -data. A common topology used in computer gaming communities on the Web is the "ring". The ring links web sites one to next in a circular pattern with ring linking icons as well as providing an index of all the sites belonging to a particular ring. Rings are often formed for exchange of game secrets, game guides and add-ons for a particular game, such as the Tomb Raider ring for popular action/adventure game Tomb Raider. The "Skin Artist Ring" provides the service of creating avatar skins for network shooters like Quake; in other words a craft or skill-based ring. Another common network topology is the clan or guild site that serves as a locus of community building and cultural marking for network gaming social formations. One notable example of a game clan site is the site for the Psycho Men Slayers Quake clan with trademark tattooed PMS avatar skins on display.
The Online Guide to Creative Game Content Exchange would provide a kind of "meta-topology" or integrated mapping of these various preexisting systems of exchange, effecting new crossovers and linkages between previously isolated communities. Here the emphasis would be on promoting further distribution and exposure of the "creative content"-- the wads, mods, levels, maps, add-ons, tile sets and tomes that constitute the digital folk art of network gaming. These game add-ons are a hacker art form that follows the hacker ethic of free distribution(online). They are engaged in a symbiotic/parasitic relation to their hosts, the original game engines, in other words, a hacker-like exploitation and manipulation of a pre-existing system. These add-ons or "hacks" of the original game engine open up a universe of alternative game content scenarios and character subjectivitys and were one the first places that active female characters appeared in shooter games among other alternatives to what was once the standard white male soldier character.
One newer area of game content exchange is in the realm of massively multi-player persistent and smaller scale non-persistent online graphical role playing games, the visual descendents of text-based MUDS and MOOS. Graphical role playing games are just beginning to open up their engines to their fans, allowing for player created world building and storytelling (game mastering). The Online Guide to Creative Game Content Exchange would also provide linkages to this nascent arena of distributed creative game content building and exchange.
In addition to distributed game development at a the level of "creative content", some developers are beginning to experiment with open source game development from the bottom up, all the way from source code up to visuals and graphics. Examples include an open source a-life game released under the GNU Public license with evolving crystal a-life monsters and "Hyperplay", a Japanese open source role playing game. Although these games may be categorized as "pure" open source, other games are only partially open source; various hybrids of open and closed source that attempt to straddle various capabilities of online development while still retaining closed ownership of part of the game. The Open Sorcery Database Developers Forum would provide a forum for developers and fans to meet, to learn about projects currently under development and in need of programmers, and to propose new open sorcery gaming projects. The Open Sorcery Database Developers Forum would not be restricted to pure strains of open source development but would be open to multiple forms of "Open Sorcery". Open Sorcery is a mode of development spawned by the network; multidimensional and mulitiplicitous, incorporating a variety of skills from coding editors to 3-D modeling to game mastering to monster design. Unlike open source software development, Open Sorcery does not necessarily result in one finished product but can splinter into multiple possibilities that traverse multiple trajectories.
The Open Sorcery Online Gallery will showcase stellar game add-ons created by local youth, thereby providing an important link between the local community of gamers and international networks of players represented elsewhere in "the Open Sorcery Database Project." This feature of "the Open Sorcery Database Project" also will include a workshop to impart game add-on making skills to participants. Like other socially engaged public artworks such as Susan Lacys "Crystal Quilt", the Open Sorcery Online Gallery invites community created artwork and fosters the development of healing social bonds in a specific local community context.
In the net.art tradition of projects such as I/O/D s "Web Stalker" and Mark Napiers "Web Shredder" one important feature of "the Open Sorcery Database Project" will be an information finder that employs artlike strategies of information visualization and mapping. The Open Sorcery Database "Search Engine" will be responsive to the users needs and will be capable of searching by a number of gateway categories such as online communities, game genre, and skill rings. The Open Sorcery Database "Search Engine" will also provide a built in means of dynamically updating the contents of the Open Sorcery Guide to Creative Game Content Exchange by writing the results of user searches to the guide.