Over the last few years the stature of many video games has been becoming more and more akin to blockbuster films, offering the potential to generate far greater revenue than most recent cinematic hits, and often commanding similar budgets. This really clicked for me when Kevin Spacey was cast as the main antagonistic in 2014's Call of Duty Advance Warfare, and how far-reaching the launches of 2013's Grand Theft Auto V and 2015's Fallout 4 were.
We are in the renaissance of video game history, where the consumer base is expanding well beyond the stereotype of acne-ridden teenage boys hunched under their cum stained duvets in their parent's basements, and video gaming is finally becoming an accepted part of culture and day-to-day life. Smartphone gaming has been a huge factor of this, and I consider Kim Kardashian's 2013 Hollywood game seminal in introducing consumers who may not necessarily consider themselves a gamer, to playing games. Even apps like tinder have gamified the matchmaking process.
Media journalists including the now iconic Anita Sarkeesian, approach video game criticism with the same panache as most respected cultural critics, and should be lauded as such, often encouraging the notion that we have barely scratched the surface with regards to how video games can enrich our lives. Other platforms including Extra Credits, Wisecrack, and The Game Theorists helped pioneer this new genre of media journalism that examines gaming culture beyond its limitations as a past time, analysing the social and ethical impacts of gaming on a wider society than the stereotypical target demographic outlined above.
This new era of video gaming is destined to be picked up upon by other media, and the Maul is at the forefront of applying this interactive technology to a fashion magazine and retail context. However, where magazines are limited to page counts, costs and a linear layout from start to finish, video game magazines are able to depict a more intensely immersive and non-linear experience. Three dimensional, interactive editorials in the form of vignettes of virtual clothes on virtual models, offer a striking visual that challenges the audience's idea of virtuality and simulation. What better, more profound medium to convey the artifice of fashion, than computer-generated-imagery?
The starting point for this ambitious project, was of pure self indulgence. It was mainly an opportunity to unlock any extreme concept I've had in my brain that hasn't been possible before. I've always wanted to build my own shop; a creative space that evolved in the same vein as McClaren and Westwood's "Let It Rock / SEX + Seditionaries / World's End," but a heinous property climate in London has quelled that dream for a while now. As a virtual structure, my dream space isn't limited by money, geography, physics or success, only my imagination.
John Divola's 1977 Zuma series was an early point of inspiration; I've always been completely obsessed with the timeless balance of anarchy and paradise in the pictures, and felt it compelling for a project that was destined to be a body of work of two halves; a two-faced creature of uncanny proportions, eternally conflicted between the labour of hand-crafting a physical collection, and the intangibility that comes with presenting it online. The way he frames these dilapidated shells was enough to get me started with building my beach-house-cum-shopping-mall.
Salvador Dali's unnerving paintings were also essential in encouraging myself to push the uncanny further and further. Where his incredible manipulation of paint let him communicate his deepest desires, so too would my manipulation of video game technology. Dali's dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 Spellbound remains one of the most profound depictions of the mind's eye that has ever been put to film, and how could the expansive desert scapes and skewed proportions of 'Destino', another 1945-2003 collaboration with Walt Disney not influence my CGI landscape? These examples are testament to the incredible benefits of collaboration and experimentation with new media.
With regards to dreams and non-linearity, I am a self-proclaimed Christopher Nolan fanboy, utterly obsessed with the scale and elegance with which he approaches big budget blockbuster cinema. A modern auteur, his films reject traditional notions of linearity unlike any other director working today, blurring the line between the experience of dreaming and the experience of watching a film in a disorienting way at the best of times.
Most notably, 2010's Inception toys with these themes the most. The student architect Ariadne quickly resonated with me, as she becomes enticed by her intrigue of the potential of pure unlimited creation. I also consider the punny title 'Maul' to be another reference to 'Mal,' the main antagonist in Inception, portrayed by Marion Cotillard. Mal has forgotten what is real and what is a dream after over indulging on dream manipulation with her husband; something I'm also beginning to identify with. The knives that puncture the facade of my virtual shopping mall are a nod to the many instances (I II III) Cotillard has stabbed a lead character in one of Nolan's films.
Again, the themes of duality, balance, tangibility and intangiblity lent themselves to my obsession with comic books and superhero cinema. The collection is littered with references to Marvel and DC comic's legendary franchises, and I have a blind obsession with Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, the incredible story of a man wrestling with both sides of his character, secret identities and the wrestle between good vs. evil. In fact, the final film in the Dark Knight trilogy is inspired by the ultimate novel of dualities; Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities.'
I consider superhero lore the pinnacle of Pop Culture, as these modern mythical heroes face multi-billion dollar establishments funded by merchandise and brand loyalty. In my parallel universe, after the near extinction of man, the one thing that remains is unsold superhero merchandise, gaudy in colour and pattern, hopeless in its failure to save humanity from itself. It's such a core reference to my practice that it was going to be in my game whether I realised it or not.
Michael Bay’s explosive brand of cinema is another reference- Bay's pornographic sensibility is so camp to me, I'm quite obsessed with it. A reliance on fast cuts and explosive CGI, while reviled, launched a new genre in blockbuster cinema, and I wanted to nod to this with the soundtrack of my Maul; Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," from 1998's Armageddon. A hammy power ballad penned by the iconic Diane Warren, it was the perfect motif to back my apocalyptic game, and the lyrics are also knit into my intarsia jumper.
The Mall is a common setting in post apocalyptic cinema; a generic end point in the zombie genre, due to it being conveniently stocked with everything a crew of zombie killer survivors would need. Dawn of the Dead’s iconic ending sequence of the protagonists custard pieing the zombies as they cause havoc in the shopping mall is an iconic reference, as I proceed to adapt this horror movie aesthetic to fashion e-commerce.
To construct this depiction of my reality has been a physically enduring one-man operation, creating most content from the ground up. I work on the game in 18 hour stints, where time and space blend into one. Every single thing is accounted for; the colours of the walls of the shop are swatched from paints I mixed, the protagonist's knitted jumper has been hand knit from scratch, the blood and piss on his briefs is my blood and piss. In building this elaborate set from the ground up, I have had control over every angle, scale and position of every object in the set. My hand has touched every single piece of the Maul, which is paradoxical, because it is an intangible product.
This incredible investment of my time and sanity into a work that doesnt have any physical heft has left me with such warped concepts of value, actuality, virtuality and simulation that any inklings of nihilism I held before, I'm drowning in now. This ethic has now haemorrhaged into my process as a garment maker, stylist and most noticeably, as a photographer.
The non-narrative of the work is another testament to this; it is nothing more than a fruitless wander through an abandoned mall littered with corpses wearing my 'anti-collection.' The arrangement of the dead bodies is awkward- I've found that the only thing harder than making a CGI character look alive, is making it look dead. Again, it's something about the non-weight to their shell. Their 'flesh' can't rot, their essence can't be lost for good, they're prisons within a prison. These characters in the simulation are destined to an eternity trapped in a cyclic space, on and off, with no aim (see also: Fashion).
A lot of bad art work concerning the virtual revolution projects the digital world as a paradise. Seapunk's shallow preoccupation with water and palm trees are nodded to in this work, but I offer a grit, grot and grime in this game that can't be found in the pastel hued banality of much of the new aesthetic.
After weeks of solid work, what I'm left with is an elaborate knit of pixels and code; a depiction of my minds eye that is as utterly personal as it is surreal and vacuous. It certainly feels like the first of many video game products that I will produce, as I am completely hooked to learning new techniques with the software, and the entire process has been one big learning curve. My next step I feel is to build my Maul before the plane crash and zombie apocalypse - to depict it when it was a thriving shopping mall, imbedded with clues as to the impending doom.
If you made it this far, sweet.