Fake Album Covers

While studying up on art theory (semiotics and simulacra), I stumbled across this Fake Album Cover meme. Seems like my kind of thing, so how did I miss it?

Fake Album Cover from Know Your Meme:

How to Make Your Own Album Cover

1 – Go to “wikipedia.” Hit “random”
or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 – Go to “Random quotations”
or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”
or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 – Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

Jean Baudrillard

Cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard wrote: “Abstraction today is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyper-real which is henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference.”

Artists work in semiotics now, trading in signs for things, rather than representing nature. Or they create hyper-realities that are simulations of things that never actually existed to begin with. This leads some pessimism, “marked by the loss of an organic relationship between experience and the representation of that experience.”

But there’s another person from which we can question why the natural world, or an authentic and pre-existing original, carries so much value.

We do not necessarily revere the painter who can most realistically represent an image; instead, we often value the deliberate or stylistic deviations from realism. That is where the artistry resides. Even with photography or image re-presentation, we look for the compositional or content choices made by the artist, rather than the perfect reproduction of reality. With re-presented images or readymade objects, artists find a way to offer personal expressions or cultural critiques through mediation, or recontextualizing a commonplace object. In video games, visual representation and sounds are secondary; these are elements from traditional media that are less relevant to video games than interactive systems, the differentiating aspect of the medium. It’s through the interactive systems–as related to the player’s agency–that we see the artistry in video games.

If we take this same line of thinking and we factor out the less valued, less characteristic aspects of human existence, treating it as a medium, we can distill it down to what is most germane, most sublimely unique…our emotional and intellectual responses, and our connections to one another.

The unorthodox question that follows is this: Might we be able to better experience, better appreciate these things in a fully simulated space? Again, if we ask why the real world should carry so much value, and we determine that the aspects of human existence that matter most are not related to the constraints of the real world, but to our intellectual and emotional responses, then we might agree that simulated reality is actually a better environment in which to be human.

Further, the nature of the real world is arbitrary; it’s the condition into which we’re born. Much of our experience with the real or natural world is about physical constraints, environmental vulnerability or resource scarcity. We share those things with animals and plants. Our emotional, intellectual and social capacity make us human; those are elements unique to humanity.

We might, paradoxically, have a truer experience swimming together through simulacra; an experience almost exclusively focused on the things that make us human, on the things that separate us from bacteria, shrubs or insects.

I don’t subscribe to this view, but it is not necessarily true that Baudrillard’s theories lead a pessimistic conclusion.


I’m finally home after driving with Brenda Brathwaite to the Art History of Games Conference in Atlanta.


The event was great and timely, since I’m also taking an online art history class with SCAD. As usual, one of the best aspects was interacting with friends (old and new), talking about games.

Some of the speeches given at the conference made me realize that while–in crafting games–designers take up fierce positions and move toward absolutes, critics and academics often rely an elusive series of shifting positions and various lenses as a means of analysis. We tend to drive toward something hard, guided by a core statement or belief that might not hold up as consistent or perfect under intense scrutiny. (But a core statement that might be critical in terms of reaching the goal. Ie, “Multiple solutions to problems,” or “Modeling fight or flight response.”) They tend to ask questions from many different perspective, which is thought provoking and provides insight from earlier efforts.

Ever interesting, games vs stories comes up year after year. People make statements about whether games should include any embedded narrative borrowed from non-systemic, non-mechanical media like fiction or film.

I believe in our medium’s plurality. There’s no right answer. But for me the strongest experiences *right now* involve a synthesis…sublime moments that come from interacting with very analogue systems, wrapped in fiction that contextualizes the experience emotionally.

Best example for me, from the last year, is my 100 or so hours with Far Cry 2. Soon I’ll be playing Bioshock 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2, trying to get the same sensation, which I cannot find anywhere else. Certainly not in film, lit. or art.

Last Night in Austin

Zack Booth Simpson's Pond

Zack Booth Simpson gave an interesting lecture last week at the Blanton Museum on UT campus…the Evolution of Evolutionary Design. I met Zack when he was technical director at Origin Systems, years ago. Since, he’s taken himself away from commercial games and into scientifically-influenced art and molecular biology, among other things.

At the talk, I got to see Richard Garriot for the first time since his return from space. (I got to say, “Welcome back to Earth, man.” Not something I get to say to friends often, except in the cases where I mean it figuratively, after someone has gone off on a delusional tirade or a severe bender.) We touched briefly on Ultima IV–due to recent commentary across the ‘net–which always gives me a thrill, imaging what a modern Ultima IV would look like.

The subject(s) of the Blanton talk were informed by Zack’s position at the nexus of science, art and bricklaying and the speech was excellent; catch it via video or repeat performance if you can. Pleasing nerds of all flavors, Zack covered, no lie:

Ornamentation, history of
Algorithms, genetic
Craftsmanship, death and rebirth of
Art, definition of
Culture, development of
DNA nano-technology
Robots, self-replicating
Affine programs
Whale sperm
Suburban architecture
Cell phone towers
Life, meaning of

Toward the end of the talk, Zack showed off some of his new procedural tech-tool-toys, which always fire the imagination.

(Technically, this post is a day or two late, but had I completed it the day following Zack’s speech–as I planned–the subject line would be accurate.)

Bonus Xmas Score

I just found out that Puzzle Quest and Passage are available on the App Store. I first played PQ via XBLA and found it addictive and interesting. For me, Passage was the hit of the Gamma256 event in Montreal (in 2007?). Having both of these games on my iPod is great, for different reasons. PQ will allow me to level up on planes and trains, something I love, and the iPod version of Passage will allow me to show the game to people who normally might not encounter it.