//	"Game Plug-ins and Patches as Hacker Art"

//    As any avid gamer quickly discovers, the Internet is not only a free   
//    source of computer game cheats and puzzle keys, but the home of        
//    numerous game plug-ins and patches available for download. These       
//    patches range from a simple repair of a programming bug to intricate   
//    new game scenarios, replacing the characters, sounds, architecture     
//    and/or game challenges in the original games. The increasing popularity
//    of these once unsanctioned game hacks has led some gaming companies,   
//    like the producers of Quake and Marathon, to capitalize on the trend   
//    and subsume this once renegade practice into their marketing strategy, 
//    bundling patch-making software with their official games. Certainly the
//    Internet fame of the "Nude Raider" patch for Tomb Raider, a patch which
//    strips the protagonist Lara CroftÕs already scanty attire to reveal    
//    sharp nude polygons, is good PR for Tomb Raider. Web rumor has it that 
//    Eidos Interactive faked and distributed the Nude Raider screenshots as 
//    a publicity stunt. Another common application of game patches is in the
//    corporate Silicon Valley workspace, where workers relieve tension by   
//    playing networked tunnel shooter games over their local ethernet       
//    network, pasting photographs of themselves onto the games avatars and  
//    customizing the architecture to mimic their own corporate habitat.     
//    Other game patches position themselves in a more critical and/or       
//    subversive relation to their "hosts", the official game engines. Rather
//    than situating themselves as a hyperbole to the host game or as a      
//    customized simulation, the more subversive patches offer alternatives  
//    to the often rigidly defined genres of gameplay and sometimes create   
//    new genres that are assimilated into the game marketplace. Although the
//    category of "feminist game patches" can be misleading, game patches    
//    with female protagonists prefigure the first appearance of female      
//    characters in official games like Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, and Final
//    Fantasy VII. The Marathon Infinity patch "Tina Shapes and Tina Sounds" 
//    replaced the protagonist,"Infinity Bob" with a female Tina. A Japanese 
//    Doom patch entitled "Otakon Doom" replaced the protagonist with a      
//    Japanese animation girlfighter named "Priss". Still another Doom patch 
//    replaced all the characters with the cast from the movie "Aliens",     
//    including substituting Sigourney Weaver for the male protagonist.      
//    Another variety of game patches humorously undermines the extremely    
//    macho codes of interaction in shoot-em-up computer games by            
//    substituting the standard adult male characters with androgynous       
//    animals and goofy childrens fantasy characters. Take for instance the  
//    Marathon patch that replaced all the characters with different colored 
//    gumby dolls and the Doom patch entitled "Barney and his Minions".      
//    Although some artists have successfully created games as art, producing
//    a game patch as art offers certain advantages over building a game from
//    scratch. On a technical level, of course, the artist(s) avoids having  
//    to put in the extensive time required for programming an interactive   
//    game engine. But the parasitic game patch is also a means to infiltrate
//    gaming culture and to contribute to the formation of new configurations
//    of game characters, game space and gameplay. Like the sampling rap MC, 
//    game hacker artists operate as culture hackers who manipulate existing 
//    techno-semiotic structures towards different ends or, as described by  
//    artist Brett Stalbaum, "who endeavor to get inside cultural systems and
//    make them do things they were never intended to do." "Cracking the     
//    Maze" will exhibit both game patches created by artists and game patch 
//    artifacts from the web produced by the original game hackers, in an    
//    attempt to generate an open discourse on art, games, game hacking and  
//    gaming culture on the Internet.                                        
//    Many artists, art critics, new media critics and theoreticians have    
//    expressed a disdain for games and game style interactivity, in fact, to
//    describe an interactive computer art piece as "too game-like" is a     
//    common pejorative. But considering the increasing popularity of        
//    computer games with younger generations, even at the expense of        
//    television, it seems perilous to ignore the spread of gaming culture.  
//    What sorts of spaces computer games construct, what sorts of           
//    gender-subject configurations operate in computer games, what sorts of 
//    politics of 'the other' computer games employ, what modes of           
//    interactivity and addiction computer games invite, how networked       
//    on-line games construct alternate worlds, how gaming culture manifests 
//    itself on the Internet--these are all areas ripe for investigation by  
//    cultural critics and manipulation by game hacker artists. "Cracking the
//    Maze" will attempt to bring together discourse and activity in these   
//    and other areas in relation to the game patch as hacker art.       
//                     © Anne-Marie Schleiner 1998