© Mark Platten 2006
Chapter Four: Leisure Applications
The object of 'Rape Man'; a Japanese adult fantasy game based on a popular comic book character, is to beat a woman on the screen into submission and then rape her in an electronic simulation. This delightful piece of software has yet to establish itself in Britain, where the computer game currently at the top of the adult charts is 'Leisure Suit Larry', which invites players to guide 'a pervert pursuing half-naked women through bars and strip joints, tweaking their bra-straps and bedding them on their way to Hollywood stardom.' (3)
'...violence is, I think, a nature of the human animal. We would like to deny our animalism but at the same time, I think it's there. I think the most important thing is that we find ways that we can vent our hostilities in socially acceptable manners' (4)
Naturally, not all games are 'extreme'; and whatever the deficiencies in the leisure sector's lucrative encouragement of infantile regressive fantasy, it nonetheless holds the key to unlocking VR in the palm of its hand thanks to a huge market, which might sponsor the necessary R&D. But if there is such a large market to be tapped for escapism that currently festers in 2D and its exploiters' and users' debatable imaginations on the living room TV screen, then the implications of a sensually interactive scenario are self-evident. A dilemma emerges. Should individual psychologies be encouraged to vent their energies on games such as 'virtual rape / combat / mutilation' etc, which are surely bound to emerge, and the proponents of such games might argue along Bushell's lines, or could this spur the individual on to an unfortunate conclusion; inspired by the relative authenticity of committing a synthetic atrocity ? Addiction to arcade machines is currently a recognised problem. (Fig. 28)
"The Japanese Ministry of International trade and Industry is conducting research into virtual reality worth $60 million. Nintendo....is also said to be working hard in this area" (5)
and it is not unrealistic to suppose that the Japanese are looking to launch some form of VR application for the home market in the not too distant future.
It seemed, at one point, that cinema would be killed off by the cathode ray tube, but it has prevailed through the age of home video. For his latest film, 'Prospero's Books', which he described engagingly as "the Terminator2 of the art world", director Peter Greenaway spent 6 months creating images with some of the most advanced digital graphics technology now available - the 'Quantel Paintbox' (Fig.29) and 35mm animation system.....hence, evidently cognisant of the technological possibilities for the arts, and pressed for an opinion, he had the following to say
'To my knowledge, I don't think the VR systems are yet sophisticated or developed enough or in the right hands to become part of the cinematic vocabulary. I'd like the creation of a new sort of cinema - much more involved with audience reaction - involving people in a sort of cinema debate so they can decide themselves what they want to watch....there is an urgency to understand what is happening today. The urgency is to use other language now as it's being developed.' (6)
Indeed, it would appear that Greenaway's wishes are being fulfilled. At the Siggraph Electronic Theater, Las Vegas, Jul/Aug. 1991, audience members, the largest number to simultaneously participate in an interactive game on record, each held up a lollipop stick; one side red, the other green....cameras at the back of the hall picked up on the red and green matrix, fed the information into a computer, processed in real time and projected onto a giant screen. Depending on which side was held up, each individual was given the opportunity to make a decision; to vote, in effect....
'We are entering unexplored territory here. We are looking at a totally new group dynamic....the implications are mind-boggling. High street cinemas could become giant interactive game sets overnight, prototype product launches could be given immediate feedback like 'Juke Box Jury', and when interactive cinema software is more developed, the audience could start controlling the narrative of the film.' - Ian Grant(7)
Suddenly, TV seems most insignificant, and rather ineffectual by comparison with these visions. But currently manufacturers are squabbling over which format High-Definition Television will take, and it seems that even before they get that off the ground, they might be overtaken by home VR...... Home interactive media versus group interactive - will one predominate in the future ? Once everybody has a system in their livingroom, able to plug into designated play areas, there are sure to be bizzarre consequences.
(1) Seymour, Richard, 'Less virtual, more real', in 'Blueprint', November 1991, p. 74