As opposed to traditional board or card games, framed by shared physical space, the communicative exchanges and group experiences occurring in computer games, such as in “(Massive) Multi-User games”, take place in virtual worlds that are (a few exceptions aside) accessed by individual players from the privacy of their home through the use of game controllers, mice, keyboards and joysticks. These interfaces themselves exist on the periphery of perception, as translators that extend users’ hands and movements into dataspace.


It is exactly this space of the ‘in-between’ and disconnect that Mary Flanagan‘s [giantJoystick] highlights. Users can play classic arcade games by collaboratively moving on and controlling a 9-foothigh joystick (modelled after the 1980 Atari 2600 one). The joystick itself becomes a social sculpture and territory for inter-personal communication. The joystick’s traditional role is to communicate its (physical) angle to the 2D or 3D virtual world. [giantJoystick] requires players to collaboratively ‘perform’ their movements in order to engage with the game and thus makes them acknowledge not only the notion of shared space but also the necessity for shared strategies and approaches in order to pursue their goal.

Seaneas has flickr’d more images.

Play with the giant controller at Game/Play, a networked exhibition focusing on the rhetorical constructs game and play. Where? at Q Arts Derby (Derby, UK) and HTTP London. When? 22 July – 3 September (HTTP) and 10 Septembe (Q Arts) 2006, then the show goes on to tour the UK, in a combined exhibition.

If you can’t make it to the shows, there’s a small consolation: the catalogue is online as PDF.

More joysticks: Voodoo Doll controlled game, five joysticks combine to move the single PacMan, hard-wired devices, SweetPad replace joysticks to allow three persons to play Quake 3 Arena with tenderness, RoboGamer, a robotic system which plays video game together with you, Rehearsal Joypads, Control Freaks are devices that attach to everyday objects or living thing, eTech – Tom Armitage, etc.