AUTOSAVE: REDOUBT is a scale reconstruction of a World War II bunker system in Hong Kong made as a playable map within the computer game Counterstrike: Global Offensive.
Project by: Andrew Luk, Peter Nelson, Alexis Mailles
AUTOSAVE: REDOUBT - AN INTRODUCTION
Computer games use a language that is not easily understood just by watching games – you have to play them. The genre of the First-Person Shooter (FPS) exaggerates the predatory potential of the monocular gaze by framing the player’s vision with a gun and a set of crosshairs. An observer might notice film conventions, such as dramatic lighting and mise en scenè, however the player will prioritise spatial awareness and optical targeting to survive in the game. Alexander Galloway argues that such ‘gamic vision’ spreads far beyond computer games themselves. The US Military’s use of FPS games as recruiting tools collapses representation and reality, and the use of game engines for everything from architectural simulations to historical site reconstructions demonstrates just how ubiquitous gamic vision has become. It also begs the question – to what degree is the First-Person Shooter present within all other uses of 3D game technology?
Concrete bunkers from World War II survive across the globe as monoliths in the landscape, or as unexpected ruins hidden under jungle creepers. Paul Virilio describes these relics as myths of the present and the absent – present is the reflection of technology and death, and absent is the contradiction that these technologies usually didn’t work effectively as killing machines. As the Maginot Line did not prevent the German invasion of France, the bunkers, tunnels and pillboxes known as the Gin Drinkers Line did not prevent the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong.
Digital recreation is an increasingly popular way to visualise historic sites for preservation and education. Whilst the crosshairs and weapon are no longer on screen, the use of game engines to render the visualisation, and the familiar mode of first-person navigation invokes an underlying gamic vision. The shadow cast by First Person Shooters over historical recreation is the subject for Autosave: Redoubt. Our project is an accurate scale recreation of Gin Drinkers Line military bunkers within the FPS game Counterstrike: Global Offensive, and a spatial soundscape that explores the history of the period. By highlighting the overlap between 3D site recreation and game technology, our work confronts a set of contradictory expectations. The historian’s desire for accuracy in preservation is challenged by the structural limitations of the game engine, and the player’s desire for a fast-paced competitive playground is met with real-world distances, and disorienting architecture.
With one finger pressed on the W key, the player runs forwards into a dark network of tunnels. The tense anticipation of the Counterstrike player is gradually dulled by the repetitive echo of their own footsteps. As they push deeper into the tunnels, the lights begin to gently pulse as if the tunnels were breathing, and tiny fragments from the 1940s unexpectedly break the silence. Iva Toguri (better known Tokyo Rose), boogie-woogie singer Shizuko Kasagi and Yoshiko Yamaguchi echo in the tunnels—haunting the site with artists whose lives were conscripted into the landscape of World War II. Samples of British newsreel and civilian stories from the Hong Kong occupation quietly fill the more desolate regions of the game map. The player is turned into a DJ, remixing historical samples as they get lost in the tunnels. When the two players encounter one another, they are snapped out of their historical reverie, the logic of the first person shooter game asserts itself, and the game ends.
The violence that occurred at this site was the defeat of the British by the Japanese on the 10th of December 1941, and the tragic death of two Indian engineers. By maintaining the rules of the First Person Shooter in this site reconstruction, and placing it on Counterstrike servers, this work explores the relationship between military history, site reconstruction and gamic vision.
AUTOSAVE: REDOUBT - PLAYING THE RECONSTRUCTION
A short video overview of the debut of Autosave: Redoubt over two events on October 21 and 28. Audience members became participants by performing the act of playing (CS:GO) a first person shooter in our custom built reconstruction. As part of the program, we included a panel discussion as well as an area where audience members could view the layers of the construction process and see a video game map as artwork as compared to maps commonly found in gaming.
Autosave: Redoubt was made by Andrew Luk, Peter Nelson and Alexis Mailles. Andrew Luk is a sculpture and installation artist whose works explore the historical encoding of found materials, and the entropic boundary between the man-made and the naturally occurring. Peter Nelson works between painting, computer game design and computer game theory to remix and distort historical works of landscape. Alexis Mailles uses a combination of digital and analog techniques to produce hybrid installations of video, sound, and spatial interaction that result in absurd, amusing and critical comments on technological society. For over one year, these three artists have collaborated on game programming, design, and extensive historical research to produce Autosave: Redoubt.
Our map will be unconventional for CS:GO. It is considerably larger than usual, and emphasises long distances and disorienting underground tunnels, in order to give a sense of how these distances and structures actually relate to our experience of space in games. Recreating this site within CS:GO is also our contribution to an ongoing discussion in Hong Kong as to whether this site, and other relics of World War 2 should be preserved as part of Hong Kong’s historical legacy.
This project is being funded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
As part of our presentation of the project we conducted a panel discussion that took place on October 28, 2017 between panelists Dr. Alfie Bown and Dr. Isaac Leung, as well as two of the three artists, Peter Nelson and Andrew Luk. Alexis Mailles, the third collaborating artist could not be present for the discussion.
UPCOMING & CURRENT
28.3.18 - 22.4.18
G/F. Cosco Tower, 183 Queen's Road Central, Sheung Wan
Casual Play: Freeplay Session
1pm - 5pm, October 21, 2017
M7056, 7th Floor, Run Run Shaw School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
Audience members can come experience the game on one of thirty different computer stations as part of a LAN party, or watch others play from the viewing lounge where refreshments will be provided.
Competitive Play: Talk & Tournament
1pm - 5pm, October 28, 2017
M7056, 7th floor, Run Run Shaw School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
1pm - 2pm
Panel Discussion: History, Geography and Play in a Counterstrike Artwork
2pm - 5pm
Tournament: Audience members will band together into teams of five to eight, and compete in an esports tournament.
*All events will be livestreamed
*All gameplay will be livestreamed on Twitch