[ English docs ] 17 Mayo, 2006 16:34

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[ English docs ] 16 Mayo, 2006 11:24

BorderGames arrives in Berlin…….
from http://mappinglucy.blogspot.com/

…..and it was my task to lay out the ‘red carpet’ and make all the necessary arrangements before they (“the Spanish People”) arrived. This entailed making a flyer…..making a workshop space…..and then this week running around Kreuzberg gathering cables, batteries and other technological confetti that usually malfunctioned to ensure the thwarting of a smooth start.

Berlin BorderGames 01

What is BorderGames? Make-Your-Own Computer Game software developed by Jorde, Javier and David (aka Fiambrera Obrera), three part-time activist-artists of varying levels of humour and intensity, connected by their anti-capitalist sentiments and an interest in community practices with a resolutely anti-do-gooder attitude. BorderGames turns users into producers, presenting the opportunity to construct a computer game using your own neighbourhood, friends and enemies. Representations of daily life experiences are navigated through a series of dialogues with multiple choice answers and a specific goal in mind. In the case of the Madrid game it was developed with a group of Moroccan teenagers who were in the country illegally. Thus the central theme of the game is to acquire papers that allowed you to work in Spain. To do so you have to negotiate the challenges of the police, potential employers and youth educators along the way.

The software is essentially a tool of political representation for those whose voices are rarely heard on public platforms. The character who introduces the game comments that the user will find real stories very different to the narratives of politicians distributed through media channels. I realised some of my own biases when I played the game - how come the youth educator in fact turned out to be bad guy, who despite good intentions perhaps ended up increasing the chances of my deportation? Likewise I was confused by the fact that all of the multiple choice options for interactions with the police ended up in a brick falling on my head and the game being over. Nor in fact was there any certain way at all to get papers - all conversational routes end with the falling brick even after you have finally managed to acquire a temporary set of papers. I realised of course that the game follows not the logic of the average computer game formula but the real experiences of the teenagers.

The Kreuzberg workshop is taking place in a ground-floor storefront under a large housing block in Kottbusser Tor. Our design challenge was to make a ‘teenager-friendly’ space for the workshop that didn’t resemble an internet café or a new media office (think of an ensemble of chairs, tables and computers in an otherwise bare room) for under $100, with access also to MDF, wood, paint, a lime green carpet and a series of shipping pallet ‘seats’ of varying shapes and sizes. We (Martin, another Raumlabor intern and me) constructed what you can see in the photos below – signage using the graphics of the flyer including oversized letters, a good deal of yellow and black caution tape (borders…..) and a basic asymmetrical wood ‘auditorium’ structure.

Berlin BorderGames 02

This week’s activities have centred around familiarising the kids with the concept of the game and walking around the neighbourhood with them to collect interviews and photographs of places and people of significance in their lives. The next stage is to assemble dialogues of typical interactions between them and the characters they decide to include in the game.

I have been impressed by Fiambrera Obrera’s practicing of what they preach. They are insistent that the development of the game should happen on the terms of the kids rather than them imposing a structure. In other words the process and methods shift with each new location and group of participants. Previously they have worked with a fixed group of illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 and 18. Here in Kreuzberg they have found a situation where because of the location of the space opposite a playground almost all of the participants are under 12 and with varying and unpredictable levels of commitment to the work. They are mostly of Turkish origin, legal residents and with consciences consumed more with soccer (boys) and animal stories (girls) than politics. Thus the methods have morphed to accommodate this flux and working includes as much football playing as it does time in front of the computer. After the first week it seems that the ‘Kotti’ game is more likely to be a patchwork ensemble of stories centred on the housing block that crosses Adalbertstrasse (where our workshop is taking place)/the problem of a lost football and the encountering of various figures in order to recoup it (uncle in a kebab shop, punk, policeman etc)/the assembling of a ‘dreamteam’ football league made up of characters from the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile interesting gender differences manifest themselves in the opportunities to draw – girls invariably make escapist worlds of flowers, clouds and princesses while the boys territorially ‘tag’ their names and neighbourhood gang (the number ‘36’, the old postcode for the area). I have been very impressed by the self-confidence of kids interviewing and photographing friends and strangers to be characters in their game and the beautiful video footage shot by some of the older girls. At the end of one week we have some dialogues, a range of stories and histories with accompanying photographs, a 3D computer model of Kottbusser Tor thus far Madrid characters in it and some video interviews.

Berlin BorderGames 03

And then after every workshop we find a spot to consume beer and Turkish meat and reflect, and the Spanish entertain us with stories of their other projects which include rethinking various aspects of pornography and shoplifting, all littered with references to ‘relational aesthetics’ and ‘performative theory’. Insightful indeed!