US, September 23, 2009 - What's the purpose of playing videogames? Entertainment? Escape? Release? Reward? If you picked the last one, you won't want to play Lose/Lose, an art project wrapped in the skin of a downloadable game.
Created by New York City-based digital artist Zach Gage, Lose/Lose gives real-world consequences to the now mundane act of blasting aliens, something most of us have been trained to do since middle school. The premise is both simple and paradoxical: You're a spaceship captain on a quest to kill attacking aliens. Kill them all without dying, and you win. But for each alien you kill, a file on your computer is deleted. If you are killed, the game itself is destroyed.
SERIOUSLY, do not play this game. It will permanently destroy files on your computer. This is not a joke. You have been warned. - Ed.
Yep, you read that right. Lose/Lose procedurally generates the aliens from files on your computer. So essentially, you are creating the game from your personal files and destroying them one by one.
Or, in other words, you're killing things that are real in order to succeed in killing things that are fake. Then again, are the files on your computer actually real in any real sense? OK, my brain hurts now.
My 800GB collection of LOLGundams is far too precious to risk playing Lose/Lose, so I'll admit to not trying it. And I in no way recommend that you do, either. But you can watch a short video of Lose/Lose being played below to get a sense of how it works. Here's how Gage describes it:
Although touching aliens will cause the player to lose the game, and killing aliens awards points, the aliens will never actually fire at the player.
Too precious to risk.
This calls into question the player's mission, which is never explicitly stated, only hinted at through classic game mechanics. Is the player supposed to be an aggressor? Or merely an observer, traversing through a dangerous land?
Why do we assume that because we are given a weapon an awarded for using it, that doing so is right?
By way of exploring what it means to kill in a video-game, Lose/Lose broaches bigger questions. As technology grows, our understanding of it diminishes, yet, at the same time, it becomes increasingly important in our lives. At what point does our virtual data become as important to us as physical possessions? If we have reached that point already, what real objects do we value less than our data? What implications does trusting something so important to something we understand so poorly have?
There are more than 35 entries in the High Score section of the Lose/Lose website, ranging from 1 to 4,294,967,295 aliens killed. These are either brave and reckless souls, or tech-savvy gamers who've found a way to play without losing files they actually care about. Unless you fall into the latter category, don't try this one at home.