9ft Video Game Joystick Now Holds Guinness World Record
By Noah Sheidlower and Radhika Marya, CNN
In 2006, before the advent of augmented reality games like Pokémon GO, artist Mary Flanagan wanted to find a way to get random people to play a game together. His solution? Create a 9ft tall video game joystick – which debuted in the 2022 Guinness World Records as the tallest of its kind.
The giant controller is nearly 14 times the original size of a typical Atari CX40 controller, according to Flanagan. Commissioned for the House of Technologically Termed Praxis in London, the joystick was made from wood, steel and rubber. It is currently held at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has toured Spain, UK and USA.
“The idea was to really take something that’s meant for solitary play and make it so big that it requires collaboration and brings people together,” said Flanagan, chair of the film and media studies department at Dartmouth College. and Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities.
She worked with a team of expert builders at New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard to create her “engineering marvel,” which breaks down into two giant crates.
“It’s a little complicated even getting around,” she told CNN. “Between shows it was always awkward because sometimes I had to store it in a storage unit, sometimes it was stored in another country between shows. At one point, it was in my friend’s barn in upstate New York.
At least two people must use the joystick, which can play classic Atari games, including “Breakout” and “Centipede”. Although as a unit the joystick contains a bit of Atari inside, Flanagan said the joystick can technically be connected to anything.
“When you get on it a really high score in something like ‘Breakout’ or ‘Pong’ is like 11 because people don’t move that fast when they have to move their whole body,” she said.
“Then trying to coordinate with different people… it slows down everyone and kind of changes our relationship with this familiar play practice and gives us a bit of critical distance.”
Flanagan entered the video game space as a game designer for CD-ROM games in the 1990s. She also created what some consider to be the first autobiographical video game called “[domestic]. As the author of several books on video games, Flanagan has pursued more creative interpretations of digital culture, such as making games for social change or that deal with social issues – which is exactly what she believes to be. what the joystick does.
Being billed as a Guinness World Recorder came as a shock to Flanagan, who hoped to “produce a childish scale” and “generate group discussions and games,” according to Guinness. Her goal, she said, beyond bringing people together, was to get people to defamiliarize parts of their daily lives and make them “a little weird.”
“There’s just something we can all benefit from artists’ perspectives on pop culture, funny things around us, and open our eyes to new ways of looking at something really familiar,” a- she declared.
Flanagan noted that the joystick isn’t tied to any particular generation, especially considering how niche and fashionable some old video games have become. She linked this phenomenon to classic cars, which entered the mainstream although few people drive them anymore.
Everyone though, she admitted, yearns for the moment they played their first video game.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘World of Warcraft’ or ‘Fortnite’ or ‘Candy Crush’ or whatever their relationship to their game is. It opens them up to a new way of being in the world, and people remember it. of those times when they bond with their game, and it’s kind of romantic, ”Flanagan said.
Flanagan is currently working on a “feminist artificial intelligence” project that is trained solely on the work of female artists to explore biases in algorithms. She hopes that through her joystick and her current projects, video games and their modifications can be crucial tools to encourage meaningful interaction.
“The games themselves are almost like little universes, and we can invent possible futures in them,” she said. “I hope we can maybe feel some optimism about the game and maybe break some barriers and be together.”
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