[Verge]: Playing the Frame

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[Verge] is a playable experience that explores the transformation of visual language in a virtual storyworld. The storyworld is a 3D virtual space and follows the format of a third-person perspective. The player performs in the world through a visible character that can interact with the surroundings and with other non-player characters (NPCs) that inhabit the space.

The impetus for [Verge] as an artistic pursuit has been to unlock the expressive palette for computer-based visual storytelling. The approach to the work recognizes that the communication of story occurs within the viewable frame – it teems with dramatic meaning, compressing physical, psychological, and interpersonal relationships into one. Through the computational processes at the heart of an interactive storyworld, the communicative role of visual language is fundamentally altered. The player now converses with the fictional world through the visual imagery of the screen, recasting the traditional cinematic view as a playable space. In [Verge], visual language presents itself as an evocative conversation, making its expressive possibilities a tangible, dramatically meaningful interface between the player and the storyworld.

The Verge storyworld created for the Digital Arts and New Media MFA exhibition at UC Santa Cruz in 2016 was a first step in the larger artistic pursuit. In introduced the gallery visitor to the role that visual language could play in an interactive story context. The installation was configured to reflect its correspondence to the language of film by resembling a small movie theater: the work played on an immense monitor; a few feet away a square platform held three attached theater seats that faced the large screen. A small table in front of the seats held a single game controller and was close enough so that a person sitting in any of the three seats could interact with the work.