CRUDELY, A MACHINE. THE DREAM MACHINE THROUGH THE LENS OF RUSSIAN FORMALISM
This article explains how specific aesthetic decisions work in the game The Dream Machine. I analyze it through the lens of Russian Formalism: particular techniques of making a video game are judged through Shklovsky’s Art as a Technique, and the problem of the game genre is presented through Tynianov’s The Literary Fact. Theoretically, I aspire to reclaim the original context for these ideas, which is surprisingly relevant to contemporary horror media. Digital games as an artistic form re-introduce the effect of estrangement into the ongoing experiments with their medium; in The Dream Machine, this effect is created by replacing a digital simulacrum of computer generated imagery with high resolution scans of real life objects, made of modeling clay, cardboard and found objects. I label this technique “scary matter”, and it can be found both in games, animation films and pop music videos, such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. The medium of a digital game suggests it is timeless and infinitely replayable, which intensifies the effect of estrangement in the case of always-already dead ‘scary matter’.
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