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ADVANCING THE ARTS ACROSS MARYLAND

Aaron Oldenburg

Aaron Oldenburg

Artist Work

1,000 Heads Among the Trees
2015
videogame
variable
Pieces of Jonestown
2010
video
variable
After
2010
videogame
n/a
Cho-Am
2016
videogame
n/a
Nomad of the Abysmal Circle
2016
videogame with Mindflex neural headset interface
n/a
Islid
2016
videogame
n/a

Artist Information

County
Baltimore City
Artistic Category

Media Arts

Artist Statement

My work generally involves creating a series of game design experiments around a topic: the creation of interactive environmental narrative, the application the rules of religion to the rules of games, gameplay based on sound art theory, and most recently, applying elements of documentary process to the design of fictionalized game worlds. Throughout these different sets of works run similar threads: imagery that revolves around finding the magic in the mundane, hybrid cultural experiences, overlaps between magic and technology, an obsession with physical but often seemingly empty spaces with powerful histories, colonies of outsiders, and a secular exploration of experiences of faith. Several of my games use interaction metaphors, emphasizing game mechanics that are more intuitive, less rational. I am interested in provoking reflection through game rules as much as through narrative. Often, rather than becoming a hindrance to communicating a higher concept, the use of obstacles and goals is a necessary process the player needs to experience in order to feel and reflect on the theme of the piece. Other games have taken real-life narratives and broken them up, turning them into generative narratives created by the player. I either allow them to cognitively build an exquisite corpse-style story about a real location, with multiple truths exposed by different characters, or simply allow them to discover different environmental narratives that build on one another throughout the course of the experience. The order of events changes their interpretation, as experiencing certain events directly influences the experience of subsequent events. The surprising and non-sequitur nature of this generative narrative approach makes non-player characters and an environment seem more real. A former Peace Corps volunteer, I am constantly looking for ways to move my process away from my computer and into interactions with real people. Thus, creating short documentary in Guyana about those peripherally affected by the Peoples Temple massacre, as well as the objects that left Jonestown, sparked a motivation to combine documentary technique with game development. From here I have spent time with Guyanese expat bird racers in New York, witches and descendants of witches in Peruvian desert suburbs, and mundane absence and spiritual eccentricity at Pol Pot’s cremation site, collecting documentary materials for the creation of videogames.

Artist Bio

Aaron Oldenburg is a game developer and new media artist whose primary interest is in game rules as an expressive medium. His video and interactive work has exhibited in festivals and galleries in New York, Berlin, São Paulo and Los Angeles, including SIGGRAPH and FILE Electronic Language International Festival.

He teaches game design as an Associate Professor in University of Baltimore's Simulation and Digital Entertainment program and has an MFA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In October 2003 he finished two years as an HIV Health Extension Agent for the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa.