GVA: Digital games often create parallel, alternative experiences for its users. How do you relate to the complex relation between reality and simulation? How do you address this tension through your work?
Claire Evans: I try not to create explicit binaries between reality and simulation. The way I see it, artwork that hopes to make any kind of real impact needs to exist in both IRL and digital space; if it exists only in the “real” world, without documentation or some form of second life online, it might as well not exist, so limited is its potential reach. As the kids in America say, “pics or it didn’t happen.” But making work that is only online, or lives only inside of a game environment, is also lacking something important. One must always acknowledge the player, the kinesthetic or bodily experience, the physical hardware, the file. It’s best to create something that overlaps between several states of being. That’s how we all live now.
GVA: How do video game aesthetics affect the overall impact of your work? What comes first, the concept or the medium?
Claire Evans: I’m far more interested in the physics of games than I am in gaming aesthetics. The weight of digital objects, how players and objects move through space, the built world of a generated reality, all made proprietary and disseminated through the landscape of game development—that’s fascinating territory. We are entering into a period of procedural generation: video game content generated algorithmically rather than manually. This means an essentially infinite universe of worlds can be explored by the player, all randomly generated from billions of possible configurations. The more sophisticated gaming mechanics become, the more we approach a one-to-one relationship with the complexity of actual reality. After procedural generation, I argue that we will see “Generative Reality.” The cause and effect of a game imbued with Generative Reality is as nuanced and manifold as anything that happens in the real world. It goes without saying that “Generative Reality” requires infinite bandwidth, a computer the size of a planet. It’s essentially a mystical conceit, but I consider it the endgame of gaming. We are already beginning to see it. The artist David O’Reilly has a game for PlayStation coming out soon, Everything, in which the player can control every visible object in the game world. Soon this will be our expectation for reality itself.