[ISEA2020] Artist Statement: Aaron Oldenburg — Desert Mothers

Artist Statement

Tags: Multiplayer, Networked Experience, Virtual Reality

his is a meditative, multiplayer networked experience. Players begin in the same procedurally-generated environment. This begins to diverge for each player as their personal environment, composed of individualized weather and hallucinations, responds emotionally to the player’s actions. The constraints within which the players interact are discovered during play, and revolve around the body, simulated breath, drawing in the air, and out-of-body exploration of flora, fauna, and abandoned human habitations.
In an exhibition space, participants sit on cushions on the floor facing each other, or they participate from their computers at home. They use either desktop Virtual Reality (VR) devices, or non-VR systems with monitors and Xbox controllers.
In the game world, they are also sitting, either looking out across the desert at one another or lost in an exploration from the perspective of an environmental object. They see one another’s drawings and any two players are rewarded for returning each other’s gazes.
This is a multiplayer game where players can discover ways to communicate and interact over the network, but the individualized environmental behavior pushes the experience inward. The game has its inspiration in group psychedelic and meditative experiences, such as Ayahuasca ceremonies. Although it is ostensibly a group experience, it is intensely personalized.
Game download page: aaronoldenburg.itch.io/desert-mothers

Video: Desert Mothers

  • Aaron Oldenburg is a Baltimore (USA)-based game, interactive and video artist. His work has exhibited in festivals and galleries in New York, Johannesburg, London, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Los Angeles, including SIGGRAPH, A MAZE. International Games and Playful Media Festival, the LeftField Collection at EGX Rezzed, Slamdance DIG, Game On! – El arte en el juego, and FILE Electronic Language International Festival. His games have been written about in Kill Screen, Baltimore City Paper, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. aaronoldenburg.itch.io