“sc4da1 in new media” by Stuart Moulthrop

titleImagesc4da1 in new media“, a Flash poem/rage-game by Stuart Moulthrop, is as outrageous as it is delightful. The piece is composed of two alternating interfaces: a rage-game remediation of Pong; and a transient text. Every time you beat a level of the remediated Pong, you access a new installment of the transient text. There are six levels to the remediated Pong. The perversity of this rage-game version of Pong makes Chiku’s “Syobon Action” (“Cat Mario”) a piece of cake in comparison. I almost broke a vocal cord when I made it to level 6.

sc4nda1Every time you beat a level, you are rewarded with a new transient text filled with inside jokes, references to the history of electronic literature, and insightful reflections on the nature of remediation. But as you wonder with delight around such concepts as the “irremediable” and the “remediand”, or try to grasp a striking comparison between the UTM (Universal Turing Machine) and an ATM, the transient text slowly disintegrates into a soon illegible string of numbers, as if under the attack of a playful virus, in a manner reminiscent of John Cayley’s “Translation“.

The reading experience created by the slow deterioration of the text is relentless, anxious and fun, much like running through a maze. Or much like a rage-game, a game designed to make you lose, for the sake of failure. Failure produces an erotic epiphany, as it pushes forward the erotic materiality of a retro-computing monochrome-screen text tuned with a beautiful soundscape of water drops and chiptune material. There is a strange and beautiful loop happening between the experience of rereading, which is called for by the inside jokes, and the passive rapture called by the dropping letters and beautiful soundscape.

“sc4da1 in new media” remediates the aporia/epiphany dynamics of electronic literature into the fail/win dynamics of video games to produce a unique commentary on the delights and mysteries of computing. “sc4da1 in new media” brilliantly unveils the scandalous truth of play: it was always about losing. I dare you to make it to the last level and unveil the true anagrammatic meaning of GAME OVER.