When we typically think of video games we often envision a few teenage boys screaming at the TV amid a cloud of testosterone and the scent of recently reheated pizza, but when Anna Anthropy thinks of video games, she sees the potential to transform a genre.
Anthropy's latest book for Seven Stories Press, "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form" is a guide to reclaiming video games from the multi-million dollar game studios and using them as a means of artistic expression.
Video games used to be an outlet for the next-level artist (before they started selling more than movies, that is). Anthropy is calling for a return to the medium's wacky heyday. Not content with letting video games fall by the wayside of artistic potential, Anthropy creates games that touch upon larger issues than just the destruction of some cliched alien race. In "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter" Tom Bissell writes, "I routinely tolerate in games crudities that I would never tolerate in any other form of art or entertainment." Why does this have to be the case?
Games like "Realistic Female First-Person Shooter" and "Police Bear," all of which are playable on her website, tap into the potential of the video game as a tool for larger discussion about power structures and our own cultural priorities through a subversively playful medium.
At the moment, it seems that the forgotten didactic power of video games is experiencing a renaissance. With the recent exhibition at the Smithsonian and PBS Arts' declaration that Super Mario Bros. is the greatest example of surrealist art the profile has been raised, but Anthropy goes beyond this to show us how the medium can be used for a greater good.
Anna Anthropy's "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form" is available through Seven Stories Press.
View a slideshow of Anthropy and others' surreal gaming experiences below.
CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, we listed the first image, "Can you jump it?" as by Anthropy; it is in fact a game by Strong.