Aaron Oldenburg

Animation / Video / Film, Design / Digital, Multimedia, Visual / Media

About the Artist

Aaron Oldenburg is a Baltimore-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. He teaches game design as an Associate Professor in University of Baltimore's Simulation and Game Design program and has an MFA from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His writing on games has been published in Game Studies, Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, and the proceedings of the International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA). In October 2003 he finished two years as an HIV Health Extension Agent for the Peace Corps in Mali.

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Artist's 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 created 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 ex-pat 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.

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