The Radiant City
An experimental art game, 2020
made with Unity / C# / Cinema 4D / Ableton Live
This is The Radiant City, a vast and mysterious space I built for the invisible individuals streaming in the tide of collectivism. Coexisting with the fact that every individual inevitably fills in certain collectives, we are unprecedentedly isolated nonetheless.
Mass Performance, a simplest form of massive collective actions, which directs the arrayed crowd into patterned matrices with a sense of geometrical beauty and utopianism, exhibits delicate duality. As individuals, how do we look back on our existence among collectivities while being buried in neat patterns? As social animals, how do we face our primitive calling of collective-seeking fearlessly without hostility?
When we feed a computer a photo of ourselves, its recognition process actually deconstruct us into pixels to figure out what we are. Strictly speaking, we are a complicated reconstruction of lines, arc and pixels in computer’s vision. This is a very interesting phenomenon of machine’s vision that it always pays attention to textures and patterns at first glimpse, and in some occasions, so do us human beings. When most of us are fed with news images and social media footages of subjects like military parades and massive gymnastic events, as performers are placed like a single pixel in a huge matrix of thousands of similar appearance, these footages are so unreal to believe they never experience digital compositing. More or less, our view of these unfamiliar scenarios seems to change into that of a machine. In this process of gazing, not only the unified performers become digits, but also viewers are becoming machine-like. Just like a computer vision recognition process, our attention immediately gets caught by these shocking patterns and arrays at the very beginning. We might see collectivity, system and precise organization then. We see speed, command, power, even see the beauty of geometry. Finally, we see individuals.
Performers, soldiers, nurses, policemen, and any other collections of people, with the same or different ethnic backgrounds, genders, professions, beliefs and personalities, are possibly being managed into these human arrays in political performances. This is not rare to see in some societies. In contrast, when we go hand in hand in a parade to protest for our liberty of human rights, at the same time, there’s a huge numbers of people being aligned into similar matrices like processions but to be exhibited in military parade and political races. The script of political performance bridges the public and the private, the visibility of matrix power and the invisibility of pixelated and fragmentary individuality.
In this science-fictional and chaotic year of 2020, there are quite a few scenarios to demonstrate the unremarkable sacrifice made by individuals among the huge collectivities in many culture contexts. One of my motivation is encouraging players to pay the empathy to provide a community for those pixelated individuals we have ignored.
Mass performance is a form of performing art and gymnastics, in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess. It's one of the simplest forms of massive collective actions, which directs the arrayed crowd into patterned matrices with a sense of geometrical beauty and utopianism, exhibits delicate duality. As individuals, how do we look back on our existence among collectivities while being buried in neat patterns? As social animals, how do we face our primitive calling of collective-seeking fearlessly without hostility?
This is why I motivated myself to do this experimental game The Radiant City, a vast and mysterious space built for the invisible individuals streaming in the tide of collectivism. Coexisting with the fact that every individual inevitably fills in certain collectives, we are unprecedentedly isolated nonetheless.
The whole game is about your observation of performers. There are two types of performers through the game. One is sharp character with irregular body movements, non-unified emotions and personal voices, and another is pixelated character which always keeps still, disciplinary and silent. The prototypes of these characters all come from social media footages. They are all someone real but unknown.
The game begins in the center of a mysterious city in which yelling of mass performance crowds comes from all directions. The player will start the journey at the entrance of the stadium, being the only audience for a massive gymnastic show. After collecting your ticket at the box office, the player will explore the playground around, get close to rehearsing performers and collect their personal fragments.
When the player find their seat on the podium, the show begins. The player will watch this “thousands performers for one audience” show at a leader view, and the player can control the movement of crowds by simply clicking a few keys. Directing a mass performance is just like this, people move in regular direction and distance under the leaders’ order, making huge waves by body movement and using body poses to spell out giant text. Along with the show music getting weaker and weaker, the game canvas will drop into another perspective, to start the next journey.
Then, the player will come to a performer’s perspective, being burried in arrays and the whole performance start to become chaotic. There is no clear path or route to take, no clear voices to hear, no single goal to achieve, the actions of the player will reflect back upon themand the performer crowds around, transforming and changing them both. The player may turn up the volume of some individual whispering between performance actors by walking pass by slowly and hearing their stories. Gradually, the performance arrays become a total chaos, just like the complicated emotions between performers.
Art Design / Visual & Sound
Becoming pixelated is a key point of invisible individualities among huge collections, so it’s also constantly presented in my visual design. For the sound part, I collaborated with sound designer Xiaowan Yi, co-creating soundtracks for different game scenes and interactions.
Scene One: Playground