Meet the Middletons (2008) : a new take on interactive cinema
Designed with Veronica Paredes and Susana Ruiz from the Media Arts and Practice PhD program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the goal of this game is to collaborate in creating an experimental film.
For this first version of the prototype, we chose to use excerpts from a 1939 public-domain drama called “The Middletons Go To The World Fair”. In a move to tease out the possibility of alternative texts from the de-contextualized footage of the film, players of the game are given the narrative task of “encouraging the Middleton family to break out of their bourgeois routine by experiencing the strange and unusual”.
Players take turns choosing video and music fragments to tell/edit a collective story, each player having to come up with an interpretation of their own combination of footage and soundtrack after recapitulating the other players’ successive interpretations of the footage up to that point. Contra to many game/interactive experiences, the participants actually produce a work of their own in the act of play, in this case a radical rewriting of a public text, bringing to light the potentiality of cultural and political meanings encrypted in the image.
Taken out of their original narrative context, the 10-second clips reveal a hidden absurdity that sets loose the participants’ imaginations, often to hilarious results.
Both a creative tool for critical reflection on popular culture and a collaborative, multiplayer experience, Meet the Middletons pushes the envelope of the game genre while fusing art, theory and play.