Jun 16 2011

Julian Oliver, artist
Greg Trefry, game designer
Claudia Becker, media researcher
Kristoffer Gansing, artistic director

Uke Bosse

Plus Game:
The Duel by Greg Trefry
Plus Installation:
Double Ego Xray by

Reality surrounds us like the air we breathe. The concept of „reality“ derives from the Latin word res (thing) and denotes anything we can see, touch, hear or smell. At least this is the common way to understand it. Reality is conceived of as the counterpart to fantasy – it is something we can trust. But what about our thoughts and emotions? Aren‘t they real too? Our brain has an immense capacity to envision things. Hey, did that guy over there just give me a funny look?

Reality is thought of as the sum total of objectively verifiable facts. But this conceptualization of the world is limited, as demonstrated by the case of radioactivity. It‘s impossible to perceive it without technology – but it is still definitely there. Even the Greek philosophers contested the notion of human perception as a measuring instrument for reality. Philosophy and the avant-garde of the past century finally buried this concept of reality: Radical constructivism considers reality as an individual construction that is influenced by thoughts and imaginings as well as by psychological and social factors.

In the arts, the objectivity of depiction and perception was being questioned by the surrealists as early as the 1920s. The principal figures of surrealism didn‘t intend to present an additional version of reality, as is often assumed. Instead, they claimed to depict a more complete model of reality by including dreams and the unreal.

Computer games do not simply reproduce reality. They enable us to design it according to our skills and our taste. They provide different perspectives, create loopholes and establish dreamlike landscapes. At the same time, games form part of our everyday reality, even if there are many people who view games as merely virtual and gamers as doing nothing but denying reality.

There are games that don‘t just interpret reality, they even intervene in it. The US Army employs first-person shooters in order to test their recruits‘ responsiveness. Games, ranging from basic ones such as Tetris to complex virtual surroundings, are increasingly being used to effectively prevent and treat trauma and anxiety disorders. And what about alternate reality games? Doesn‘t the name say it all?

Can gaming serve as a rehearsal for reality? Is it possible to transfer to other fields experiences created by computer applications and flight simulations? „Urban Hacking“ is becoming ever more visible in city environments, demonstrating that games can alter reality.

"Reality is broken.“ Is Jane McGonigal right when she argues that gaming can save the world or at least make it a better place? After all, it‘s real people who play and get excited, who wish and feel. And nobody can deny that wishful thinking and dreaming can release energies which can change reality.

The talkshow is funded by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and in cooperation with Computerspiele Museum and the 1. Street Game Festival "You are Go" in Berlin organized by Invisible Playground Berlin.

Claudia Becker

media researcher

"Our model of reality is a fiction of modernity. The development of technical images and apparatus should arguably have verified the objective existence of reality, but instead they produced new realities and worlds, based on data that we cannot perceive. Within the field of the technical images, it is impossible to attempt to draw differences between fiction and reality. To speak of an objective reality has lost its validity. There is no “real” reality nor is there virtuality. We are not living as subjects in an objective reality anymore. We are projects, which perform in alternative realities”

After studying cultural studies and aesthetics at the University of Hildesheim, Claudia Becker completed her diploma thesis on the complexity of the problems of photographic (re-)presentation (2007). Here, she analyzed the epistemic power of the invention of technical images in reference to human perception of reality. During her research at the ZKM | Institute for Visual Media (2007-2009), she was involved with the creative and academic development of several media projects. Now enrolled in the post-graduate program at the University of Arts in Berlin, she is currently working on a PhD advancing Vilém Flusser´s philosophy of photography. As the scientific supervisor of the _Vilém_Flusser_Archiv, she is also co-editor of the International Flusser Lectures.

Greg Trefry

game designer

"Playing in the real-world is as high-resolution as you can get."

Greg Trefry has wide array of experience designing game, having made everything from physical games to web-based MMOs to hit casual games. He co-founded the game design studio Gigantic Mechanic ( to explore the bounds of game design through mobile games that interact with the real-world. He serves as director of the Come Out & Play Festival, a festival of street games in New York City. Greg teaches at New York University and recently wrote the book, Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in All of Us (

Julian Oliver


The Real, it can be said, is only ever that which is experienced; it's very difficult to prove otherwise. Reality, on the other hand, is an unstable, temporary and consensual agreement that both derives from and informs the Real. My work increasingly explores this relation as a frame for exhibition and engineering.

Julian Oliver is a New Zealander based in Berlin. Considering himself not an Artist so much as a Critical Engineer, he's been actively (and independently) developing and exhibiting since 1998. His projects and the occasional paper have been presented at many museums, international electronic-art events and conferences, including the Tate Modern, Transmediale, Ars Electronica and the Japan Media Arts Festival. His work has received several awards, ranging from technical excellence to artistic invention and interaction design. Most notably, a project developed by Julian and his studio partner Danja Vasiliev was awarded the Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica, 2011. Julian has given numerous workshops and master classes in software art, augmented reality, creative hacking, network insecurity, data forensics, object oriented programming for artists, virtual architecture, graphics programming, artistic game-development, information visualisation, UNIX/Linux and open source development practices worldwide. He is a long-time advocate of the use of free software in artistic production, distribution and education, working exclusively with free and open source software in his own practice.

Free software:

Kristoffer Gansing

artistic director of transmediale

"Reality is modality. This statement can be demonstrated by the function of the simple expression: "In reality...". When used, it is usually a rhetorical way of distancing yourself from an earlier discussed context deemed to be too idealistic or unrealistic. By saying "in reality..." you wishfully claim the real, as that uncanny something that is changing the modality of how we exist as beings inhabiting a common world. This real however, as wishful thinking, can be understood as highly situated and incomplete in the way that Slavoj Zizek has defined the real as always being absent, yet at the same time paradoxically guiding our actions. Zizek of course is drawing on Lacan who called The Real an object of anxiety. Similarly to saying "in reality", computer games also claim the real through a change of modality, they are audiovisual and sensual cultural expressions drawing together worlds through our active participation. In this sense computer games are no different from any other kind of reality, understood as simultaneously real, situated and incomplete. The only illusory part of gaming is the idea that games present us with impossible and unreal situations into which we can temporarily escape in order to later return to the real. In attempting to do so, you only return to the anxiety of the real that is never there. Through the unplayability of this absent real, you realise that in reality, you are an eggplant."

Kristoffer Gansing is artistic director of the transmediale festival in Berlin. He belongs to the 8-, 16- and 32-bit generation and is a cultural producer and media researcher. For the past 15 years, he's been working at the intersection of film, new media and urban art. From 2005, he has been co-director of the nomadic media archaeological project The Art of the Overhead festival, devoted to the good old medium of the overhead projector. Between 2006 and 2010 he was as an editorial board member of the artist-run channel tv-tv in Copenhagen. From 2001 - 2011 he was teaching the theory and practice of new media at the K3, School of Arts and Communication at Malmö University (Sweden). From 2006-2011 he was also conducting his PhD there, with a dissertation on “Transversal Media Practices” dealing with the articulation of the old and the new across the shifting boundaries of art, activism and the everyday in the cultural production of networked media culture.