For the Eye of the Witness
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Gamification is a term circulating in academia in the recent years under the definition of using playful behaviors in non-game contexts. While its pre-conceptions are tied to playfulness and entertainment, artists have been implementing it into performance works which aim to provoke a conversation, rather than simply amuse. For this thesis, the interactive performance The Automated Sniper by Julian Hetzel is selected to exemplify such performances. Whilst constructed as a first-person shooting game, this performance simulates contemporary warfare as the weapon on stage is a paintball sniper -reminiscent of unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as drones. Notably, such drone programs are defined by great distance, which disconnects our gaze from the battlefield and thus from the rivals on ground. The main aim for this research then becomes investigating how is gamification applied to propose a new viewpoint, and through it, critique current warfare approaches. To understand how this experience is different from a video game, the analysis will adopt the method of dispositif analysis in order to examine each component of this staged situation. By doing so, the thesis is looking into the utilized technology, measuring whether it leans towards war or games and how does this combination of styles engage the spectator. The narrative is then connected to this form only to discover that while The Automated Sniper engages the spectators in a first-person shooting game, it portrays the enemy as civilians – individuals concerned, but usually neglected by both game narratives and governmental reports of military programs. Lastly, the mode of address is analyzed to examine what is the suggested position of the spectator. While previous research has shown that using playful behaviors strengthens the learning process, this performance’s message lays not in the decision to participate, but in the willingness to observe one of your fellow audience members taking up the joystick of the gun and directing the muzzle at the actors on stage. This state of witnessing, however, does not only apply in the auditorium but expands to the realms of reality, where our privilege to solely observe violent conflicts goes hand in hand with the responsibility for such violations of human rights.