The giant controller is nearly 14 times the original size of a typical Atari CX40 controller, according to Flanagan. Commissioned for the House of Technologically Termed Praxis in London, the joystick was made from wood, steel and rubber. It is currently held at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has toured Spain, UK and USA.
“The idea was to really take something that is meant for solitary play and make it so big that it requires collaboration and brings people together,” said Flanagan, chair of the film and media studies department at Dartmouth College. and Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of Digital Humanities.
She worked with a team of expert builders at New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard to create her “engineering marvel,” which breaks down into two giant crates.
“It’s a little complicated even getting around,” she told CNN. “Between shows it was always awkward because sometimes I had to store it in a storage unit, sometimes it was stored in another country between shows. At one point it was in my friend’s barn in upstate New York. “
At least two people must use the joystick, which can play classic Atari games, including “Breakout” and “Centipede”. Although as a unit the joystick contains a bit of Atari inside, Flanagan said the joystick can technically be connected to anything.
“When you climb on it, a really high score in something like ‘Breakout’ or ‘Pong’ is like 11 because people don’t move that fast when they have to move their whole body,” she said.
“Then trying to coordinate with different people… it slows down everyone and kind of changes our relationship with this familiar play practice and gives us a bit of critical distance.”
“There is just something that we can all benefit from artists’ perspectives on pop culture, fun things around us and open our eyes to new ways of looking at something really familiar,” he said. she declared.
Flanagan noted that the joystick isn’t tied to any particular generation, especially considering how niche and fashionable some old video games have become. She linked this phenomenon to classic cars, which entered the mainstream although few people drive them anymore.
Everyone though, she admitted, yearns for the moment they played their first video game.
Flanagan is currently working on a “feminist artificial intelligence” project that is trained solely on the work of female artists to explore biases in algorithms. She hopes that through her joystick and her current projects, video games and their modifications can be crucial tools to encourage meaningful interaction.
“The games themselves are almost like little universes, and we can invent possible futures in them,” she said. “I hope we can maybe feel some optimism about the game and maybe break some barriers and be together.”