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Warfare As Gaming, Gaming As Warfare

Josh Bricker’s video “Post Newtoniansim” runs real footage warfare (Iraq?) side-by-side with gaming warfare. But the viewer’s response is the real subject of this film.

Josh Bricker's “Post Newtonianism” is a split screen projection. On one side we see live warfare footage (Americans in Iraq?); on the other side gaming footage from “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare”. (For those not familiar with gaming, “Call of Duty” is a first-person shooter video game.)

A still from Josh Bricker's video "Post-Newtonianism"

Both sets of footage are presented in grayscale, which lends them a somewhat unreal feel. Both sets of small running and hiding figures seem very pretend. The voice over is a mash-up of real warfare communications and gaming voice overs, and it’s hard to tell them apart.

So at first glance the footage all reads as similarly make-believe.

But watch long enough and it soon becomes clear that, at least on one side, we’re watching real people being killed. And it’s a strain to get it into context: to get it real and keep it real.

A still from Josh Bricker's video "Post-Newtonianism"

Like ambulance chasing, watching warfare is adrenalin pumping and voyeuristic. The soldiers, up high and removed from direct contact with the enemy, search for moving humans on the ground, target the running and crawling figures, and blow them to bits. 

It’s very hard to hold the thought that each little figure, viewed through the haze of night-vision goggles, was (they’re dead now) actually somebody’s son.

The subject of this video is us, the viewer, watching real people really being killed, side-by-side with pretend people being pretend killed.

For me, the fascination of watching warfare wore off quickly and became a nausea born of horror as I realized what was really unfolding on the screen.

The tile of the video, “Post-Newtonianism”, is telling. Newtonian physics has for centuries defined our reality: apples fall down, not up.  The gaming industry has so mastered the simulation of apples falling down that we are convinced of their performance.

The problem now is that real events are starting to read like pretend performances.

 Post-Newtonianism 01

A still from Josh Bricker's video "Post-Newtonianism"

Josh Bricker's film, "Post-Netwonianism" can be screened on YouTube. (You have to verify that you're 18 or older to view it.) "Post-Newtonianism" was one of the top 2010 YouTube Play videos. The award was well deserved.

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