Recycling Reality: Back to the future by billritchie


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Recycling Reality
Back to the future
His dreams would lead to depression if he had not been reminded he is among the few who can
perform, who can “walk the talk.” While others appear to be giving up the ghost and live down
in the dumps, he rises still to challenge the idea reality is broken.
©2011 Bill Ritchie
1018 Words
2 Page(s)
Filename: Document2

Dreams can inspire
        Dreams can inspire, or they can be depressing. That’s how it seemed for me when I
awoke from my dream this morning. I had spent most of the dream in a huge second-hand
warehouse, where I found among the junk there a storage box full of my old cameras, a slide
projector, a big jar full of my artist stamps, and a few works by C. T. Chew. I met David Lotz,
who was very happy and worked at the place.
        The owner was energetic and excited about what I had brought in. Carl Chew appeared,
too, unexpectedly, with two friends; but he was cool, distant, and did not introduce me to his
friends. They had other business to attend to, and Carl was indifferent to an item I showed him—
a ceramic object with many familiar names scratched into the base of it. It was a relic from a
fundraiser, many years ago.
        I awoke with a mixture of disappointment and then, as I lay in bed thinking about what it
meant (I am one of those who attaches meanings to dreams like this), I remembered a phrase:
“Not everyone is like you.” It connected with a remark I got in an email: You put us all to shame.
        The woman who wrote this was referring to my general productivity, enthusiasm, and
wells of ideas and energy for teaching and developing connections among ideas and among
people. My idea for her was the Proximates Plan, an idea for a social network game for
printmakers. She sent me her latitude and longitude which I had asked for.

Recycling Reality
         “Reality is broken” is the title of a book by Jane McGonigal, and I read it a few months
back; then I gave my copy to Janet Fisher, my co-developer and friend. Janet is about thirty years
younger than I and therefore she’s closer to McGonigal’s generation than I. McGonigal’s choice
of title, and her reasoning, have troubled me ever since I read the book.
         I conclude that her generation, facing the mounting problems of their days, have given up
on reality, casting it off in favor of virtual worlds in video games. It’s much harder to fix a
broken thing than it is to imagine a world in a post-fixed state, and then play with this “fix” on a
computer or mobile device. It’s so easy to conduct a war on a hand held device—or with a
joystick, or a Wii machine gun—than it is to join the military and go through boot camp and take
up a station in a war zone.
         Education, too, is easier when you replace a real classroom with a virtual classroom, or
when you think—as I do every waking moment—about distance learning. I walk a narrow
pathway between virtue and reality. I am aware of the dangers, and when I talk with Carl (he’s
the only one I talk to who lived in the reality of the 1970s and 1980s) about my video game
ideas, he brings the dangers to the fore.
        Like checkered flags, they are, signals about these risks. So I do slow down and I
contemplate. What I conclude, after long contemplation and practice between reality (making
hand-built, miniature etching presses, for example, or burning DVD copies for people who buy
them from me) and my theory for a game and a video art show (Video Dig: The Game) is that
reality may be broken, but instead of throwing it away (as our society is wont to do), it can be
        This may be a hint in my game of life. The dream of being down in the dumps, and
finding people there who are either making the best of it, or who are sullen and close-minded and
shutting me out, reminded me, “There are few who can tackle this, few who can persist for the
long haul,” and I am one of these.

Practice recycling reality
         Instead of throwing away reality, turning my back on it as it were, I take this broken,
castoff thing and see how it can be recycled. That is what Video Dig: The Game is about. I will
take the old videotapes and recycle them, turn them into objects in a game of hide-and-seek, a
treasure hunt. The payoff is at least mere entertainment, but the process of pursuing the making
of a game is similar to the labor of love that goes into making a painting or a print.
         The fact is, the version of Video Dig I have in mind involves a lot of a painting, making
those graphics you need to make the asset database for the FHO (Find Hidden Objects) genre.
The player is given screens that show the studios of those artists represented in the video archive,
or some place of a representative kind, and they must find the object listed.
         When all the objects have been found, they move up a level toward the payoff, which is
the reward of throwing the switch and making the show a reality. Such is the way of the game of
life for me—not throwing away reality in favor of escapism and self-delusion, but living the
reality between virtue and reality.

About the Author: Bill Ritchie thinks printmaking should be taught and learned, practiced,
researched and be of community service in the age of digital reproduction. He retired from 20th
Century teaching to start a learning, research and production company, Emeralda Works, as a
blender of traditional printmaking and digital arts for 21st Century printmakers. He plans to
patent a learning game that combines four elements: A curriculum, database, mini-etching press,
and a digital game-based interface.

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