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How To Reimagine The Video Game

Photographer Patrick Runte brings the digital video game back into the analog world with his most recent Jump and Run project. One of a series of...

Kyana Gordon
Kyana Gordon on August 20, 2012. @Tropikyana

PSFK spoke to Patrick Runte, a photographer exploring the intricate relationship between the digital world and the physical one. Inspired by Heineken’s new challenge to reinvent the Draught Beer Experience, PSFK.com has interviewed change-making creatives who are constantly reinventing the world around them. His project, Jump and Run, stages life-sized figures from classic video games such as Pacman, Tetris, and Pong in real-world scenarios. He explained to us how he reimagines the quotidian tree, road and playground by making it his own setting for a videogame. By exploring the wondrous aspects of the everyday he celebrates the act of play as an end in itself.

Patrick, tell us about yourself and what you do.

I work as a freelance photographer based in Hamburg, Germany.

How long have you been doing that?

For a living? Since 2009, but I started to be fascinated by photography in my freshman year in high school, I believe. After my alternative civilian service I decided to study photography. I graduated from university in 2008 and during my studies I worked for several photographers as an assistant to improve my skills. I believe university is really good for gaining theoretical knowledge, but I was more focused on how photography works in real life situations, talking in terms of lighting, setting, choosing a moment of exposure and so on.

What’s your angle?

I like images at the threshold between documentation and fictionalization. Most of the time when I begin a new project I’m on the lookout for new places. Almost all of my photographs show a connection between a location and a protagonist, regardless of whether we’re talking about my free work or commercial jobs. A place calls for a person, and vice versa. That is thrilling for me. I also like to provide a certain space in my photographs. I believe that this is more fun for the observer. You can look out for small details if you like, you know, spend some time with the image, have fun.

Is it what you do to pay the bills?

Photography is what I do for a living; I shoot stills to pay the bills.

We wanted to talk to you about your video game project – and how you imagined cult classics in the real world. Can you describe the work?

First off, one of the things I wanted to stage was the clash between the real and the digital. It is essentially important to me to include real places and self-made objects assembled out of very basic materials in my photos – I don’t only want to construct images on a computer. So the choice to focus on old school video games provided me with the opportunity to turn digital worlds into something tactile that can be explored and experienced in a physical way. Another thing that led to this project were memories of my youth. Just like a child, I constantly roamed different neighborhoods for new and exciting locations. I was looking for something that was similar to the digital playgrounds commonly found in video games. This way, a parking lot turned into a tennis court for the game Pong, and a racing track became a pinball machine. During street play, children use their imagination to turn their environments into something adventurous and extraordinary; similarly, I used objects that I found in different locations and re-imagined them as something else. Thus a tree turned into a house, an old barrel into a spaceship… By foregrounding the process of actually playing and having fun instead of focusing on the end result, I also wanted to point out that it’s not winning at the end that counts, it’s playing the game itself. The journey is the reward.

We like the way you re-imagined the video game. Why did you want to approach this subject in this way?

I chose classic video games such as Pong and Tetris because I have a direct emotional connection to them. Furthermore, the basic forms used in those titles (triad, circle and square) reminded me of the art associated with the Bauhaus. Bauhaus artists like Oskar Schlemmer have also worked with such minimalist shapes. For example, Schlemmer dressed dancers in triad-shaped costumes and called the result the “triadic ballet”. The idea of animating dead objects in such a way seemed interesting to me. One of the side-effects of using a combination of abstract forms, self-made costumes and real people is that you transform the virtual worlds of those games into something different. All of a sudden you have individuality and personality. In a later project for a video games magazine I tried to do the same thing in an even more reduced, abstract and minimal manner by staging scenes from games using pantomime only. It worked out quite well, I think.

The work has garnered a lot of attention. In your opinion, what is it about modern culture that makes people curious about it?

People my age are probably the first generation that feels a sense of nostalgia for the early digital age. Nevertheless, Pacman is not an icon for me. After all, it’s not really the digital character we feel fond of, but rather the time of our lives where Pacman played a certain role. We just like to remember those days when we hung around the gaming console together with our friends, simply having fun.

Name another artist/creative/designer you admire that’s reimagining the way things are done?

What a question! There are so many gifted people out there. The global connection via the internet makes it even worse… I like images with a haunting and disturbing perspective on the everyday. So I would say, Asger Carlsen. His work makes me smile. I am also interested in topics that have slipped from the public eye. For example, Colin Delfosse and his work “Catcheurs Congolais.” And my all time favorite: Diane Arbus. Why? Because… SHE IS THE BEST!

Thanks Patrick!

About Heineken’s Challenge To Reinvent The Draught Beer Experience

In a rather audacious move, Heineken are asking people from certain countries around the world to come up with new ideas tied to the draught beer experience. Over at the Heineken Ideas Brewery site, creative minds can offer a new vision to the drinks company.

Heineken say that draught beer is enjoyed the world-over, but it has not changed much over the years and Heineken sees the potential to take inspiration from technological advances and the development of other industries to create an exciting new era in draught beer.

Submit your new draught experience concepts at Heineken Ideas Brewery.

Thinking...