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This month’s issue of Aperture Magazine is devoted to the theme of play, and I was asked to write a short reflection on the connection between games, images, and culture. The text of my piece is below, which questions the future of photography in our current Ludic Century.

Read on for the full text of my mini-essay. Special thanks to Cameron Sterling, who took the gorgeous photo of Interference that accompanies the piece.

 

A Century of Play

We live today in a world of systems. The way that we work and learn, communicate and socialize, conduct our finances and engage with our governments: all these fundamental aspects of our lives are increasingly mediated through digital networks of information. We no longer research by consulting experts in encyclopedias or libraries. In the age of Wikipedia, we are the experts. This blurring of boundaries between producers and consumers, professionals and the public, has happened in photography too: who today is not in some way a photographer?

For the last one hundred years, the still and moving image embodied personal storytelling, news reporting, and epic narrative. But in our present age of digital interactive systems, games are ascendant. Every game, from Chess and Tennis to Tomb Raider and Angry Birds, is a lesson in how to interact with systems, a laboratory for exploring and expanding creativity and innovation.

If the twentieth century was the age of the image, the twenty-first century will be a ludic century–a century of play. The question for the next hundred years is: how can photography play? Can images shift and change in response to our choices or desires? Can they be collaboratively authored and systemically structured? What happens to photography in an age of games?

Only one way to find out. Let’s play.