Lose/Lose: Art or a Trojan?

Computers are taking on ever more important roles in our daily lives. They used to be simple tools to get simple things done – work-related, mostly, maybe a few simple games, and that was it. However, over time, they have become the central hubs for all sorts of data – including precious data. For his Master of Fine Arts thesis project, Zach Gage illustrated just how important our computer data has become.

For hisMaster of Fine Arts thesis project,Zach Gage created a video game for the Macintosh that looks an awful lot like Space Invaders (called “Lose/Lose“) – except, every alien spaceship in the game is a representation of a file in your home directory. Every time you kill an alien spaceship, a random file in your home directory is deleted.

“At what point does our virtual data become as important to us as physical possessions? If we have reached that point already, what real objects do we value less than our data?” Gage asks. He gets more philosophical than that, though.

“Although touching aliens will cause the player to lose the game, and killing aliens awards points, the aliens will never actually fire at the player,” he explains, “This calls into question the player’s mission, which is never explicitly stated, only hinted at through classic game mechanics. Is the player supposed to be an aggressor? Or merely an observer, traversing through a dangerous land?”

I’m usually not the one for artsy fartsy stuff that isn’t music, but I really like the message on which Lose/Lose is built. From experience, I know that people are really, really sloppy when it comes to their computer data – much sloppier than they would treat “real” data. Actual, real-world baby pictures are treated with much more care than their modern digital equivalents, even though the latter are no less valuable than the former.

You can see the carelessness in other ways too. Most people have no qualms whatsoever about handing over their data to companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google, even though those companies couldn’t care less about you or your data. You wouldn’t give give your real-world baby pictures to Google, but people have no issues handing over the modern digital equivalents.

Anti-virus companies were not exactly amused by Lose/Lose, as they labelled the application as malware and a trojan. Kind of odd, as the game’s website, as well as the game itself, have warnings plastered all over them about the whole deleting files business.

Gage is kind of amused by all the attention. “I’m kind of OK with it being labeled malware,” he told CNet, “I would categorize it as dangerous software, but not malware because it is dangerous if you use it in a certain manner. Whereas malware implies it was designed to be malicious… Calling it a Trojan is really blowing it out of proportion.”

What are your thoughts on this one?


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