// CRACKING THE MAZE // "Game Plug-ins and Patches as Hacker Art" // version 1.0 July 16, 1999
#include <curators_note.h> // curators note by Anne-Marie Schleiner #include <game_patches.h> // the game patches #include <article_huhtamo.h> // Game Patch - the Son of Scratch? by Erkki Huhtamo #include <article_trippi.h> // Deep Patch by Laura Trippi #include <switch.h> // the 'Art & Games' issue of Switch #include <credits.h> // credits and contact information
// Deep Patch // by Laura Trippi // // If you've spent time working in, say, Microsoft Office, or with any piece // of software that acts as if it knows what you want better than you do and // does it for you, hiding every trace of code through which you might be able // to set things right, you'll appreciate the can-do attitude embodied in game // patches. Where a "patch" is a piece of code inserted into a program to fix a // bug, a game patch is an alteration or add-on to a computer game, usually // unsanctioned. Unlike ordinary software patches, game patches don't correct // code behind the scenes, smoothing over something broken. And unlike patches // of cloth, they don't just mend rips already made. No, the very concept of game // patches implies and includes the act of tearing open a finished program to // get at the underlying code. // // How deep into the host games do patches go? Some, like Sonya Roberts' "Female // Skin Pack Excerpts," mapping female "skins" onto the muscled male figures of // "Quake," skim the surface look of the game (though looks can be deceiving). // Others, such as Jason Huddy's "Los Disneys," dig deep, appropriating the game // engine without the content, creating a new game of the hacker's own devising. // // But depth can also be measured in other ways. // // In her notes on the patches, curator Anne-Marie Schleiner calls RTMark's // "SimCopter Hack," a "deeper level hack than your typical patch. . . ." Depth in this // case is not just a matter of structural relations, how far into the code and function // of the game a patch goes. It's also a matter of process, intervening at the level of // production. Created by the hacktivist collective RTMark in alliance with one of the // game's programmers, this patch infiltrated the shrink-wrapped product as it was // being made. // // Game patching in this sense, as a subculture, is deeply embedded in the host system, // commercial computer games. Patches are produced to a large extent by game // programmers, or would be programmers, and game companies have been quick to // harness the practice of patching as a marketing tool. The guest/host dynamic here // is complex, twisted like a mobius strip. // // There are patches that have no apparent host at all or adopt a host from outside the // field of computer games, orphan hacks such as mongrel's "BlackLash" and Natalie // Bookchin's "The Intruder." These, clearly, are straight up culture hacks whose mere // existence underscores the viability of this subculture, its affinities with other // parasitico-critical practices, and the robustness of its freeware economy, a // marketplace-bazaar for codes of all kinds. // // In this bazaar, today's guest is tomorrow's host, as can be seen in the case of Robert // Nideffer's "Tomb Raider I and II Patches," which Schleiner describes as "patched // patches." That is, they are patches of the original "Nude Raider" patch, which is // rumored to have been released as a marketing ploy by the game's publisher. Nideffer // characterizes his patches as a Duchampian reappropriation, "hosting" one might say, // the false "guest" that "Nude Raider" seems to have been. // // What's reappropriated by Nideffer is the practice and culture of game patching -- as // a vehicle for creative and critical expression on the part of artists/programmers, as // a means of talking back to the industry and as well as amongst themselves, and as an // alternative gift economy flourishing in the crevices of the dominant consumerist // system.