The Skill of the Puppeteer

When re-watching Being John Malkovich on video not long ago, I noticed for the first time that the final two preview ads were for Major League Baseball and the NBA, both of whom promise to take you closer to the stars. Unintentional irony? Or understood relationship?

Not sure.

Another thing that struck me during this viewing, though, was the complexity of the controls that the puppeteer uses for his performance. Simply amazing.

As HDTV must seem to the generation of black and white television, today's videogame controls seem to me extremely complicated compared to what I used to play with: from a few keys on a computer keyboard, through the one-button Atari joystick, to the multi-button controllers of the original Sony Playstation. But even today's controls are nothing compared to what the master puppeteer has at his disposal. Now I feel like a complete loser.

We consider a puppeteer to be an artist — or at least we once did in another time. Does that mean that the kid playing NBA Live at home today is an artist as well? Does the videogame puppeteer supply the creative gap/art coefficient that is missing when the real is made virtual, since they are both spectator and participant at the same instant in our linear time? Or do the technological limits of the programmed system prevent that from occurring?

If the first two answers are yes, serious doubt is cast on the efficacy of Global Village Basketball as performance art.


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