Haunted Mansion
by Pavel Milyakov (aka Buttechno)

Haunted Mansion Audiovisual piece by Pavel Milyakov (aka Buttechno)

Haunted Mansion is an audiovisual piece based on the Counter Strike 1.6 first person view shooter game. It is a modified version of the iconic unofficial map called “cs_mansion”. While in the original game player’s aim is to eliminate the opposite team, In Haunted Mansion player interacts with the game in the so-called Spectator mode. He can move through the map but cannot kill anyone. Game characters (bots) do not have any distinction marks such as uniform or faces, they consist of transparent ghost matter and their moves are chaotic and aimless. The original sound effects of the game are changed with the variety of oversaturated and eerie sounds which change while the player moves through the map; graphic textures are distorted and dissolved. Regular textures of the game are changed with the ones that look like Russian 2000s architecture and interiors. Inside the building there is also a TV which shows found footage from one of the first so-called “computer clubs”. In Haunted Mansion player does not interact with the environment in the regular FPS-shooter gameplay manner.

In his recent book “Unstable Aesthetics: Game Engines and the Strangeness of Art Modding“ Eddie Lohmeyer writes: “Gendered technicities of the 90s-2000s often presumed that the developer and the player were technically proficient males and that gameplay was predicated on mastery, productivity, and competition within capitalist regimes of the game industry (…) As I argue, modding aesthetics reside in the liminal spaces of interaction among system and bodies, or what I refer to throughout this book as the strangeness of art modding. Here, “strangeness” refers to those modes of cognition that reside beyond normal experiences of video games. In these moments, artists sought to defamiliarize standard perceptions of gamespaces into experiences of radical difference, apprehension, and instability (…) to deconstruct consumer media technology towards subversive and ironic end.”1

CS 1.6 is a classic 3D shooter, which has heavily influenced Russian gaming community. The game was out in 1999, a pivot year in the gaming industry and Russian society in particular. PCs became more affordable and local networks started to emerge drastically, pushing forward the growth of local gaming clubs, clans and communities. For young people of that generation gaming clubs were the easiest way to access the PC-gaming and to escape the disturbing reality of their everyday life — bad social environment, depressing suburban life and boring scholar system. As many other cultural phenomena which came from the western world, CS 1.6 mutated and merged with Russian reality — a lot of modified and hacked versions, maps and other related folklore was created by local enthusiasts.

“Haunted Mansion” is an attempt to create an unusual and uncanny modification of the game. The Spectator is perceiving the ghosts, instead of interacting with the regular shooter gameplay. He cannot kill anybody and cannot be killed. This completely new distorted world refers to the ghosts of the past that haunt the Spectator.

1 — (Eddie Lohmeyer, Unstable Aesthetics: Game Engines and the Strangeness of Art Modding, Bloomsbury Academic, 2021)

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