Nathan Koch

Major Studio I: Final Project – Initial Direction

Sunday, October 29th 2017

Domains, Inspiration, and Motivations

I started with the idea, sourced from Ian Cheng's Emissaries, of video games that play themselves.

From that core idea, I developed a set of areas to focus on (the process of which is defined here that spanned aesthetic and formal domains:

  1. Systems and Simulations
  2. Modeling Behaviors
  3. Artificial Worlds
  4. Imaginary Ecosystems
  5. The Grotesque

The combination of procedural content, algorithmic simulation, and world-building brings us to something that both is like, and utterly unlike, a game: it's built on game technologies and has the look and feel of a game, but you can't play it. There's a sense of place and maybe even a viewer-imposed story, but it resists conventional narrative readings.

Beyond the formal domains of worlds and simulations, I added Imaginary Ecosystems and The Grotesque, in part derived from recent explorations into the far ends of exploration of 3D form and aesthetics online, as well as a long look at Luigi Serafini's Codex Seriphinianus as a masterwork of virtual world building as art rather than craft.

Who and Where

The primary audience is people also steeped in the experience of world-building, whether that's gamers, consumers of science-fiction, or even some artists and designers. It's game-ish-ness suggests it should be presented as being in a grey area between games and art.

One of the ways this work could be presented is as a livestream on Twitch, or a series of streamed videos on YouTube. It could be a "big screen" installation anchored to a physical space as well. Different views (livestream, laptop, installation) could just be different lenses on the same content.

Purposes and Priorities

I think this project has the potential to:

  1. Entertain. Playing with a game-like medium, even if it isn't traditionally interactive, should still be fun.
  2. Engage. It's possible viewers could have their eyes opened to what's possible at the boundaries of the medium of "games."
  3. Provoke. Much like the Codex Seraphinianus, or 3D gross-out videos like Cool 3D world, the aesthetics of this project tend toward the grotesque. Can that change how we view our own bodies in real space?

I picked these purposes because games and 3D are perceived more as craft than art: most people would say that they don't provoke, they simulate. Work that's procedurally generated or computer moderated isn't necessarily seen as "real" – we still defend electronic music from the perception of not being created by "real" instruments for instance.

Ultimately in MFADT I want to create immersive work, that combines sound, space, and code to tell stories in new ways, as well as beginning to carve out a middle ground between code and design – where I'm not constantly confronted with impostor syndrome for my non-design background, but I don't turn my back on visual aesthetics.

For this project, I'm leaning quite far away from my strengths by using tools like 3D form, the intent to create a particular visual aesthetic born out of a mix of "outsider 3D" and Codex Seraphinianus-inspired weirdness.

For this project, that will mean setting priorities like:

  1. Learning enough 3D modeling to begin to express myself in the medium
  2. Deprioritizing some of my strengths, like sound design, in the service of creating work outside my comfort zone.
  3. Finding a vertical slice through all the ideas presented above, so they are represented while keeping the project achievable in the time I have.

Criteria for Success

  1. Do I, personally, find it compelling? I watched Emissaries at MOMA PS1 for hours.
  2. Is it beautiful? Do I feel like it is the best possible execution of my visual design skills at this point in my career?
  3. Is it poetic? Does it evoke emotional reactions rather than just intellectual curiosity?


  1. 3D is a medium I have no experience in.
  2. The most suitable technologies for a project like this are new to me
  3. I may not have time to learn new design tools and execute at the expected level of fidelity.