Lab Star

 

Arcade Cabinet & Game

10’ x 34” x 38”

2012

 

Lab Star is an interactive arcade cabinet. The control panel includes a vintage rotary phone dial, a traditional arcade joystick, and a trackball. First time players create a player ID, returning players may enter their preexisting player ID. The game keeps a record of all player IDs and their attributes, including anytime an ID is used to play the game and the duration of game play.  Game play begins after you create or enter a player ID, in a 3D model of the Hampton Court Maze. Players navigate the maze from a first person point of view.

 

At the turn of the 20th century rats debuted as laboratory material in a profound way: Willard Stanton Small observed rat behavior in a model of the Hampton Court Maze as a measure of learning.  Small used a maze because of its similarities to a rat’s native environment (rodent burrows). Research for Lab Star began with my own maze trials involving two female rats, Tyra and Rati. While reenacting a part of science history, I quickly found my personal moral code to be at odds with laboratory protocol. I dealt with this by adopting pseudoscience as an ethical means to explore alternative outcomes. So in lieu of proven control methods, I allowed the rats behavior to dictate their testing environment. The results were an open air maze they were allowed to freely roam.

 

I am interested in the ongoing science narrative that contextualizes rats as commodities (lab  materials), and how this form of appropriation may be used for art making. Lab Star is part  research, experiment, exploration, and hacking: I wanted to test boundaries and above all: play. In the end, the work made with Tyra and Rati points back to their species’ role in technoscience.

 

The Game

 

The game was written in Processing. You may download the sketch here: [LAB STAR PROCESSING SKETCH] Please note, it was made with Processing version 1.5.1

 

The game interface has a very minimal, almost clinical feel. When designing the game I recalled the interfaces I saw during my own experiences as a research subject in the psychology department at the University of Oklahoma.