Professor Joseph DeLappe is like the Salvador Dali of drone art: he’s made drone sculptures, drone origami memorials, drone LED art installations, you name it.
Now, Mr. DeLappe tells the Observer that his next move is a video game in which you play either as a drone pilot executing lethal strikes on villagers in North Waziristan, or one of the villagers targeted by the strikes.
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“With most first person shooters, you have two opposing forces that tend to be equal,” Mr. DeLappe said. “In a drone strike, a civilian on the ground has zero agency—it’s asymmetrical warfare.”
Mr. DeLappe is working on the game in Dundee, Scotland—U.K.’s de facto game design capital—where he’s working with game design house Quartic Llama. The project is a commission from a collection from sponsors looking for art inspired by telecommunications, the internet and military communications, like Turbulence.org, the Cutting Room and Phoenix Arts Centre in Leicester.
The upcoming drone game is supposed to create an emotional response in players—to engender a feeling that there’s perhaps something very wrong with an entire Afghani generation growing up afraid of the clear blue sky:
“It’s a way of using the technology to turn it against itself,” Mr. DeLappe said. “And it’s kind of ironic that there really aren’t already games about drone warfare—weaponized drones are constantly compared to computer games.”
Mr. DeLappe wants his game, like other games inspired by surveillance and warfare, to give players a sensation of empathy and quiet horror so that they can be more connected to our governments questionable weapons of war. By his account, drones are to warfare what Facebook is to friends. Because of the cold disconnect—the remoteness of sitting behind a screen and control console—you can be totally disengaged with the act of killing someone on the other side of the planet, whether you’re a drone pilot pulling the trigger, or an American citizen complicit in our military’s tactics.
“Drones are an apex where our fascination with technology and militarization fuses with our embrace of gaming and remote control,” Mr. DeLappe said. “It’s warfare on the cheap, with zero threat to body in person.”
The project will go online at Turbulence.org sometime by August. In the meantime, you can see Mr. DeLappe’s other whimsical and horrifying drone-inspired experiments here.
“The deeper I get into the research around drones, the more horrifying the psychological trauma we’re causing reveals itself to be,” Mr. DeLappe said. “The trauma and the distress that we’re doing over there is just horrid.”