matthew kaney

Kudzu Farmer

Interactive Installation 2013

For my BFA capstone project, I created a computer game, Kudzu Farmer, wherein the player must tend a virtual plot of land. Almost immediately, the player is confronted with an outbreak of kudzu. Following a simple, probabilistic procedure, this kudzu sprouts up randomly near the player’s home and then spreads to adjacent tiles. As the kudzu spreads in the game, a proportional number of images of kudzu are saved on the user’s hard drive. These images are initially saved in the user’s home, but as more are saved, their save locations spread out—moving up and down through parent and child directories in the computer’s directory hierarchy. Much like the way in which vines expand by branching and then placing new roots, the images will slowly overtake and then fill the computer’s hard drive if left unchecked.

From the perspective of the game, this action is nearly invisible; the player is only concerned with the elimination of kudzu within the context of virtual game space. It is only after the player quits playing that the full implications of the virtual infestation may be discovered. The images of kudzu will still be saved on the player’s hard drive, easily discovered through standard file browsing techniques. Because the game kudzu and the JPEG kudzu infestations are directly correlated, deletion of kudzu images consequently clears out kudzu from the game world.

This reality offers a secondary interface for interacting with the game—instead of playing the game (and engaging with the process of file management through metaphor), the player may opt to deal with the virtual kudzu invasion through the actual file management interface offered by their operating system of choice. At this point, the game no longer consists of a metaphor for the process of managing files, but rather a performance of that exact process. Given this option, several precautions are taken to ensure that the difficulty of the game extends to this interface—the images are spread out throughout the file system, their names consist of unsearchable strings of characters, and their creation dates are set at random. Playing the game becomes the most viable means of clearing out these image files, while opening the player up for further infestation.