Interactive videogame with sound
Don’t Let Them Die is a digital artwork created using game technology and exhibiting an element of emergent gameplay / narrative. A large screen or projection shows a mountainscape viewed from the sky filled with flocking birds swirling around the viewpoint in a seemingly random pattern. The track ‘Ghosts 1’ by Nine Inch Nails plays in the background giving a creating an ambience of melancholy and commiseration.
The behaviour of the birds is dictated by Craig Reynold’s ‘Boid’ algorithm, a common method for simulating the effect of flocking in birds and fish. Treating it as a heuristic model, the piece encourages viewers to also interpret the algorithm as a metaphor for how people relate to one another as agents within society.
The piece is not directly interactable however is designed as a game in that it has an explicit goal which is to keep the birds alive. The piece is internet enabled and pulls in live stock data from some of the top performing stocks in the world; if the prices of the stocks suddenly crash, then all the birds slowly curl up and fall from the sky in slowed motion. The message being portrayed by the piece is that the viewers of the piece are tasked to continue contributing to capitalist society, driving the economy forward and keeping the status quo.
Although the message is on the surface pro-capitalist, there are subtle undertones of a human urge to break free from societal and systemic constraints. The birds seem free, flying in which ever direction they choose across a seemingly endless landscape; however, they are almost entirely constrained. The birds exist within a computer simulation, the sky is merely a static backdrop, and their behaviour is completely dictated by an algorithm that they are unaware of.