Pseudomarxist Media Guerilla



The vast majority of contemporary video games is characterized by combative gameplay.
This seems especially remarkable now that video games have long arrived in the
entertainment mainstream and have managed to drop the boy’s room stigmata.
With gaming becoming both commercially and culturally more and more relevant,
the question arises how artists can modify and make use of this media for their own
purposes. In “Total Refusal”, artists Robin Klengel, Leonhard Müllner and Michael Stumpf
aim to peacefully appropriate the existing mechanics of digital gaming media in order
to find new use for their virtual combat zones. As such, “Total Refusal” is a pacifistic
statement, realized in digital space.


Together with my collective Total Refusal (founded summer 2018), I am concerned with art interventions in the “public spaces” of digital games. We make use of the Situationist method of detournement, which revolves around “turning expressions of the capitalist system against itself”: Adapted to the world of video games, detournement aims to highlight the underlying structure of the game - the so called apperative system. To do so, we create a set of tools for the misuse of digital spaces and encourage not only artists, but first and foremost the gaming community itself to cause a mutation of the spatial conception of games. The International Situationists sought to show that mutation was a logical necessity for revolutionary conduct in the "society of the spectacle." The video game is a media-game-hybrid (Caillois) - a hyper-capitalist product which promises total immersion into the spectacle.

On behalf of the Association of the Anonymous Astronauts, which was inspired by the International Situationists and fights against the militarisation of the [cosmic] space, we attempt to pacify the [digital] space within video games. It is, however, not only the peaceful arsenal of the Situationists we learn from, but also the bottom up strategy of the Jane Walk, which we have previously adapted in games. In those Jane Walks, the storytelling of the urban environment originates from the citizens and dwellers themselves, and in sharing their personal experiences, these citizens reconquer the narratives of their surroundings.
We already practiced this particular form of appropriation of space in Operation Jane Walk (, 2018). Ultimately, the Situationists promoted a ludic reordering of everyday space, in which the playfulness becomes the most important and subversive tool of the mutation of the public space. Since video games are already inviting their participants to play, their playfulness is controlled via the rules of the game. They are not at all the type of playground on which the participants are truly able to choose what and how they intend to play. The rules are ideological pills (Frasca 2003) or even ideological bouillon cubes, which are condensed and slowly dissolving secret ingredients of a story (Schmitt 2017). Hence, Total Refusal is the search for an ideological antidote, unveiling the regressive characteristics of contemporary gaming media and reopening them as playgrounds for practicing creative disobedience and dissent.

This undertaking has to be viewed in the context of a substantial shift in the industry. Over the last decade, video games have gained a lot of mainstream attraction and in doing so have continued to shed the boy’s room stigmata once associated with them. Currently, the video game industry generates about twice the revenue of the film and music industries combined.
However, most of the enormous budgets brought to bear in mainstream video game creation is spent on crafting ever larger and more detailed digital worlds, while the narratives and characters used to enliven these spaces typically form an infinite loop of reactionary tropes. As one of the most wide-reaching and arguably most interactive entertainment media, mainstream video games thus largely fail to challenge the values of their players and instead affirm hegemonial moral concepts.

Acknowledging that this media is currently not realizing its cultural potential, Total Refusal aims to appropriate digital game spaces and put them to new use. Moving within games but casting aside the intended gameplay (and thus player behavior), we rededicate these fantastic resources to new activities and narratives, looking to create public spaces with a critical potential.

Circumventing the Circle of Death
Landscape for a Battle Panorama
Sculptering a Peace Modell
Operation Jane Walk
Battle Panorama


Die große Mehrheit zeitgenössischer Videospiele charakterisiert sich durch eine
kampfbezogene Spielausrichtung. Das ist insofern bemerkenswert, als Videospiele
schon lang im Mainstream der Unterhaltungsindustrie angekommen sind und sich
vom Stigmata des Bubenzimmers befreit haben. Nachdem Gaming nicht nur
kommerziell sondern auch kulturell immer relevanter wird, drängt sich die Frage
immer mehr auf, wie sich auch KünstlerInnen das Medium aneignen könnnen, um
es in ihrem Sinne umzudeuten. In “Total Refusal” versuchen die Künstler Robin Klengel,
Leonhard Müllner und Michael Stumpf, die vorhandene Mechanik von Videospielen
friedlich zuzugreifen, um eine Umnutzung für digitale Kampfgebiete vorzuschlagen.
Somit wird “Total Refusal” zu einem pazifistischem Statement, angewandt mit
kriegerischen Mitteln. Alle Arbeiten entstehen durch eine kritische Liebe zum Medium.

Circumventing the Circle of Death
Landscape for a Battle Panorama
Sculptering a Peace Modell
Operation Jane Walk
Battle Panorama
How to Disappear