Seeing Invaders!, digital artist Douglas Edric Stanley's Space Invaders attacks New York's Twin Towers art installation, is very effective in eliciting an immediate emotional response. That makes it a successful work of art, even if reaction to such confrontational themes are rarely positive.
Spending more time absorbing and, of course, playing Invaders! gives one a better perspective on what Stanley was aiming for. Invaders! is a two-player motion controlled spin on classic Space Invaders gameplay. Your best tactic, swinging your arms from side-to-side to fire a spread of bullets from your off screen cannon, is tiring. And futile.
The towers will always fall, along with dozens of of its anonymous inhabitants.
No matter how quickly you'll attack the air with movement, the alien invaders will always cause enough destruction to the World Trade Center towers to make them fall. In addition to raining down bullets, suicide UFOs will occasionally crash into the towers. You'll always fail, as clearing a screen full of invaders will simply be followed by a freshly restocked swarm.
The Invaders! installation features a video loop that runs alongside the playable game. This video features scenes from the films Taxi Driver, Independence Day, Air Force One and Die Hard — all of which are American made films with a xenophobic streak — interspersed with stills of George W. Bush in his flight suit and John Wayne pointing a gun at the screen. Peppered in are brief clips of people playing Invaders! with a ticker listing "hi" and "lo" scores in red, white and blue text at the bottom of the screen.
The artist's statement describes Invaders! as "an articulated and critical commentary about the current war strategy."
Invaders! may be unsettling, with its blending of archaic gameplay and modern day catastrophe, but it's also an impressive accomplishment in that it delivers complex messages via simple means. Despite its perceived insensitivity, Stanley's ability to use video games as a medium of artistic expression will likely be an important step in the form being taken seriously (by people who take things seriously).