Shooters: Art Against First Person War Games

Warning: Graphic War Themed Content

Looking one part art, one part video game and one part real war, these painting by artist Temme Barkin-Leeds are as captivating as they are repulsive. She believes that if you make art, you should have something to say and in these pieces she certainly does. Part of her Video Games series, the pieces reflect her emotional response to games, like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, which depict war but, she says, purposely neglect to reveal the true consequences of real world battle. While acknowledging the rush one gets while playing these sort of games, she is also strongly taking a stance against them. She uses imagery from the war in Afganistan, video game stills and other mixed media in her creation process:

I work into the image with paint and collage, splattering paint, scraping, dragging, and using sand and blood as signifiers for the real-life violence that is omitted in the game imagery. Ironically, this very active act of throwing and scraping paint is a kind of violence in itself. It expresses my own anger, anxiety, horror, and repulsion. This process also reconciles my disgust and abhorrence of the games, with an understanding of the rush that comes with playing them. My paintings are both harsh and alluring.

Whether you agree with her message or not, the paintings certainly do strike a powerful chord, leading one to question the value of war themed games or more importantly, even war itself. See more in the series at

Above: Objective 46
Below: Objective 46 (Detail)


Pause (Detail)


Farther Than The Russians Did

Defending Area

Your Team Won

For many, this art will seem very comparable to the irreverent and now taken down Google Shoot View Mashable covered last week. A mashup of Google Street View and a first person shooter, it’s a different message but similar concept:


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  • Squirrel

    There is no correlation between violent video games and violent behavior. These shitty collages just feed into the propaganda. I bet Hillary Clinton would have spent tax money on these in the 90’s too.

  • Luminar Prime

    Stupid and retarded.

  • Kjaine

    @squirrel – the art being depicted has little to do with the debate about violence in video games, which I agree is a rather oversimplified concept and often a popular whipping boy for the media at large. These pieces are focusing on the glorification of war in our current societal mindset, which seems to gloss over the relative horror associated with war. Take the piece titled “Defending Area”. It juxtaposes the war game, where defending an area is as simple as waiting and shooting with the reality of war, where defending an area is a major concern and often a logistical nightmare. Or “Your Team Won” which depicts the real truth behind the concept of “winning”. In the video game, death is nothing more than a brief pause in the game, and then you are back in the action, where as in reality, winning and losing has real and potentially permanent side effects. So in closing you make a valid, if off topic, point which clearly has nothing to do with the issues being discussed in the blog… which you might have realized if you weren’t so f**king retarded. In other words, shut up and let the grown-ups talk.

  • Anon

    Everyone look at me protesting war and video games at the same time!

  • CaesarInvictus

    Please don’t impose what art is. Art is an expression, regardless of if you agree with what is “said” or unsaid.

    Using the logic of the artist, American Gothic wouldn’t be art. It doesn’t invoke a emotional response from me and I doubt it does for most people, but it does make me think of what led to that picture being created and the characters inside it.

  • Xmega Dominus

    Well there’s nothing incredibly new / innovative abt using war imagery in collage art (see post WW1 Germany for the real innovation) to make a statement abt the atrocities of war.. and the suggestion that kids playing video games is the root cause ignores the real culprits (defense contractor warloads / neocon hawks / etc) – if fact, I’d argue just the opposite, getting your adrenaline rush / aggression out on a electronic box that you can turn off without any actual casualties would seem to be the pinnacle of civilized society since we can’t really just ignore our base emotions and embrace pacifism in its entirety (unfortunately) – also worth noting is that the US hasn’t participated in a just war since WW2 and the notion that sometimes-you-have-to-fight-evil is being replaced with senseless nationalist rhetoric which is really just a pretext to keep gears of the military industrial complex oiled (1 trillion USD for the 2012 budget!) – but sure, I couldn’t agree more, we should object – but ideally against the real culprits of the war machine.

  • Danny

    Digg is going to feed snap-defensive gamers into this comment section and they’re going to be flaming at the mouth to defend their right to play whatever games they want. What they won’t understand is that no one here is saying that they can’t. This isn’t propaganda.

    This is commentary on the omissions of mainstream (read: cookie-cutter and boring ass) FPS games with regard to war detail. Fun or not, well-made or not technically, BF, MW, COD, CS, etc. show battles that don’t depict 90% of the consequences of real-life war.

    Don’t hate the artist because you’re trigger happy when it comes to old people and Washington telling you what you can and can’t play.

  • Elaine

    although I find the graphic nature of the art disturbing, it is ONLY art- not war. The real war is what is so abhorant.
    The artist expressed herself- isn’t that what an artist does?
    I can’t stand rap music either- so what!!

  • mcart95

    I don’t think the artist is commenting at all on what a person can and cannot play. I think the artist is commenting on how sanitary and alluring the games are. The fact that they are set up near or in recruiting offices where kids can play for free and fun IS a problem. Everything about these recent wars has been sanitized. No images of wounded or returning war dead on t.v., none or rarely in newspapers, and then it comes to the wounded which are far more numerous than the dead, we only see the “poster boys” and exceptional ones who run marathons on their high tech prosthetic legs (they only get the one round issued to them. when they wear out later on, the vet is on his or her own.) A lot of art hasn’t been overtly “emotional” since the 1980s. This artist has some guts. Also, no one in Washington is going to try to take your video games away. The industry taps into to many false patriotic, good guy beats bad guy mythologies. Games perpetuate the status quo and keep people blind and occupied while the real issues and problems never get solved, we continue to get fleeced as a population and don’t even mind, because we can always win in a fantasy.

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