b. 1986 Los Angeles, California
Mark Essen is a maker of purposely low-tech video games, which fuse the aesthetic of classic arcade games like Asteroids and Missile Command with geometric abstraction and Op-art. The games, all of which are fully playable and available for download free of charge (http://www.messhof.com) revel in a nostalgia for the recent technological past that is unique to his generation, a group that has experienced technological change at unprecedented pace. Essen's works point to the compositional elegance in the design of early games whose simplistic objectives and Spartan graphics are redolent of a simpler time, particularly in light of the encompassing, open-ended realism characteristic of contemporary games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty. Essen's game Flywrench (2007), on view here, comes with the straightforward instructions: "Each maneuver your ship can perform changes its color. Match an obstacle's color to pass through it."