The piece is much more than an NFT–it’s a video game, a period piece, an homage to a painting, and a rumination on sociological issues. In other words, the Challenge pushes the conception of what art can be.
Visiting the game’s site will take you a 3D reimagination of Winslow Homer’s painting, The Croquet Players from 1865. There you are given a quick tutorial before getting to play croquet from inside the painting! The game mechanics are a simple physics-game style. Players control the women’s team while the cpu controls the men’s team.
Any time the player scores a point, dialogue between the two male players in unlocked. The men chat about letting women into their club and other gender equality issues of their day. While there are some dialogue choices that the player gets to make, certain things are set in stone: the women do NOT talk and the men ALWAYS win the game. This, of course, speaks not only to the society of the late 19th Century, but is a metaphor for modern issues. Coming out the Civil War, Winslow Homer’s painting is escapist. It shows high-society at recreation blissfully ignoring the tumultuous times of early Reconstruction era America. Chan’s video game version of the painting evokes that escapism–one literally plays a game–while making a metaphorical connection between the world of 2022 and 1865. Women’s rights are under attack both globally and in the United States. Men typically are the ones with power over those rights.
In an interview from a Redlion News Twitter Spaces, Mitchell talked about his decision to make an art game NFT. He described connecting the Art History world to the world of NFTs, “we understand, we accept that art is going to happen in a digital medium, in a digital format right now. OK, so let's take advantage of everything that we can do in a digital space. I don't understand why you should look at a Beeple [work of art] and not think, ‘well I'm looking at this through a screen anyway, why can't I go into the Beeple? Why can't I be inside this Beeple painting? Why can't I move my camera around and stuff like that?’” Thus, when it comes to his own work, creating an interactive world within the Homer painting, is in Chan’s mind, “just leveraging the technological tools we have now as artists.”
Another interesting take Mitchell had was regarding his hesitation to label his work a gaming NFT. Currently, nearly all gaming NFTs have a negative connotation as “play to earn Ponzi schemes.” Chan lamented, “this bothers me because I love games. Like, I think video games are a legitimate art form… And now, you know, maybe [developers] should make games on blockchain because [they] love making games.” It is clear that Chan loves making games; beyond the enthusiasm displayed in his interview, the artist coded the game, scored the music, crafted the sound effects, drafted the dialogue and performed all the voices.
Winslow Homer's Croquet Challenge is minting on November 29th. The price is fixed at $99. To view more art, and find more ways to support Mitchell Chan, visit https://chan.gallery