Artist John Sims responds to COVID-19 with video game ‘Korona Killa’

SARASOTA —John Sims, conceptual artist, writer, and activist, responds to the collective fear, social immobilization and mounting global death toll created by the COVID-19 pandemic through his latest multimedia interactive project, a video game titled “Korona Killa.” On Friday, May 1, 2020, the game will be available for website play at along with a free downloadable mobile version. You can view the embeddable video game trailer here.

Inspired by the artist’s op-ed piece co-written with David A. Love, Should Black America be Worried about Coronavirus?, the game seeks to create an interactive environment that offers a space of reflection, escape and responsibility in the face of a global crisis that threatens all human life and exposes widespread disparities in modern society.

The game combines the retro feel and simplicity of video games from the 80s with the agency of political performance video art. It begins with a service announcement to wash your hands, then an intro that provides a motion graphics game instruction based on the artist’s piece, Date with Fear: A Self Portrait, March-2020 (see above).

The actual gameplay draws from the 80s game Space Invaders, where the player is challenged to destroy “Koronas,” while minimizing viral load and keeping energy levels up. The artist will be working with the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of Arizona to develop a 3D virtual reality version of the game.

“In this time, the game provides the opportunity to reflect on our common existence, and our place in the rest of living earth, and also speaks to both the pathologies and virtues of living under the stress of virulent danger,” said Sims. “My hope is that we come out on the other side of this with a stronger sense of the importance of community, justice, health, and the respect of nature.”

The Detroit-native artist has used art to combat virulent objects and symbols of fear and terror before. For 20 years, Sims has been on the forefront of confronting the iconography of Confederate symbols with his project, Recoloration Proclamation, a system of works that features recolored Confederate flags, a hanging installation in Gettysburg, Confederate flag funerals in 13 southern states, the outside performance and installation of The Proper Way to Hang to a Confederate Flag at Ohio University in 2017, and the annual Burn and Bury Confederate Flag Memorial. For more on this project see his CNN op-ed piece, Don’t Resurrect the Confederate Flag: de-zombify it.

About John Sims

A Detroit native, Sims is a multimedia creator, writer and activist, creating projects spanning the areas of installation, text, music, film, performance and large-scale activism. His main projects are informed by mathematics, the politics of sacred symbols/anniversaries and the agency of poetic text.

He has lectured and exhibited both nationally and internationally and his work has been covered in Art in America, Sculpture, Guernica Magazine, Transition, FiberArts, Science News, CNN, NBC News, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and the science journal Nature. He has written for CNN, Al Jazeera, The Huffington Post, Guernica, The Rumpus, and The Grio.

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