Scan Quality: Great is an artist's book comprised of process documentation from glitching and deforming player avatars in the videogame "NBA 2K16".
"NBA 2K16" allowed players to use their real faces to create unique faces for their in-game avatars. First, the player would scan their face using an Intel RealSense camera. (These cameras were expensive and not widely available at the time.) Second, the NBA 2K16 software would attempt to map that face scan to the player-avatar’s 3D model. Third, the player would use the in-game character editor to customize their avatar.
The scanning software was finicky. It was designed to turn the player's face into a point cloud of data, and then map that data to an underlying 3D game object (i.e. skull). This process required clear anchor points--eyes, ears, noses, mouths--that could be attached to corresponding locations on the avatar's head. If these facial features were properly identified, the software would attempt a scan, and display the results of that scan in real time. Successful scans were accompanied by the cheerful message, "Scan Quality: Great", which appeared in green text above the player's successfully mapped face.
Through trial-and-error experimentation, I learned a variety of performative techniques that allowed me to 'glitch' my avatar's face. My intention was to produce unique and aesthetically interesting avatars, by breaking outside the algorithmic constraints that bound players' abilities to produce creative, unexpected, and unconventional avatars. To my surprise, I found the process of producing 'successful' facial scans to be aesthetically interesting as well, so I collected some screenshots of successful scans, and published them as an artist's book.
Many of the techniques I learned were designed to 'trick' the scanning algorithm into misidentifying something as an eye or nose or mouth. This would prompt a 'successful' scan that would, in turn, produce strange, surreal avatars. On occassion, I would successfully incorporate movement into my process, which usually produced the most striking and even monstrous results. Perhaps the best example of this was the avatar I called "The Beetlejuice Taz", which I produced by violently shaking my head left and right as fast as I could.
The unusual faces I created were attached to rigged, functional player-avatars -- which meant I used them when playing online in multiplayer basketball games. Many players were amused and astonished when they encountered me online. Several people commissioned me to produce unique NBA 2K16 avatars for them, which led me to produce a kind of distruptive, ephemeral folk art that helped inspire several other players to begin modding and glitching the game. You can view some of my favorite commissions below.