No one should have to read what an artist meant by a work -- viewers either figure it out or they don't, and that's the chance you take. But because there is a link to this page from my professional résumé -- and because I don't identify strongly as "an artist" -- you get to wade through my disclaimer.
This work is intended as satirical, or dark humor.
It might be considered to be "in poor taste" in light of the shootings at Columbine, or indeed in light of the shootings at the University of Texas in 1966.
Like the other two images in the series, it represents a problem faced by UMBC students, taken to cartoonish extremes, and placed in the context of a genre of video games. And, conversely, the storyline and traditional trappings of a video game, remapped onto the concerns of real life. Humor arises, as you may have heard, from the juxtaposition of two related, but incompatible, frames of reference.
Race for a Space presents a search for a parking space, combined with a driving game in which points are awarded for various objectives. Registration Rampage heightens the struggle to register for necessary classes to an actual physical adventure, undertaken by a character with numerical attributes like those found in role-playing games.
Translate the tension felt by a student for academic and social reasons (and irritating roommates) into the video-game frame of reference where problems are solved by killing the bad guys, and you have Bonus Level. It does add up to a scenario similar to one that has occurred in real life, but I don't think there's much of a connection. (I have no intention of getting started here on the violence-in-video-games debate.)
The game shown here is a quite typical example of the sharpshooting genre of game. The targets found in these games vary in appropriateness from clay pigeons all the way down to fellow human beings -- but the game context always makes clear that these are Bad People that it's okay to kill, because they are, say, drug dealers, or Arab terrorists. Moral ambiguity is a big no-no. So this is a bit of a commentary on this type of equivocation. [Note in 2002: this was long before the majesty that is Grand Theft Auto III.]
The last thing I'd like to say about it is that it is somewhat of an inside joke as well. The people pictured are friends of mine. What's more, UMBC was founded in 1966, and the story is that the architects were concerned with controlling riots and preventing shootings and so forth. Most people at UMBC find that concern amusing, in retrospect, since no riots or shootings ever happened. Personally, I think this betrays an incomplete understanding of causality. In any case, if you've ever been on the UC Balcony, it'd be a lousy sniper position.
All images © Steven Matuszek. Yes, the source images are all my own.