Game On, but Not for Everyone

I recently attended the “Game On” exhibition here in Montreal, and was disappointed by it.

I did have high expectations, as it promised the inclusion of 100 games that were all playable, and although presented here at the Montreal Science Centre, it was originally devised by the Barbican. 

So what’s wrong?

The biggest issue I could see is lack of context, and it became especially evident by the fact that my wife – who is not aversed to games and gaming – really didn’t enjoy her time there. She thought she was going to be presented by a proper history of gaming, but to her it just felt like a big arcade – and yes, one that I was partaking in.

But I also noticed this. As much as I had a lot of fun playing old classics like Pac-Man and Galaga on original arcade cabinets, and then revisiting a few old console games (I played quite a bit of Tempest 2000 on Jaguar), there really wasn’t much in terms of explaining why these consoles/games had been selected, and what they really represented to the medium. 

And some of the areas are even worse, like the sections that explain marketing (by sharing a small glass case of GTA merch) and game design (not much more than one wall of post-it notes showing the world building/mission structure of GTA).

Then, there was the fact that some of the things on show were broken, from some of the controllers, to 3 out of 4 music stations simply not working – and this is especially bad since each station is supposed to offer up a different selection of tracks, to illustrate a different aspect of music in games.

If you are an active player of games, then you will probably get a kick out of this exhibition if only from getting to play through a lot of old games you haven’t played in a while – and there’s definitely something satisfying to playing on original consoles, over emulation. But I think the goal of an exhibition like this should be to introduce the medium to people who aren’t already informed on it, and to give them proper historical context for everything, so that they can better appreciate the evolution of the medium, and to better understand why current games are they way they are.

Nice try, but let’s hope we get something better in the future.

The WEF Legacy

My initial intention with this post was to bring up the fact that Kieron Gillen, longtime games journalist, has effectively said goodbye to his game writing days (for the most part) to concentrate fully on his comic writing career, in part bolstered by the fact that he just recently signed an exclusivity deal with Marvel Comics, and that later this year he’ll be co-writing one of the company’s flagship titles, Uncanny X-Men. I especially wanted to bring this up because as a farewell message, he wrote a terrific essay on what it’s like to be a writer in the gaming press, and how to deal with it (and the shitty pay).

But, what all of this also brought to mind for me was how it’s yet another WEF alumni making it big in the comics industry. WEF, that’s the Warren Ellis Forum, a message board that Warren had back in the day (must be around 10 years or so now) on which I was a regular poster/reader. Not only did it count a lot of people who back then were just thinking of getting into comics (or maybe not even thinking about it), people like Kieron, Matt Fraction, Brian Wood, Antony Johnston, just to name a few, who are now writing some terrific books, and making up a sort of new guard if you will.

What you may not know as well is that it was actually from the WEF, after being invited by Warren to participate on a project, that I did what I consider to be my first foray into this career of mine. See, even though he tweets like a motherfucker (literally), there’s a heart of gold in that man.

Recently on GAME

Just a note to say that I continue to update my new gaming site, GAME, on a regular basis, with a new selection going up every couple of days. The latest additions are the flash “experience” Every Day the Same Dream (pictured above), the latest PixelJunk release (Shooter), classic PlayStation-era platform/puzzler Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, and the PS3 Breakout-homage Shatter.

Also, I am open to the idea of sponsorship, although it would need to be done in a way that fits the site’s aesthetic (meaning no “block” ads). If you’re interested, get in touch.

Game

What do I do on Friday nights? Well, this last one I decided to build a site from scratch from an idea I had earlier this week (last Saturday night, actually) and the result is now online, and called Game. As I explain in the “About” page, the idea is simply to recommend games — these are not reviews, I will only include games I like — using a format that’s short and to the point. Also, I wanted a look for the site that was at an extreme opposite to what gaming websites usually look like.

Why do this? It’s been just over a year now since Arcade Mania came out, as well as me leaving Wired’s Game|Life blog, and I started missing writing about games. Anyone who follows my Twitter feed will know that I tend to recommend a lot of stuff there, but I wanted to do something that had a bit more permanence.

For now, my plan is to add 2-3 games a week, and they don’t have to be absolute new releases — right now, anything released in 2009 is still fair game I feel. Also, games will cover every platform, so expect flash/browser games, iPhone games, console games, etc.

I hope at least a few people find this useful, and I invite everyone to follow along on the site (and you can of course subscribe to the feed as well).

Game Center Dilemma

Matt Alt shares the responses from a 2channel post that asks Japanese gamers what they play when they go to game centers. The last one he highlights is a bit sad (but almost understandable):

Whenever my friends and I go to the game center we basically stand around for a while and leave because there isn’t anything a beginner can just start playing.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention that for more on the game center scene in Japan, you should definitely pick up a copy of Arcade Mania by Brian Ashcraft and little ol’ me — makes for a great stocking stuffer!

Happening in Tokyo

  • French-Cameroonian designer Serge Mouangue is hosting the “WAfrica: A Dialogue with Japanese Culture” event (October 3-23) at the French Institute in Tokyo, with the intent of “[introducing] Japan to Africa in previously unimagined ways.”
  • The Tokyo Game Show starts today at Makuhari Messe with two business days, but Saturday and Sunday (September 26-27) are open to the general public.

Web Trend Map

If you’re into the web and design, there’s a very good chance that you already know about Information Architect‘s annual Web Trend Map poster. Going one step further this year, iA teamed up with Craig Mod to create an online web app version of the map. The way it works is that when you populate a map with Twitter feeds, the system looks at all the links that are posted, and creates a “Trending Links” list, which appears in the sidebar on the left. It’s an awesome way to get a quick heads-up on what people — or “micro curators,” as iA and Craig describe them — are linking to and talking about. You need to have an account in order to create a map (and to do that, you need to purchase the original Web Trend Map poster), but anyone can access the maps already created.

My contribution comes in the form of my “Gamingsphere” map, which I describe thusly: “Tweeting games by people who play them, write about them, talk about them, and just plain love them.”