The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is host to the Game Masters exhibit, showcasing the work of 35 learning video game designers, spread across a large interactive area that features the arcade games that preceded the home computer and console, the game changers that brought the arcade into the home and the rise of the Indies, independent game designers who are changing the way we play, without a large production company behind them.
Team Falkner attended the exhibit on the 14th of July, taking on a feisty Saturday crowd to look at the development of the games over time. The way into the exhibit takes you past the arcade games of yesteryear. I got in a quick game of Centipede but the queues on most of the other games were a little longer than my level of interest in failing to impress the crowd gathered around. Asteroids was there and it’s astounding how popular a black-and-white game with simple graphics can be – when the game is good!
(One piece of advice: the machines and consoles are in constant use. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to handle human warm stuff, then bring hand wipes. If you’re even vaguely germophobic, this is a spectator event for you.)
From the realm of the Arcade Heroes, we moved into the Game Changers: those games, companies and designers who made giant changes to the way that we game. What a range and everything was playable! From World of Warcraft and the way it revolutionised the massively on-line experience, to the comedic nonsense of Sonic the Hedgehog, the sweeping open exploration of Shadow of the Colossus or (my favourite) vast quantities of the design documents of Deus Ex, with Warren Spector’s original design documents. Like Rock Band? It’s here. Lost a week to The Sims? Watch an interview with Will Wright. If you have played games in the past 10 years, you’ll find something here to make you go “Wow!” (No pun intended.) If you’ve been developing hand cramps from over-playing for more than two decades, like me, then your jaw will be on the floor for most of it. There’s a big interview bank where you can relax and listen to your heroes talking about their ideas, drive and vision.
From the Game Changers, we moved sideways into the Indies section. Playing outside of the major studios and turning out fantastic games with far less dependence on the big resources, we see games that are quirky, even downright weird, and establishing new genres. There was a pretty diverse range here, from PaRappa the Rapper to Fruit Ninja and Braid. Again, everything here was playable, and, because of the nature of the games, it was often hard to tell if someone was playing, watching or just experiencing.
A giant dance studio is set up in one corner, next to the Singstar booth and the Rock Band facility: all full, with queues, of people jamming, singing and just having fun. While we were there, a girl in a giant bunny onesy was belting it out with a friend in the Singstar booth while a father and son tried, valiantly, to save family honour on the dance floor.