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The NL - News & Game On Exhibition II

Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The NL would like to apologise for printing the ‘news’ of Australian Gamer selling out and being incorporated into GameSpot last week. The Internet lied to us. Actually, it turns out it was the boys’ April Fools Day prank. And we were thinking we were current and cutting-edge. Bastards. My comments about them not returning my emails still stands though.


Whaddayaknow, it’s the second installment of our interview with the curator of Melbourne’s Game On exhibition, Conrad Bodman. This week, we pick Conrad’s brain even further about gaming, games, and the game gamers who love them.

It’s tempting to think that putting on an exhibition like this would’ve just been a lot of fun, but I’m sure that’s not the case.
Yeah, oh yeah.
Did it present any unique difficulties for you-
Well, certainly in terms of hunting down original material. What we’re trying to do with Game On is show all the original games with the original hardware and software. We haven’t always been able to achieve that, because material doesn’t exist in public collections. So we’ve had to rely a lot on collectors having kind of saved this material. We borrowed a lot of the arcade games for example from collectors. Beyond that, to acquire a lot of the hardware and software, we’ve had to borrow from the publishers of the developers, or bought things on eBay.

How did you choose the games that would appear in the exhibition-
There are different ways of measuring success, I suppose. The games industry measure success in units sold. We’ve come up with a more thematic structure to the exhibition. We’re not saying that these are the top 100 games of all time, we’re saying that these games are representative within the particular field from which they emerged. With any genre we look at the major developments in the history, where the genres came from and where they ended up going. We’ve not necessarily chosen the games that were most popular but brought about new developments either in technology or gameplay.

Working so closely over this project, you must now have a pretty intimate knowledge of the evolution of games. Does that put you in a better position to see where gaming is headed-
That’s kind of a hard one because so many visionary developments of the past haven’t gone anywhere. The Wii’s precursor was the Nintendo PowerGlove, where you can control what happens on screen with your hand… Often exciting new developments have their roots in things that happened much earlier on that never went anywhere.
In 2002, Broadband wasn’t prevalent to make online gaming a rich enough experience, but that’s changed rapidly. And I think the whole area of modding is something really interesting – players having the potential to actually develop their own characters and weapons and so on. I’m sure that will all continue massively. Mobile games will continue to take off, of course.

In terms of the way things are going, I think the Wii indicates the social space for gaming, and also the opportunity of a range of ages to get involved in gaming. It’s sort of broadened things out into much more of a family and social experience, which is a good thing to bring games into the mainstream. That’s a difficult thing to answer though – 10 years ago I would’ve said virtual reality, and we all know that didn’t go anywhere [laughs].

I’m interested to found out what feedback you’ve received, from gamers and non-gamers…
Yeah, I think gamers have been delighted that the exhibition is so comprehensive. People have been really excited that an institution like us has highlighted gaming as a substantial cultural area. I think they’ve been pretty impressed – I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life” – suddenly games have that kind of weight and validation that an institution like us can bring to a subject. Although, people will always say to you, “Why haven’t you got my favourite game in the exhibition-”

In terms of the general public, I think they tend to be locked down to their particular area with gaming. It’s nice to see people actually experience the whole range from the ’70s to the present day. A lot of kids about eight, nine, ten, think that gaming started with the DS – I think for them it gives the subject a bit more weight, and validates their interest.

We talked about video games being art, and I suppose the best art tells us something about ourselves. What does Game On tell us about ourselves-
I suppose that play is a basic human instinct…We like to jump into and immerse ourselves into fully realised environments – we have desire to reach out into new worlds, and not to do that in an isolated way but to connect with other people. I think that’s the whole beauty of online gaming in a way, because it’s connected us all around the world and allowed new relationships to be built.

I think that’s the thing that differentiates games from other media forms – obviously, film and television give you the social experience and the immersive experience, but there is no play dimension, which is part of our make-up I think.

WHAT: Game On Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
WHEN: Now – Sunday 13 July


Dumping The Box

Could the Xbox 360 be dumped by local retailers- It’s the suggestion that has come out of a recent survey of 10 Australian retail chains. The survey was conducted by local websites ChannelNews and SmartHouse, and suggests that fewer Australian gamers see the value in Microsoft’s console, preferring the family entertainment of the Wii and the Blu-ray technology of the PS3. There’s also been a lot of fallout over the continuing Red Ring of Death saga, of course.
It was speculated earlier this year that Electronics Boutique have been very miffed about Xbox 360, and these results prove that the feeling is widespread. One doubts that retailers have the nerve to dump the console, but certainly retailers’ love affair with Microsoft is looking pretty dismal at the moment, and probably won’t ever reach the dizzying heights of last year’s Halo 3 launch period ever again.

Wall-E: The Game
Pixar’s next feature is about a lovable garbage pickup robot, and will feature the vocal talents of Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and the sound FX genius of Ben Burtt (the guy who created R2-D2’s ‘voice’). It’ll be hitting Australian screens in September, and you know what that means, don’t you- Movie tie-in game titles.
THQ and Heavy Iron are well underway with WALL-E for the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii. The Wii version will cater for its specific demographic with more emphasis on the puzzle-solving aspects, while the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions will be more action-focused.

Wii, Non-

La console de jeux sans fil interactive!
 NL readers, if indeed there are enough of you to warrant the plural form of the word ‘reader’, will be familiar with the blatant rip-off of the Nintendo Wii, the Vii, which hit shelves in China last year, selling ridiculously close to the price of the actual Wii at $179 US dollars. It featured such amazing built-in games as Catch Fish, Free Craps, Alacrity Golf, Fry Egg and Happy Tennis (an updated version of the console features such hits as Pinball Fish and Squirrel Bobble).

Well, now the froggies are getting in on the action too. That’s right, French gamers have a deformed Wii clone of their own, with games such as Baseball, Football, Bowling and Ping Pong. It retails for 39.99 euros, just in time to disappoint the kids of unperceptive French grandparents this summer.