Welcome to day 3, of our GAME ON Spectacular, at Just One More Game.
So far, we’ve looked at gaming from mainframes in the 50’s… to multiplayer gaming in the 00’s.
Today, we wrap up our coverage, pose a bit of constructive criticism, and ask for your input.
As always, there’s more, much more… after the jump…
Today I take you further into the exhibition with my guide Conrad Bodman, one of the two original co-curators of the event. Here too, Game On moves… from merely displaying & categorising games, to looking at how the games are actually created.
Sprinkled throughout the exhibition are original sketches & character designs… fans of both Mario & Sonic will be glad both heroes are present. Conrad explains… “We’ve picked out key games designers… [like] Shigeru Miyamoto, the designer of Mario. So, we’ve got a story on Mario, and some original artwork by Miyamoto… We’ve done a similar thing with (Sonic Creator) Yuji Naka, who’s lent us some original artwork, which we’re showing in the exhibition.
The interesting thing for me, is to try and show, that often games start with drawings and paintings, they’re collaborations between artists & scientists… we wanted to try and reflect that.. where we could.”
As my guide suggests, programming is another element of games creation. But how do you display or explain it? In the next section, Game On touches on the subject of bedroom coding and indie gaming. There’s information panels about teenagers writing games on their Spectrums and Commodores. And an interesting display of the Playstation Yaroze system, one of the first efforts by a console maker to encourage Indie game making. I ask Conrad if there was a bit of a DIY message here… “We’re trying to demonstrate that it’s possible to get into the industry yourself – you don’t just have to buy a piece of software, or download it off the internet… you can be a “creator” as well as a consumer. That creativity often starts with doing things like drawing.. concept artwork, designs…”
And right on cue, we start seeing some designs from the biggest companies in the world. There’s an amazing whiteboard which was literally taken from the wall of Rockstar North, in Scotland. Yes – as you’ve probably guessed, it’s related to the GTA series. In fact, it’s a planning whiteboard from the original Grand Theft Auto 3.
“The intention here is to show the artwork behind the games, and look at the narrative that sits behind games..” Bodman explains. The whiteboard is a truly impressive sight. It’s covered in flowcharts & colour-coded sticky notes, showing how the map, characters & missions were all put together. Don’t worry if you’re not a big fan of the GTA series. You’ll see plenty of other great “behind the scenes” material & merchandise, including Tomb Raider, Pokemon and The Sims.
The next genre featured is “online” games. Game On doesn’t give you a chance to slay orcs in World of Warcraft, or do “whatever comes to mind” in Second Life. (Probably for good reason – the former is a bit tough for new players, and SL has a bit too much potential for “naughtiness”) Instead, you can try out the online game The Pirates of the Burning Sea. But other online experiences do get a look in – even if it’s a non-playable one.
“We have a [series of short films] showcasing online games from the 80’s to the present day, which demonstrates the heritage of that genre.” Conrad explains. We also have some artwork based around guilds in World of Warcraft.” Ed’s note: The “cinema” section did not make it to Brisbane.
Now, we reach the end of the exhibition, titled “the future”. The displays cover both current hits (The Wii & Playstation 3) and also “past ideas of the future”. An example of the latter is the Nintendo Powerglove which Conrad points out to me. “It was an idea that you could control what was happening on the screen, via body movements. It wasn’t a great hit, but the technology that went into the Powerglove is pretty similar to what’s gone into the Wii. Obviously, the Wii has reached that much bigger marketplace.”
We watch museum staff instructing “Wii virgins” on how to use the Wiimote, and their first giggle-fueled attempts at Wii Tennis. It’s interesting to observe that the first – and last – exhibits of Game On… are both multiplayer tennis games, made 25 years apart.
Sadly, we’ve reached the end of our tour.
I turn to thank Conrad Bodman for his time. He shoots back a bemused smile. “You know, it’s taken us a good forty minutes to walk through here, and neither of us have actually played a single game!” I move quickly to assume him, I’ll be back…. to remedy that terrible situation.
First up: 1942 in the arcade section. I must break my old record of 334,000…
My analysis of Game On:
1. Overall content
Putting an exhibition of this type together is much, much harder than putting together a “top 100 games” list. There are many more factors that need to be taken into account, when all these games need to be playable, displayable & transportable!
Here are just a few…
- Game ratings – Grand Theft Auto 3 is important, but it’s mature content means it can’t be played in an exhibition where kids are admitted. Some venues also dislike “gun” games.
- Controllers – For some systems, the original controllers are hard to source, or not up to day-in/day-out punishment. Mice for PCs really don’t like constant use.
- Cabinet space – A deluxe Outrun cab would be wonderful, but it would take up the equivalent space of 3 regular games.
- Participation space – Some games need a physical playing area. eg Dance Dance Revolution
- Weight – A deluxe Galaxy Force 2 would be impressive, but it needs to be shipped around the world.
- Duplication – same title/different systems – If you have an original Space Invaders cab in the “arcade” section, it’s less preferable to have it also appear in the Atari 2600 section.
- Categorisation & design decisions – To what extent do you favour “games” versus “the system they played on”? How important are the genres of games versus individual titles?
Taking all the above factors into account, I think Game On’s lineup is very good.
We’ll all have a few favourites that aren’t present – but no gamer (of any age) could visit this exhibition and be totally disappointed.
2. My Two Cents re The Top Ten Section
It’s incredibly difficult to pick “one game” for each platform, and in most cases I think they’ve done a great job. For example… Lemmings (Amiga) & Ridge Racer (Playstation)
However, I would question Freeway for the Atari VCS. (They can’t use Pitfall, Frogger or Space Invaders, as they appear elsewhere in the exhibition) but I would nominate H.E.R.O. or River Raid instead.
I’m also unsure of Way of the Exploding Fist as the Commodore 64’s representative title. I suspect it got the nod due to being developed in Melbourne. But I’d question it’s enduring popularity or significance compared to Wizball, Impossible Mission, or The Last Ninja.
3. Genres/culture that were under-represented.
I thought were three areas of gaming that may be worth considering for future Game On updates.
- Game making software – ie SEUCK (C64), Game Maker (PC)
- Game Mods- from people “hacking” Jet Set Willy – to Wolfenstein 3D mods – to Black Mesa: Source.
- Indie games (besides Yaroze) eg Cave Story, World of Goo, Revenge of the Robot Cats from Mars.
Are they more important than any other item currently shown? I don’t know.
Tell me in the comments section.
4. “Keeping it all running”
The challenges in making sure the games, screens, controls etc all work all day are pretty big.
But I did have one complaint in this area… in Melbourne, there didn’t appear to be any formal method for inviting visitors to report any problems with the games. (If there was one, we weren’t told about it)
This means that the reporting of faults (& thus, repairing) would be slower than necessary.
Perhaps some sort of simple “fill out a report card” system would be an idea.
And that… just about does it, for Just One More Games’ Game On report.
A few games & items displayed in Melbourne haven’t made it to Brisbane. For example: A section on Aussie games, featuring The Hobbit, Powerslide & Dark Reign. As noted already, the “cinema” section also had to be dropped. There must be other things “MIA” – perhaps you could help me list them.
Yes – it would have been nice if everything from the Melbourne exhibition managed to make it to Brisbane. But 80% is still a whole lot better than 0%.
So if you haven’t done so already, get yourself to Game On. If you live outside Queensland, you’ve got 4 months to find a cheap fare & a spare weekend. You know you want to…