One of the events i attended in my whirlwind week of video game-related shindigs was START, a week-long exhibit of indie video games at OCAD, the Ontario College of Art and Design. START rotated through a selection of possibly “arty” games (though settling on a definition of arty games is still an exercise in intellectual wanking). About an hour before i attended the gala opening last Thursday night, i was surprised to find that my TOJam 5 game Heads was one of the games being exhibited.
Hey, kids – it’s Heads!
Is Heads art? It’s got kind of a different art style, and it’s a little weird. Does being different and weird make something art? Does it matter? Do we care?
One of Us
Those are my reactions whenever the topic of Games as Art crops up. i don’t care. And i especially didn’t care to hear the evening’s two panelists on the OCAD side expound over the history of pop culture in art, and the legitimacy of video games as an art form. It smacked, once again, of another industry trying to claim video games as its own. The teevee folks in town are doing it, the film folks are paying attention … i half expect the pulp and paper industry to take note soon. i feel like a broken record by pointing out, again, that the interactive entertainment industry is not an also-ran or a tack-on marketing tool for other creative industries.
The two panelists from indie gamedom, Ben Rivers and Jim Munroe, held their own for the latter part of the discussion, when the moderator’s questions became coherent. The topic of the “Toronto style” of indie games was mentioned. Ben rejected the idea, and said that if anything, Toronto indie games reflected the personalities of their creators. (Moreso than indie games from other cities? i’m not convinced.)
Jim Munroe said that the Toronto community is very warm and welcoming, and that there are no cliques. It was an interesting thing for him to say – i was just talking to someone at the Ubi Soft party who complained that the scene was very cliquey. It’s hard to see that view when you’re deep in the clique, i suppose. But barring a few certain folks in our community who act like they’re too cool for school, i think what’s at play is that programmer types are shy and introverted. It’s very easy to mistake introversion for snobbery.
The rest of the evening, like the rest of the exhibit, consisted of playable games projected on walls. i’d be interested to hear if the uninitiated found it interesting; for the rest of us, it seems like every event lately has been quite samey. TOJam Arcade did it, Fan Expo and TCAF did it, the Indie Showcase did it, and the upcoming Arcadian Renaissance exhibit during Nuit Blanche is gonna do it too. It’s super-great to see the Toronto indie star rising. i’m really interested to hear what Joe Public thinks of it all. And what’s the goal? Do we want more people playing Toronto indie games, buying Toronto indie games, or making Toronto indie games? We’ll figure it out, i’m sure. i think the chips are still falling where they may. Let’s let the spaghetti stick to the wall first. With a little more traction, the industry may finally gain its well-deserved reputation for being a separate schtick from film, teevee and pulp & paper.
Peep this clueless Toronto Star piece from Kate Taylor, who apparently missed the week’s goings-on in the city and decided to pen this alarmist piece on the ‘Mericans taking our tax credits (and our white women), and on video games apparently struggling for artistic cred:
The video game is a medium still searching for cultural legitimacy, but neither critics (who tend to review it simply in terms of how well a game plays) nor parents (who bemoan their children’s addiction) are likely to oblige it any time soon.
i’m going to take a wild guess that Kate is either 52 years old, or lazy. Play some games, Kate, Attend some events. Last week was packed with ’em. Comment on stuff that was made here in Toronto (being that you write for the Toronto Star), instead of highlighting a Vancouver studio. And get those facts straight:
Canadian companies are often being bought by multinationals in a field were there are no restrictions on foreign ownership.
The implication is that there are no restrictions on foreign-owned companies accessing Canadian government funds and tax breaks. i assure you there are. And as for whether video games enjoy cultural legitimacy … when’s the last time you saw a person under 30 buy a newspaper?