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  Toronto Goes to the ‘Artcade’  
Posted 2006-03-27 by Tony Walsh
Torontonians will soon wallow in a festering pit of video game nostalgia as "Artcade" opens Wednesday, April 5, 2006. The art show, located inside a Microplay game specialty store on Toronto's trendy Queen West strip, features 11 arcade-inspired artists including Chris Hutsul, Kagan McLeod, and Matt Daley. Not being one of the cool kids (few of whom are actually old enough to have played a vintage arcade game), I wasn't invited to contribute to or attend the show, but I will bitterly crash the opening party with gusto.

April 5 - May 17, 2006
@ Microplay, 632 Queen St. West,
Toronto, Canada
  Game Culture Circus Has Its Own Slideshow  
Posted 2006-03-22 by Tony Walsh
Nick Yee's Daedalus Project, which looks at the psychology of massively-multiplayer online games, gives us a glimpse at social phenomena, character studies, and glitches in the virtual world with two intriguing slideshows: #1, #2. Yee is still looking for more "visual data points" that illustrate player gatherings, character portraits, large-scale and player-vs-player combat, strange bugs, and other interesting screenshots. Details and submission form available here.

I submitted a series of screens from my exploration of a hidden World of Warcraft zone, and if Yee doesn't include them, I'll post them here at Clickable Culture.
  If Vehicles Could Speak  
Posted 2006-03-20 by Tony Walsh
I have often wondered if electric cars could pose a safety hazard due to their whispering engines. Gary Richards says "Quiet hybrids pose an 'invisible' risk." Let's imagine, for the sake of argument, that electric cars are truly silent enough to encourage a significant number of accidental collisions. How would we fix this problem, and how would we design future systems to prevent this problem?

For the answer to making silent cars heard, I turn to science fiction movies. I was thoroughly disappointed as a child of the 1970s when I was told that in space no one can hear you scream. Suddenly, crushingly, Star Wars made no sense. I've spent the last twenty or thirty years with this bubbling on the furthest of my brain's back-burners: Why, in sci-fi movies, does the audience hear the rumble and screech of spaceships? Here's what I've come up with: What the audience hears is what the occupants of spaceships would hear if their on-board computer systems obeyed (future, fictional) universal standards of HCI design.

Continue reading: If Vehicles Could Speak
  RealKart:  An Immodest Proposal  
Posted 2006-03-17 by Tony Walsh
Inspired by video of a remote-controlled Red Shell (scroll down) from the Mario series of Nintendo games, and a recent round of RealFrogger, I've illustrated thorough and foolproof plans for re-enacting Kart-style video games in real life. Warning: Do not actually attempt!

Continue reading: RealKart:  An Immodest Proposal
  Gods Among Stags  
Posted 2006-03-02 by Tony Walsh
Gods Among Stags
A god and stags in The Endless Forest. Image credit: Tale of Tales.
The strange and mystical Endless Forest is described as both a "social screen screensaver" and "game" by its makers Tale of Tales. The online experience bears slight resemblance to both a social space and game, involving inhabiting a stag (male deer) avatar and interacting with the gorgeous environs populated by other user-controlled stags. There are no rules, there is no structure, and there is no universally-accepted meaning to communication, which consists of various actions including making a "mooing" noise. It's the kind of place that's nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

The Endless Forest has recently been updated to include a new system allowing its two authors to play at being god. "Abiogenesis" facilitates real-time intervention in and alteration of The Endless Forest's virtual world. From the official site: "At any moment they can make it rain, make flowers grow and beasts fly. Either randomly, whenever they please, or in an organised event, during a live performance." As the creators of The Endless Forest, its arguable that Auriea Harvey and Micha�l Samyn were already "gods," of their virtual world, but the deliberate addition of a god mode, extending exclusive powers to the authors within their user-populated environment, is an interesting design choice--it could be considered a conceit, a reward, a means of making the world more mysterious, or another facet of the social element. Who wouldn't want to lord over their own virtual world?
  ‘Art Of Xbox 360’ Disappoints  
Posted 2006-02-24 by Tony Walsh
Last night I attended the gallery opening of "Play: The Art Of Xbox 360," an art show in Toronto's historic Distillery District promising an insider look at the pre- and post-production visuals of three of the Xbox 360's first-day launch titles. In a word: Underwhelming. If you removed the Xbox 360 kiosks used to display the games themselves, and poster-sized promo-style artwork, you'd be left with a scant selection of pre-production visuals. Only half of the gallery was in use for the show, meaning the space was about 4 yards by about 8 yards in size. It's a cozy space that I've visited before, but it seemed underused for this showing.

If you happen to be at the Distillery this weekend, it couldn't hurt to drop by the Blue Dot Gallery to have a look, but I wouldn't recommend making a special trip just for the show. I think what we have here is a classic "post-release attention-span" grabber, geared towards retaining a semblance of public interest in the Xbox 360--in other words, this event isn't so much about art as it is about commerce.
  Give and Take with ‘Sketch Swap’  
Posted 2006-02-12 by Tony Walsh
Sketch Swap is a web-based doodling application that allows you to see one user-submitted sketch in exchange for submitting a sketch of your own. Best suited for those using graphics tablets, Sketch Swap adds a layer of challenge by denying artists access to an "erase" function. It's draw or don't draw, meaning that mistakes or other imperfections are to be expected. Once a piece is submitted, the canvas clears, and a previously-drawn work by a stranger begins to render quickly on the page, line by line.

Created by Dominik Schmid and Philipp Lenssen, Sketch Swap is a fun way to communicate with the rest of the world. Because submitted drawings are "played back" in semi-real time, there's a sequential aspect to creating the artwork--I added drawings with a visual or text punchline at the end, as well as signed each piece with my name and URL. Sketch Swap's Philipp Lenssen contacted me as a result, and told me the site is well past the 100,000-image mark. Simple images are auto-filtered, while over 40,000 images are in the pipeline for manual approval. "We're sorting by image size, so that's why I see pics like yours relatively early to approve the great ones faster. Dominik and I have a hard time believing what we got ourselves into, but it's great, great fun."

Continue reading: Give and Take with ‘Sketch Swap’
  Time Running Out For ‘Life Meter’?  
Posted 2006-02-12 by Tony Walsh
"Katamari Chef"
by Jacob Chabot
Life Meter collects fantastic comics and illustrations by game fans of their favourite characters and worlds. Co-Editors Zack Giallongo, Dave Roman, Stephanie Yue are currently looking for new artwork to display on their shiny, new site.

The trio wants to see contributions that depict a "day in the life" of game personalities: "Events that could be in continuity even if you'd never really see it in the game. What was going on in the heads of these characters day in and day out as they performed these tasks?" Each contributor will be given a space underneath their piece in which to textually pontificate, and a bonus reciprocal link so happy fans and angry lawyers can get in touch.

Continue reading: Time Running Out For ‘Life Meter’?
  ‘Art Of Xbox 360’ Comes To Toronto  
Posted 2006-02-09 by Tony Walsh
Xbox Canada is bringing a gallery showing to Toronto featuring the pre- and post-production artwork behind three of the Xbox 360's launch titles: platform game Kameo: Elements of Power, action shooter Perfect Dark Zero, and driving game Project Gotham Racing 3. The private gala opening on February 23 will be attended by UK-based artists Wil Overton of Rare and Chris Davie of Bizarre Creations. Concept sketches, background paintings, and hi-def environments are on free, public display February 24 - 26 (roughly between 12pm - 5pm) at The Blue Dot Gallery in Toronto's yuppie Distillery District [map].

This will be a unique opportunity for the public to get a "behind the scenes" look at video game art and a glimpse of the creative process. I'm pleased admission is free. Game design and animation students take note.
  Gaming McDonald’s  
Posted 2006-02-02 by Tony Walsh
Gaming McDonald’s
Italian political game makers Molleindustria have produced an anti-advergame criticising McDonald's. From Molleindustria's broken-English site: "Making money in a corporation like McDonald's is not simple at all. Behind every sandwich there is a complex process you must learn to manage: from the creation of pastures to the slaught, from the restaurant management to the branding. You'll discover all the dirty secrets that made us one of the biggest company of the world." You can play the game online or download it. The game uses McDonald's branding pretty extensively, so I imagine the company will try to shut the game down--better grab it while you can.

Last month, an anti-advergame called Disaffected was launched by Persuasive Games as an exercise in criticising FedEx Kinko's. As the medium of games elevates to the level of other art forms, we're going to see the use of games expand from idle entertainment to include serious applications such as communication and criticism. Water Cooler Games is a particularly good weblog covering this angle.
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