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The Game Masters exhibition: Got game?

GET your game on Melbourne! ACMI’s Game Masters exhibition is upon us! Hieu Chau tries out the demo.

Are you game, Melbourne?

Game Masters, Australian Centre for the Moving Image’s (ACMI) newest exhibition running from June 28 to October 28, is quite likely to bring up further debate about whether games can be considered a form of art.

Considering ACMI’s track record with art exhibitions – their most recent one featuring the works of South African artist, William Kentridge – you could argue that video games do hold some form of artistic merit since they’re being presented in this manner.  And certainly if you highlight the game designers responsible for the exhibits, why can’t they be referred to as artists in their own right?

Appropriately enough, Conrad Bodman, the Head of Exhibitions at ACMI, has categorised these game designers as auteurs – a French term predominately used in film theory to describe directors whose personal style and trademarks create a sense of authorship and control over their work.  Close enough to art yet?

ACMI’s previous major gaming exhibition in 2008, Game On, delved through the history of video games, but according to the feedback they received, people didn’t know who made the games. ACMI had not prominently credited those who had spent their time and effort creating some of the most iconic characters and stories.

With Game Masters, ACMI has rectified the oversight by doing a fantastic job of highlighting key industry figures and organizations that have helped shape the video games into one of the leading forms of entertainment today. The exhibition celebrates the developers who have created vivid worlds and told inspiring stories. It features more than 125 playable games, divided into three sections: Arcade Heroes, Game Masters, and Indies.

The Arcade Heroes area is a trip back to the late 70s and early 80s, and recreates the nostalgic arcade setting – dim lighting with only the screens of the arcade cabinets to guide you along the narrow walkway. It showcases the golden age of video games, complete with products from the bygone era that have been lovingly restored.

The Game Masters section focuses on the game designers and highlights some of their most popular games. In contrast to the Arcade Heroes area, this section is an explosion of colour with plenty of open space to move about. Conceptual artwork is displayed alongside some of the games to provide further insight into the creative process.

Last but not least, the Indies section of the exhibition looks at how independent game studios have challenged the perception of what a video game should look like and how it should be played, and features a variety of groundbreaking works.

In addition to the main exhibition, there are plenty of insightful forums, including talks with developers such as Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Epic Mickey) and Tim Schafer (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend), as well as exciting events such as screenings of video game themed films, and Late Bit – an entertainment event, every Thursday night from 6pm to 9pm, which features gaming tournaments, live music, and special guests.

Game Masters looks set to be a fun and potentially inspirational experience. If you’re looking to get into the game development industry, you should make the most of the exhibition and the events around it. If not, you could just head on down, get your game on, and have a blast.

Visit the official Game Masters website for more information.

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