Codes of Honor

(5)

Jon Rafman, Codes of Honor, 2011


Chinatown Fair arcade closed down on February 28th, 2011, after over 50 years. Gamers are still in mourning. CF, as it was known, was one of the last video game arcades in America where one could count on finding top-level competition.  I spent the better part of 2009 in that dingy, dim-lit arcade at the end of Mott street, which was the battlegound for the best players in the history of pro-gaming.

The first Street Fighter release in a decade —Street Fighter IV —just came out, sparking a short-lived renaissance in the fighting game community. I got to know the regulars at the arcade and began conducting daily video interviews, asking them to recall their greatest memories at the joysticks. I set up a YouTube channel, which was widely followed and the comment section became a major forum for debate in the community. During that year, I learned that to be a top-pro one could not simply master the technical aspect of the game; to compete at the highest level one needed to have a strong character and a deep understanding of human psychology. I learned that pro-gamers ascribe to the values and virtues of the classical archetypes of yore: honor, respect for the other, and excellence. Hardcore gamers have an experience of acheivement so intense that, although limited in scope and time, it is forever difficult to equal. Although nothing can rival the high they get from defeating a worthy opponent or the reputation during their reign, the fame is as fleeting as the high of the win. And so I learned of the tragic element that is inherent to the experience of video gaming...

 

READ ON »


KILL SCREEN's "Arcade" at MoMA

(0)


Two couples team up to play B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now) in the main lobby

Kill Screen curated a sold out Arcade two weeks ago at MoMA's July PopRally. The museum was packed with art and game enthusiast actively trying their skills with an array of eleven games spread across the first three floors and the garden. I'm a closeted game addict so the event culled no shortage of interest from me. I started out the night playing Starry Heavens, a large turn-based installation of networked dots predicated on a feudalist hierarchy, with a group of friends and the game's creators, Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi. The giant heilium-filled weather balloons floating above the game's stage added a Calvino-esque ambience and a minaturizing sense of scale. B.U.T.T.O.N., a game built specifically on unfair tactics located inside the Museum's lobby, quickly shifted the slow pace of Starry Heavens into a frenzy of subversive button smashing, shouting, and friend pushing.

Overall the games offered a broad set of aesthetics and interactivity ranging from the cooperative, full-body, and homebrewed Kinect-meets-iPad PXL PUSHR (created by Matt Boch and Ryan Challinor) to the binary palette and hauntingly captivating experience of LIMBO - with a special note to QWOP, which garnered a long line and much moral support for participants. I caught up with Jamin over email to find out more about his logic in curating the event:

JH: What was your thought proces behind choosing that particular group of games?

JW: We chose games that reflected the breadth of developments in games over the last five years or so. As you know, the Arcade was tied to Talk To Me and the communication between objects and ourselves.  So we wanted to find games that did the same thing -- that spoke different languages. LIMBO, for example, was chosen for its aesthetics and the monochromatic dream world that Playdead had created. Bit.Trip Beat was chosen for its pastiche and how it blends an old convention (Pong) with something new (sound). B.U.T.T.O.N. was chosen for its physicality and Canabalt was chosen for its austerity. We wanted a wide range of new experiences for attendees to explore.

One overall principle was to chose games that were easy to learn and interesting to watch. There were 1,000 tickets sold for the event so the environment needed to be one where we could cycle people quickly through games while not boring those on the periphery. There are other games that are wonderful but don't lend themselves to that type of setting.

Tentacle was projected to fill an entire wall as players downloaded the app and interacted using their smarthpones

JH: How did you choose the locations for each game? Was based it simply on available space or linked somehow to art that was in the locations before?

 

READ ON »