What more do you need people?
Sat, 15 March 2008
by: Australian Ninja
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On Wednesday March 5, Sam Hillier (Buttonhole editor and beer connoisseur) and reviewing machine Deputy Editor Ninja - attended the opening of Game On at ACMI, in Melbourne's Federation Square. The night was a big success, read on for the juicy details!
Game On had an excellent opening night, and I was pleased to attend both the morning media tour at 10:30am and the official grand opening in the evening at 6:30pm. The Buttonhole big boss man Sam Hillier and myself both attended the evening event. The promise of free beer motivated Sam to leave the Buttonhole cave, as for me - the games were all the motivation I needed.
The evening kicked with off the two of us being squished into a very crowded room (because of how many people turned up), and the beer flowed freely. Fortunately the beer served by the lads and lasses was Heineken, a drink that Sam is really good at drinking. Somebody standing next to me said "Hook it up to my veins" but I can't quite remember who that was.
In attendance for the grand opening were many media and sponsor types, and one of the government representatives randomly started talking to Sam before the speeches. She proved to be a really nice lady with a good sense of humour, who later pointed to us during her speech. A fair bit of talking went on but I managed to stay awake through it all, as I was itching like a junkie to get at those games. To be fair, I have nothing but respect for all the people involved in getting the Game on exhibition up and running, and the speeches were interesting. But when you have the promise of awesome games to play it's pretty hard to focus on much of anything else. I mean if Claire Danes had been there, all gussied up and asking me for "special favours",
I would have knocked her to the ground and charged towards the games like the determined, unrelenting T-1000 from Terminator 2.
While it was all well and good to stay squished in the crowd, Sam spotted what he referred to as the "the cool people over there" and so we moved closer to the group that was just offside the big crowd. Among those cool people were the East Redfern Massive - Cam & Wilks - (Cam Shea was representing IGN Australia and is the former editor of Hyper magazine. Daniel Wilks was representing Hyper and is the current editor of Hyper magazine).
|A selection of Aussie games are included in Game On |
Conversations and Big Respeck' aside, Cam & Wilks were genuinely friendly and interesting guys as you would expect. Well to be truthful Sam did the talking, I mostly stood around feeling uncomfortable and not talking while waiting for my next video game fix. When you're a socially retarded hermit like me, it's hard not to be uncomfortable in these crowded situations.
Eventually people were done with speeches and small talk and gravitated downstairs to the games, but not before hearing a few words from Pong designer Alan Alcorn, yet another "really cool guy" who was equipped with a rather manly beard of '+5 wisdom'.
Downstairs in the exhibition area an impressive selection of playable games were on display. From arcade classics in original cabinets to micro home computers, along with a wide variety of classic and modern home video game consoles. Over 120 games were playable that night and I did my best to play a hell of a lot of them (if you include the morning session where I was the last person to leave, it was a whole lot of games).
Highlights for me included playing the arcade version of Missile Command for the first time. With its innovative track ball and three button control design it really is a fantastic piece of kit that is let down by the home conversions. Playing the original immediately shows off what an excellent and challenging game it is, the controls becoming intuitive after only a couple of rounds.
Other highlights were playing Galaga (and other arcade classics) on MAME via projection onto a large wall. The size of the projection on the wall was incredible and really had to be seen to be appreciated. It was the single biggest visual output I've ever played a game on, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who would love to have taken that part of the exhibit home with them.
Some nice artwork and other visuals were on display in various parts of the exhibit. Posters, drawings, concept art and more adorned the walls in-between game displays and some dodgy looking magazine covers. But then pretty much all game mags are a little bit dodgy, it's part of their charm.
|The one and only, Mario Mario |
Other firsts for me that night were Rez (PS2) and Tempest 2000 (Atari Jaguar). Both games I simply must own at some point, and I got a real kick out of playing these games seeing as I've always wanted to play them, but never managed to get my mits on them before. Tempest 2000 was instantly addictive, and I pretty much tranced out forgetting about everything else going on for a while, except when the rather irritating bright lights of camera-people abused my poor retinas during the morning media session.
Halo 3 (Xbox 360) death matches proved amusing, but with only four players it was hard to get too excited about it, it's much more fun with teams of four on four rather than every person for themselves. And it's kind of shameful for a hardcore action gamer like myself to be killed a bunch of times by a 13-or-so year old girl. But hey, where else but "Game On" would you get to see twenty something guys mixing it up with teenagers and motherly types all in an attempt to slaughter each with futuristic military weapons? Proof if ever that gaming is about reaching people of all ages and demographics, not just hardcore geeks.
Odin Sphere (PS2) was a visually stunning game, a hybrid RPG with beat-em-up combat that I was pleased to see had received a PAL conversion after many favourable American reviews. But I just could not figure out the controls - having picked up after someone else walked away. Fortunately later that night I spotted Wilks playing it, and was able to watch how it actually plays when you know what to control it properly. While watching the game, I made an attempt at conversation, but managed instead to have a bout of verbal diarrhoea, fortunately Wilks' gaming skills were unaffected.
Disc of Tron (Arcade) would have to be one of the most unique games in terms of its visuals and unique control scheme at the exhibition. I've read about this game many times over the years, particularly in the English mag Retro Gamer. Now I know they were not exaggerating about what a cool game it is, with its innovative - though difficult to master - control scheme.
So many other games were on display that you would have to be there all day and night to have a fair crack at them all. I went in determined to play things that were unique in some way, and especially the old arcade games that were a little before my time. Having played the majority of arcade games on offer, I realised that many of the games I had only previously played on home conversions. Home conversions of early arcade games are notoriously crummy, due to the limited processing power of consoles and microcomputers in the 1980s.
Playing original arcade cabinets not only made the experience authentic, but showed just how much better looking most of the original games were compared to their home console conversions. I have to say that after both the morning and evening events I was just buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm. Being in the exhibit reminded me very much of hanging out all day at big city arcades when I was a kid. But more than nostalgia, it proved how playable and well designed so many of the games were, and that it's great to be able to play so many games with like minded people all under the one roof.
The night proved to be great fun for those attending, and while I got to play a lot more games during the morning media event (small numbers of people, compared to the massive night time crowd) there was a really good energy to the crowded night event. You could tell people were very enthusiastic about playing the games, and it brought a smile to my face to see the wonderfully mixed crowd who rocked up to the event.
|Every person at the opening night was 100% cooler than these clowns |
Young and old, male and female, it was the kind of crowd that reminded me that games are for everyone to enjoy and are primarily about having fun. And that's something everyone needs to remember, it's all too easy to get overly serious about games these days with all the fancy technology, expanding online services, industry criticism, media hype and what have you - and forget to just have some good old fashioned fun. The evening reminded me of that easy to ridicule Microsoft phrase "It's good to play together."
I want to give a shout out to the crew at ACMI for putting on such a swell shin-dig. Their tireless efforts in bringing relevant contemporary exhibitions to Victorians are truly under-appreciated, they deserve all the credit they can get. From the suits to the service people, ACMI really puts a lot into their shows and exhibits with a touch of class and flair. My thanks go out not just to the curator and the president of ACMI for hosting this Game On exhibition, but to the ticket sales people, shop attendants, kind beer-serving service people, courteous doormen, the people behind the scenes in Public Relations and more.
All the little things these people do add up to the big success that is ACMI. You all matter, so thanks for your ongoing efforts. And no, I don't get any kickbacks for saying these sorts of things to any cynical readers out there. So here's to ACMI for doing their part in preserving a vital part of our popular culture, by hosting the London's Barbican Gallery "Game On" exhibit.
The Game On grand opening was a big success with a massive turnout from a wide variety of people. It's open to the public from Thursday 6th March until Sunday 13th July. If you're thinking of going to this awesome exhibition that over a million players have already experienced from London to America, you can find out further details at the ACMI website. If you're a work-aholic and struggle for free time then take note that Game On is open late nights on Thursdays until 9:00pm.
Do you really need any more reasons to attend Game On? Well then, visit the website and watch some sweet trailer action and be sure not to miss out on all the other special Game On related events coming up at ACMI over the next few weeks.
GAME ON Exhibition Details:
Thursday 6 March 2008 - Sunday 13 July 2008
Open daily 10am - 6pm, Late night Thursdays until 9pm
Full $15 Concession $10 Buy Tickets Online
Family (2 Adults, 2 Children) $44
by: Australian Ninja
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