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Category: Video Games

The year of video games as art?

A lot of debate erupted last year with Roger Eberts Twitter comment that video games can not be art.

The obvious complication in the debate over video games as art is rooted in the definition of art and the fact that art is largely in the eye of the beholder. This however has been a year where video games have been thrust into venues and spaces traditionally reserved for art. This shift, at least to me is an affirmation that this medium can be art. Bellow is just a few examples of what I am referring to here.

Video Game Orchestra: The VGO founded by Berklee College of Music alumni Shota Nakama is at its core an ensemble of some amazing classically trained musicians who perform video game music. At first to someone not versed in the medium this sounds a bit cartoonish or childish, but music in games has progressed a long way. Its composition and arangment now reviles motion picture sound tracks. Pieces from games like the Final Fantasy series or even the Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time can stir the same emotional response as modern classical can. Their approach does have some more non-traditional classical elements to it. A lot of video game music is synthesized and incorporates guitar (not traditional orchestral instrumentation). The VGO matches this with their talent and rockestral instrumentation. Watching them play something like the theme to Street Fighter II, a 16bit synthesized and programed track, with out the assistance of sequencers is simply an amazing show of talent.

The VGO for the past few years has been performing mainly to video game fans at venues like PAX East. However earlier this year on April Fools day (not sure if there was a tie in) the VGO performed with a full orchestra and choir at the prestigious Boston Symphony Hall. The Final Fantasy suite from that evening is embedded below for your consideration as art.

Smithsonian Institute Video Game Art Exhibit and List: The prestigious Smithsonian Institute, the US government’s educational and research institution put out a call earlier this year for public voting on what should be included in their The Art of Video Games exhibit now on until September 30, 2012. The curators of the exhibit reserved Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, The Secret of Monkey Island, Myst, and World of Warcraft to be included but left the rest up to the public. The final list is very interesting and can be found here in PDF form. The curators recognized that a certain granularity was needed to define eras and technical capabilities and broke the list into respective categories and even systems.
Details on the exhibit can be found here.

Video Games Won Their First Grammy: That’s right a Grammy! The track “Baba Yetu” from Sid Myer’s Civilization IV won the first Grammy for any music originally composed for a video game. Now there are some tecnical trickery here in how it won. Civilization IV came out in 2005 and “Baba Yetu” is the opening title track composed by Christopher Tin. In 2009 Tin included the track on his own album and it was later nominated and won for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s). As of the 53rd Grammys there was no specific category that included video game music but that is changing. The categories that were formally listed as “Motion, Television, or Other Visual Media” have now been renamed earlier this year to say “Motion, Television, Video Games Music, or Other Visual Media”.

National Endowment for the Arts: Earlier this month the National Endowment for the Arts changed its criteria for The Arts on Radio and Television to now be The Arts in Media.

“Projects may include high profile multi-part or single television and radio programs (documentaries and dramatic narratives); media created for theatrical release; performance programs; artistic segments for use within an existing series; multi-part webisodes; installations; and interactive games. Short films, five minutes and under, will be considered in packages of three or more.”
More here if you wish to apply!

Conclusion
My point here in the post is not to argue that video games are art, but rather run with the notion that art is art when it is received as art and that video games this year seem to be being viewed as art by some very prestigious groups in that space. The question is a lot less simple but, I do leave it up to you. Can video games be art?

What is in my bag for PAX East 2011

PAX East

This will be my second PAX event and I learned a lot from last year’s inaugural PAX East as to what I should bring and strategies for how to manage my time. There is a ton of stuff to see and do and you will NOT get to everything you want to see.

So what am I bringing?

My North Face messenger bag: Basically this is my man purse that comes with me everywhere, but because its a shoulder bag I can quickly put away swag and other goodies I pick up along the way without having to pull off a backpack and stand there with promotional ‘crap’ in my hand that I just don’t care to look at then and there.

iPhone: With this one again I never leave the house without it and this will be my life line for 3 days. Access to Twitter, schedules, friends, table top gaming apps, and maybe some Street Fighter IV or Game Dev Story while waiting in line.

iPhone charger: With the amount I know I will be using my phone this will need to charge me up at some point in the day.

GameBoy(s): I love my GameBoys and plan on bringing at least 1 each day with a few carts. I may mix this up with an Advance and a classic but there will be 2 carts of Tetris for some head to head play with someone. Hey when else can you tote around a 1989 Gameboy and get props for it? As far as carts Tetris is a must and probably some SuperMario World but don’t want to bring my whole collection.

Magic: The Gathering Deck: There was a MTG deck in last years goodies bag that helped pull me back into the game. This year I want to make sure I get at least a few games in with people I never play. For this I plan on bringing my Elf deck that a friend made and gave to me for my birthday. This deck is not standard legal so it will be only for free play. Any tournament play be in a sealed deck game so no worries here. While an Elf deck is a bit cliche it is still my most powerful deck and my Dickwolves Deck is not done so the Elves will have to do.

Game counters: A small drawstring bag of game counters and dice.

Pandemic: Pandemic is a small and easy to carry board game and could be fun with the right people. It may find its way into my bag but only for a day no more.

Pen and Paper: You still need these things from time to time these days.

Gamer Tag Cards: If I have time I want to get my gamer tags and twitter on a business card to hand out at PAX. I met a lot of cool gamers last year and would love to be able to play with them some time. The only problem was exchanging contact info was always a too difficult under the circumstances. If I can I want this in hand for this year.

Camera: I actually don’t have one so if I can borrow one this will absolutely be in my bag. There are too many cool things to see from cos-play to game previews so the camera will come in handy a lot.

Games for teaching Computer Science

Mini-Pecha Kucha presentation for ED102: Exploring Educational Technologies, Fall 2010 taught through the Harvard Extension School at Harvard University. The presentation focuses on a using video games for teaching computer science skills. A brief history of this space and some of the fundamental concepts will be introduced as well as a quick discussion of 3 games in particular LOGO, Alice, and Scratch is included.

Games to teach Computer Science

This presentation is a mini-pecha kucha presentation with 10 slides set to auto advance every 30 seconds. The recording was done using Power Point playing the presentation in real time. Quick Time in Apple OSX 10.6 was used to take the screen capture with a Blue Snowball microphone used to capture audio. The presentation was done a good 30+ times with this one following the timing of the slide transition the best. This condensed format is very powerful as it forces you as a presenter to hone your points and stay on topic during a very rapid fire stream of slides.

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