Video games can be much more than child's play or a release for pent-up aggression through shooter game fantasies. An exhibit exploring the video game as art is the centerpiece of The Art of Play, a two-day symposium at Carnegie Mellon University.
"The Art of Play Arcade" doesn't question whether these games are art, but rather explores the many ways they can be.
Art of Play conference chair Heather Kelley is Kraus visiting assistant professor of art at CMU. She's also a game designer and part of a game design collective called Kokoromi, whose aim is to create and promote experimental and artistic game play. Kelley and fellow Kokoromi member Cindy Poremba curated the "Arcade" exhibit.
Carnegie Mellon's draw as a school for students interested in computer science and art, along with its Entertainment Technology Center, made it a logical host for the two-day conference. "It's sort of the crucible here," Kelley said. In putting together the conference, the games exhibit became a natural extension, she said. "To talk about games, you really want to be able to play them."
In choosing the games for the exhibit, "We tried to find the works that were the most memorable and entertaining and a creative use of the platform. These titles came up again and again."
The games' creators come from all levels of the industry -- from large- and midsize game developers to independent and experimental designers.
What they share in common is high visual quality and imaginative situations. In "The Endless Forest," for example, there are no rules or objectives. Players simply guide a deer through a serene 3-D forest environment.
"Facade" takes the player into an apartment to visit a couple who are in the middle of a nasty argument. The player's actions influence the outcome of the scenario.
"Seaman" is an artificial life game where the object is to raise a creature from an egg. The player communicates via microphone and voice recognition technology.
"Rez" is an Xbox 360 shooter game whose complex, ever-changing visuals mimic works by painter Wassily Kandinsky.
The games chosen span several decades and include examples created for all gaming platforms -- from PC to PlayStation, from Mac to Xbox. The games featured are not necessarily cutting-edge technology or the future of gaming. Instead they show the span of gaming history. "Moondust," for example, was created in the '80s for the Commodore 64.
The Art of Play conference continues today. Hours for "The Art of Play Arcade" exhibit are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in CMU's Ellis Gallery in the College of Fine Arts building.
There will be a panel discussion featuring several game designers involved in the conference -- Phil Fish, Heather Kelley, Cindy Poremba, Randy Smith and Lynn Hughes -- at 5 p.m. in the Kresge Recital Hall.
Tours of the Entertainment Technology Center are scheduled from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Shuttle busses will take participants to ETC.
An "ExtraLife" after-party is happening tonight at Brillobox in Bloomfield from 7 to 10 (all ages) and from 10 to 1 a.m. (over-21).
For more information on the schedules and links to the games: theartofplay.com.
Adrian McCoy can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1865.