Thursday, November 19, 2015

UCLA Games Art Festival 2015: Fun and Strange

Eddo Stern was waiting at the bar, controller in hand. He was playing with it, for what reason I couldn't tell, maybe just for the feel. He was talking to a friendly face, and he was smiling too. He was at the Hammer Museum on a cool night near UCLA, where he works as a Design Media Arts professor. He was there that night in the capacity as director of the festival, the UCLA Games Art Festival, that missed a year and came back, but for a night. A night of fun, strange games to play.

The noodle was soon over me, it was though I was ripping out the guts of a giant puppet and being helped by an army of hipsters and college students. "TL;DR [the shape of the internet (Orgy)]" by
Theo Triantafyllidis was its real name. To me it was the long hot dog. As others and I pulled this giant "hot dog" or "worm" the screen in the middle of the festival generated strange imagery in tandem with strange sounds, like digital cats being drowned. Weird morph suite people directed it some times, their appearance with it was unsettling.

The meaning, if there was meaning, is a immersive free-play idea. Have a bunch of people play with the 40-foot noodle and have sensors in it generate strange imagery and sound, the more people touch and play with it. Where to put it at your party? I don't know, however I'll go to your party to play it again.

What may have made the night complete and the grand finale was Penis Pant, the much anticipated game from this sites focus on the festival. It was as dumb as it was wondrous as lasers shot out of a Penis while Ke$ha's "Die Young" played in the background. This magical penis came from Jeremy Bailey, a presenter in his own right, that made me at least think about why the Wii U doesn't have a penis game. As his on screen penis fluctuated in a rainbow of color it painted the screen behind him and shot lasers wildly. The only thing you could do was laugh and look in awe. Watch the experience above.

The stage was the place for not only digital experiences. Soon medieval torture devices...whiff, wow that's strong. Oh, it's "Holla' Pain Yo." This truly horrible game has two opposing teams sucking down jalapeno water the fastest in order to pop their own balloons thanks to a leverage system. The device looks like it belongs in some sort of frat dark ages. The veteran players lost to audience newbies. The veterans also lost their machine. A machine poorly constructed of cardboard and nails to pop balloons.
Drinking jalapeno water wasn't the only retreat into food games. An entire section this year had a plethora of bad ideas on fun food games. Though many were fun to watch -"Schnapp Die Wurst" by Isla Hansen was but a sausage held up by rope -we wouldn't consider them playable or imaginative. We saw no real game play for the wurst game other than those trying to bite a bit of sausage out of the air. There's more complicated rules on-line, no evidence of those rules were enforced at the festival.

I missed Sandswitch, a sandwich making food game. You start with a card of a character's description and must get the ingredients you think they would like. Some sort of attempt at racial understanding instead of just fun ties to the character cards and how you choose the sandwich-blah,blah,blah- however, it did seem fun making sandwiches and being able to take another person's or make them take what you consider bad ingredients. At the end you must eat what's on your plate. I talked with one of its maker, Sofia Staab-Gulbenkian, "So if you get a lettuce, carrot, salami sandwich and that's all you have that's your sandwich", she said with a lisp and glove covered hands. The game of sandwich making and stealing, stealing being her favorite part part of the game-play, only lasted an hour. That's too little, for

The food games like the two player, one blind-folded, one not directions game of "One Cup Of Juice" and "Ddook Ddak Kimbap!" with twirling monster looked fun from a distance. Especially if it wasn't me playing it. "La Loon," a fun looking balloon game became tedious as players had to find ingredients in balloons and could only pop and pulled the helium filled balloons after jumping in the air and grabbing tiny forks attached to their strings only with your mouth. Popping with said fork revealed bagged ingredients to make a tiny gourmet snack. The first person to make the snack properly wins. One of the creators of the game, in orange hair and white suit, seemed out to lunch with their robotic style of balloon creation, not even enjoying their own work. It was a spectacle along side the happy nature of those playing the game to see one of its creators so robotic.

Above me were board games, such as "Will I Get Measles at Disneyland" with other fun titles. Many players gave a chance to the take on "Orthogonal/Diagnol" based on a Asian variant of chess with the weird and disgusting looking "Junk." The board game area had a steady flow of gamer gathering around to strange concepts on par with the video game section

IndieCade alumni were in attendance with the VR stylings of "Classroom Aqautica" and "The Meadow." One has you stealing answers for a test from dolphins, the other has you hugging in virtual reality. They were joined by "Bad Blood, " a hide-and-seek two-player game where it's kill or be killed.

Many of the games were concepts that made no sense or just weren't worth the time to set-up."Vietnam Romance" happened on stage, whatever it was, an art piece or a game, it was odd to see a young woman cut off the head of a fake deer.

"First Person Shooter" was a poorly design paired of glasses that have you seeing a first-person view of a gun in your hand. "Hylics,"  was everything wrong with older PC games. Creepy look in Hylics, just not worthy of play.

Passes, if judging the games, and I am, go to "Pin Pon" and "Sneaky Cactus." When I want a bunch of dildos and just a whole lot of crap to fling on screen I'll play Pin Pon. Sneaky Cactus tricked people into touching cactus plants as controllers, creator Nick Crockett, you're a bastard we like.

For an argument and heated fun play "Super Tap-Out Saga. What I thought was a fight brewing was just a game-pad you could move and are instructed to move all over the play for your advantage while tapping the screen on your enemies face. The two players of the games got into fun battles in awkward potions.

The cinema experience look as entertaining as...well nothing so it was skipped.

That DJ, Phork, sucked.He looked sad he was there. Upon learning he was even a professional DJ while researching this article just leaves questions.

The wobbly chairs everyone though were part of the game festival happen to be just part of the Hammer, I saw many guests having more fun on them than some of the games.

UCLA Games Art Festival comes but once whenever Eddo Stern wants it to and when he does it's a night to explore strange concepts and a group experience. You can judge them hardly, you can see that many are just some quick ideas made for fun. You can just enjoy seeing a CGI penis shoot lasers.
Let's have another one next year! No waiting for 2017!

more photos after jump