Friday, December 4, 2015

DIG from Slamdance Preview

As we heard the cackles of a giant worm's interface represented by strange shapes and the beep and bloops of the Line Wobbler game we talked about why Slamdance was showcasing games and interactive art outside of Utah.

"First and foremost we want them to enjoy the show, enjoy the experience," that's what Peter Baxter, Slamdance President and co-founder told me. He was at the preview and after snapping a pic with his phone of a friend he started playing with TTDILA's old friend from the UCLA Games Festival,

TL;DR [the shape of the internet (Orgy)]

or what we like to call the the "hot dog" and playing with it he told us what he wants the public to get out of the experience.

Peter added to our conversation "We want them to feel like they're in an environment that they can really immerse themselves and get involved with these individual pieces. And make up their own story as their playing or taking a part in each of these pieces."

"And as you've seen, we have a broad range of pieces, " Peter added. He was right and I sensed a bit of fun from him relaxing and getting into the "hot dog," showing and demonstrating it to another journalist.

If you've forgotten TL;DR [the shape of the internet (Orgy)] or "hot dog" is a real world physical object in the shape of a long plush worm. Multiple sensors within in it connect to a digital display of random shapes that intertwine and interact when it's played with. Playing with it causes a symphony of digital sounds akin to robotic cats crying for help. Damn fun to play with others or as one person demonstrated, nice to lounge on.

Pieces like "hot dog" were around and just as random, to say the least. Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten, nearby the "hot dog," was a one-dimensional five meter long ultrabright LED strip display going up a pipe on the side of the gallery. How it was a one dimension dungeon crawler I don't know. It was fun to play a game of one lined Snake up a building.

Inside was of course at least one VR film, you have to put on some Samsung Gears, The Visitor by James Kaelan is a slow-paced short film about facing your fears. Nearby, Pry, is an innovative interactive reading experience.

Deeper inside Thumper calls itself a violence rhythm game. A fun, beautiful looking game that easily could have delved into Egyptian mythology if it wanted a backstory has you piloting a space beetle in tune with a track and music. Could have been a scarab if they went all Egyptian refrence. We would note to say it reminded us of a bit of Amplitude and Sega's Rez.

Memory Of A Broken Dimension with Apoptosis round up the back room. Memory has you wondering through a broken game world on purpose. No NPC's, just a broken background. Apoptosis is more of a mix of simple games revolving around hard to get concepts.

Peter, " You can see that these artists are going to shape... really storytelling in the future. And will influence filmmakers will be seeing in Park City in January. There influence in the end on visual story telling could be perhaps greater than the filmmakers we're going to be showing in January, could be."

The heart of this first time interactive show is to showcase some new experiences, as an avid gamer I'm uncertain if I would have chosen the same spectacles. In some ways I wish they would have taken a stronger direction towards more common game titles with a strong artistic aesthetic. It's hard to distinguish which titles would fit in the category of art.

However, as Peter put it, "Really, it's about fun, engagement, learning and education. This is open to the public and we really want everyone to come and enjoy the show." He added saying something I liked, that they didn't want it to be a pretentious gallery setting. And when I visited it was a just a friendly show with those around me showing how to play the games or what was going on with each piece.

If you want to just play games as you know them head to one of the arcade bars or stay home, if you want to try some odder titles you have

Opens Friday, December 4th, 2015 from 5pm - 9pm
Open consecutive weekends
December 5th-13th (noon - 6pm)
Big Pictures Los Angeles
2424 West Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90018
(between Arlington Avenue & South Wilton Place)
Admission is free and open to the public