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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

UCLA Game Art Festival 2017: Confusing & Fun

In the end, I was standing surrounded by others listening to the Smash Bros opening melody on stage being sung and with live orchestra accompaniment whilst being served cake by a transgender wrestler. It was a wonderful night about gaming.

The few hours the UCLA Game Art Festival 2017 was open flew by in a tailspin of 'What's this?,'  and 'What's that?' The not quite annual video game festival of arts and games returned to the Hammer Museum, Tuesday night, from a hiatus of being off the 2016 calendar. Its return was signaled with many strange and fun games to play with an audience enthralled to try them all out. It wasn't only games, but showmanship and art pieces throughout the night that makes me always say at the end of these, why not every week? Why don't we have gaming and board game nights outside or in museums all the time?

Those questions were not answered at all, but are enjoyed the few times a year they do happen, UCLA Game Art Festival being one of them. It comes to us from the UCLA Game Lab and the many students at UCLA who want to make games, not just video games, but all kinds of games.

After being welcomed in by the Hammer Museum staff, I found myself looking at a Steam game I've been wanting on my wishlist, Ape Out. Ape Out has you playing as an escaping gorilla from a top down perspective. The crowd and me took turns smashing are captors into colorful paste. While avoiding shotgun blasts from your captors you'll have to break through walls and toss captors into each other to ensure your escape. Why it's still not out with a promise of Summer 2017 release remains a mystery I want solved.

The night wouldn't have been the same without the MC work of Lucas Near-Verbrugghe who motivated the crowd and left the head of UCLA Game LAB, Eddo Stern, questioning why he even went up on stage. Lucas, you had the audience captivated the whole night.
Lucas Near-Verbrugghe

Time to look at Machinima! Curated from our friend over at Gamescenes, Matteo Bittanti, was RE/Play: Re-enactment Practices In Video Games. Now, unless your an art student or someone who just knows art history, I'm not sure if you would spot where the art draws its inspiration from. Recreated for you in video games, mostly from GTA, were famous pieces from different artists. Now a colleague and myself spotted some of the work such as Chris Burden firing at airplanes and Ai Weiwei flipping off different places redone within the game engines. I didn't get Ed Rushca's Twenty Six Gas Stations, but my colleague in fact saw it in person and pointed it out. I remembered driving past those gas stations in GTA. Most of the exhibit was a guessing game on whose work was being re-shown through gaming.

After that we viewed the on stage performance of Hot Air by Kristin McWharter. A man was randomly selected from the audience to debate here, but it turned out the debate was really a two-sided balloon blowing contest with one balloon. And in awe did we watch, the people next to me actually hiding behind other people in fear of the balloon going off. I shouted, "Blow damn you, blow!" Then the balloon started too, started too...deflate. It sprung a leak, but the challenger, graciously held they leak closed as they blew into it even more, an the audience stuck wondering when it would pop. And then it did to cheers! Kristin declared herself the winner, which I have no idea by any means how she was, but she's the artist and complimented her opponent and said, he blew cute.

Off to the adult games and the dick-gun-licking-avoid-the-cops game and more oddities. First and probably the most viewed in the room beyond whatever the creepy game The Viral was, was The Tearoom by Robert Yang. I had heard about it before as it oddly has a connection to Pen Ward, creator of Adventure Time, for designing a gun in the game,which I'm not even sure was for the game. It made headlines for trying to get around Twitch's rules so it could be seen streamed online. So what's it do to get around being streams online? Simple. It changes all the dicks into guns.

Yes, in this simulator your trying to not get caught giving blowjobs to other dudes who have guns for penises. They gun dicks look exactly like there out of a Cronenberg commercial, if he was somehow allowed to do commercials with body horror. The game has you trying to first make flirtatious eye contact with other men peeing at urinals then get them off making their gun dicks grown until the blow a load. Not much else to write about that.

Nearby was Shake Yer Dix by Nicole Voec that featured the same named song by Peaches. Simply swirling a mouse around in the circle generated different body types of boobs or dicks or both with the lyrics of the song.

Down below the stage was set for F.L.O.W. or Future Ladies of Wrestling directed by Jennifer Srtatford. This was sheer craziness and a lot of memories of Japanese television seen on YouTube and WWF intros. We witnessed the openings and full song numbers for Candy Pain and Lisa 5000. The crowd shouted them on in their huge opening acts. The show was about trans-people and possibly it being set years into the future. In any case they motivated the crowd.

Before they went up, there was a cage match. Gecko Redemption: The Tournament takes place in a literal caged arcade booth. Attendees were given fake colorful Gecko cash to place bets. It might have been more fun if they actually made the bets pay out, but we all just sort of just put or cash into the arcade cage.

Upstairs there was a board game lounge with live music to play to. Nothing really grabbed my attention up there, but there were many different games to be swept up in.

Below you could try Harold Halibut, which looks like a lovely Wes Anderson movie you can play. You're trying to help repair a ship as Harold in this wonderful looking stop motion adventure.

It was one of the many games that was projected this time. Not screens, but projectors showcased the games around the Hammer. Blank walls were soon used as a canvas for players to look around strange new worlds. Or there were other ways.

Phantasm Atlas had you wearing a weird device on your arm that was supposedly mapping your body. Then there was the Face Exercise Machine which had you making funny looks. So you weren't always using a  keyboard, you might be the controller like in Escape From the Glass Factory, where you had to make you character jump, by jumping in real life.

Melee Medly by the Game Music Ensemble ended the night with it's performance. It ended with me wanting more of course, for there to be more game nights. But it doesn't end much better than a transsexual wrestler serving you cake while hearing the Smash Bros theme.