Take a trip back to the early 80s when Nintendo was working on the development and design of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Now imagine that instead of the brilliant and amazing NES that we know and love now, Nintendo had gone the direction much more popular at the time, virtual reality!
I personally really enjoyed the Mario segment as well as the Mega Man segment. I was linked to this video from a friend of mine that apparently worked on the video. I’m not sure exactly what his part in the whole deal was, but evidently this was part of a Carnegie Mellon project assignment. Heh, A+.
January 23rd, 2007
Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to make it out to see the midwest premiere of the new documentary, 8-Bit, at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.
A self-described documentary about art and video games, the film takes a look at many of the components of the current 8-Bit new media art movement in several of it’s forms. According to the creators Marcin Romacki and Justin Strawhand (who were present at the screening) the film started off as a documentation of “chiptunes,” music created by using the onboard/on-chip sound processors and synthesizers of old consumer electronics like Commodore 64s, Ataris, and Game Boys. Via word-of-mouth connections and research the film quickly grew to incorporate other elements of the 8-Bit movement, such as nostalgic game art, machinima, virtual environment pieces, console hacking, and gaming installations.
[Review, Trailer, and Links after the jump]
The chiptunes music genre is one that is fascinating not only for the sounds and music produced, but also for the fact that such a wide variety of music can be created with such simple tools. Almost all of the musicians interviewed point to how working under such strict limitations forces them to be more creative and less dependent on expensive studios and software to make something new. Many also point to the nostalgia factor of the sounds of gaming machines and old computers as a compelling reason for their entry into the genre. It is definitely not music everyone will enjoy but the skill of these musicians on display is impressive no matter what the taste in music.
8-Bit does a great job of not only showing the work and the artists, but explaining how they do what they do. One of the most interesting aspects of the 8-Bit scene is how open most of the artists are to sharing their discoveries and teaching others how to do what they do. The film shows off how to use several types of Game Boy software used to create music, as well as explaining the differences in various types of chiptunes and chips used to create the music (explained by artist Cory Arcangel)
The transition from a documentary about the 8-Bit music scene to one about the 8-Bit art scene in general is apparent throughout the film, as the sections on music seem more developed than the other sections. In these music-oriented chapters, equal time is spent on the artists and their performances. The other sections however, such as machinima, modding, and console hacking are focused more on a quick and dirty history of the events and interviews with the artists with less attention payed to the actual work. While this brief history and broad sweep of various types of work is great for those who have never experienced such work before and are merely curious, this method leaves some forms in the dust of critical opinion.
Machinima specifically is shown as work more interested in the fact that it is machinima (a kind of “look what I made with the game engine!” phenomenon) than it is any kind of art. This of course holds true in a lot of cases as most if it is geared towards entertainment not art, but the film lacks any real examples of artistic machinima, such as the stunningly beautiful and lyrical works of Phil Solomon (who used the Grand Theft Auto San Andreas engine to explore concepts of mortality and grief in Untitled (For David Gatten) and Rehearsals for Retirement) and the comedic work of Jim Munroe, and instead focuses mainly on Halo 2 machinima like Red vs. Blue. Such omissions of the beginnings of the artistic side of machinima are made less detrimental by supplied theory on the potential of the form, which while brief, is still interesting.
This use of theory to provide another way of looking at machinima somewhat counterbalances the heavily opinionated and predominantly critical portion of the segment. It also serves to exemplify what is perhaps the greatest aspect of 8-Bit as a documentary: the film’s ability to weave the sometimes disparate and often prohibitive to the uninitiated worlds of art, theory, hardcore gaming culture, and criticism into a cohesive whole that is as intriguing and informative to the casual viewer as it is to the gamer, artist, or theoritician. This result is also in large part due to solid editing and fantastic sound design. Information is clearly presented in a way that is entertaining, dynamic, and energetic. The musical performances in particular are a highlight of the film, and did a great job of showcasing the variety not only in the music of the artists, but in their performances as well.
As a hardcore gamer and a student of art and film, 8-Bit really clicked for me in a lot of ways, and judging from reactions in the theater after the screening, I’m not alone. There is something for everyone to discover, learn and enjoy here, and this is not only a great entry into the documentary space, but an important look at a fresh culture that is growing by the day and exploding with creativity. 8-Bit is one of the first films that can really shine light on the message that many of us gamers and artists have been living and breathing for most of our lives: gaming is not just about the games. See this movie if you get the chance, tell your friends, and get ready to talk about it for quite some time to come.
To Find Out More:
Official 8 Bit web site: Be sure to check out the “Cast” section for links to all the artists personal sites and work.
Trailer for 8 Bit
8bitpeoples: founded by Nullsleep, an excellent place to check out some chiptunes music.
eBoy: makers of awesome pixel art.
Wexner Center for the Arts: the crown jewel of the Ohio State campus as far as I’m concerned. This screening was part of their January experimental film series called “Avant Gaming,” be sure to check it out if you’re in the central Ohio area.
[all images copyright original owner]
January 19th, 2007
So now it’s E4. The successor to E3 has been deemed the Entertainment For All Expo or “E For All”, but that name is stupid, so it’s E4 from now on, which is only slightly less stupid. Apparently according to this official banner of theirs “for all” even includes douches in powder blue trucker hats. But let’s get to the point here. E3 is back and now even more consumer focused than it was originally, which brings some pretty hefty pros and cons along with it.
The new format will include the same showy loud displays of days past, a seemingly larger focus on consumer electronics (CES style), retail zones set up for consumers to purchase things that were demoed on the showfloor, a Video Games Live concert, videogame tournaments, and job-fair/networking opportunities. While this sounds nice for those who couldn’t make it to past E3s (it honestly just required some effort, it wasn’t as restrictive as many were led to believe), it doesn’t sound all that spectacular to me.
[we called it e4 first, before ANYBODY!]
Having attended E3 in 2005, I can tell you that what made the show awesome for me most definitely wasn’t the showfloor. Its loud, bright, showy obnoxiousness is a curiosity which can be sated in about an hour. As has been noted countless times before in other spaces, E3 was definitely not the best environment for gaming. Most impressions of games are just as valid getting them via online and videos, as you already know how the controls will work out and can imagine how it plays. This is not true of the Wii, as it is really the only platform that I think would really benefit from showing preview games to consumers in such an expo format. What made E3 awesome was all the behind closed doors demos and interviews with the developers. Talking with the people that are the heart and soul of the industry was what made E3 worth it in the end to me, and is something that E4 will likely lack for the most part. Add to that what will probably be a very packed show floor with people of all ages and the headache that was the E3 showfloor suddenly becomes E4’s migraine.
There are a few things that could redeem E4 in my eyes, however. First, the videogame tournaments. With proper moderation, great prize incentives, and a large selection of games for the tournaments, this could be a great thing for the tournament scene. It would be nice to be able to meet people you’ve only read or heard about at local gatherings, as well as the opportunity to meet expert players in a variety of genres. Second, the potential of a successful job-fair/networking component. My hope is that the time slots that used to be used for publishers and developers to advertise their new tech to eachother at E3 can instead be used for educating people interested in the industry on what it’s really like to work in gaming and entertainment and present avenues for them to further investigate their career interests in the field. The networking could also be a big plus for small, independent artists, sites, and gaming leagues to get more exposure, which could be great for gaming culture. Third, move to San Diego or San Fransisco.
As much potential as E4 has to be a giant money-grabbing mess of annoying, I still hope that it works out into a positive for not only the industry and the economy of L.A. (the latter being a very big reason why there is an E4), but for the consumer and gaming culture itself.
January 5th, 2007