Pong was the first. Its ability to entertain people for hours on end with no visible narrative or plot line was the feature that distinguished it from other forms of media, namely music and movies. It was the setting that counted here, and the setting alone. Of course, Pong’s was only a preview of what was to come; a multi-billion dollar video game industry that has both affected and influenced pop culture in ways that most of us may not even realize.
Are you a fan of the Resident Evil films? 1980s hip hop? What about Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Grandma’s Boy or Tron? Can you hum the Super Mario Bros. theme song on command? I’ve never played the game in my life, and I can do it. The list goes on and on. Even though the influence of video games can be easily seen in mainstream pop culture, what about considering how gamer culture and the rise of digital media have influenced our attitudes toward art? Using video games as the medium is one of the more unexplored avenues of the influence of gamer culture, but it’s exactly what an upcoming Winnipeg exhibition is aiming to do.
Reset: post-consumer gamer culture, at the Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts starting June 21, explores the connection between video games and art, and how gamer culture has infiltrated and influenced society around us. Through new media work in print, projections, and hand held interactive forms, Reset explores the ways in which video games have evolved from mere pixels depicting the simplest of scenes to an international industry with countless brands, “worlds,” and affiliations.
The artists whose work is featured have embraced the technology, culture and aesthetics of gaming as a medium. Their work also highlights the history of gaming technology through the devices that the pieces are viewed on. Some use the aesthetics of the games to create digital drawings and short animated loops; some use the technology as a filmmaking tool (this is known as “machinima”); others create their own interactive software applications and modify game controllers or interfaces.
Among the artists whose work will be included in the exhibition are native Winnipegger Clint Enns, a filmmaker whose work centers around creating something new out of broken and/or outdated technologies, and Canadian Myfanwy Ashmore, known for her software artwork. Also featured is the work of Dr. Ian Bogost, an award winning designer and media philosopher whose games cover social and political issues and have been played by millions of people internationally. Max Capacity, a media and technology artist from Santa Cruz, California is also featured, his glitch work being derived from a variety of dead media like vintage video games, old and malfunctioning VHS machines and bent electronics.
“Party Time! Hexcellent!” is the name used by Rachel Weil, an artist who creates interactive, glitchable visual art for the Nintendo Entertainment System. And finally, Haydi Roket is an independent graphic designer and media artist from Istanbul whose work is preoccupied with the aesthetics of 8-bit computer and gaming technology; vintage video game consoles and computers are the source of his pieces.
While the sheer variety here would make for more than enough talent for one exhibition, the entire lot is curated by mrghosty (also known as Skot Deeming), a media artist as well as a curator whose own work seeks to challenge consumer models of play associated with video games and gaming culture.
Many various industries are now moving in digital directions. The predictable result is the convergence and interconnection of film, music, fashion, video games and now fine art. With such a unique form of art created by such considerable talents on display in Winnipeg, this exhibition isn’t one to miss.
Reset: post-consumer gamer culture is on at the Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts from June 21 to July 28. The Opening Reception and Curator’s Tour is on Thursday, June 21 at 7 p.m.