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August 09 Edition Cover

Game connections

01 Nov 2018

Game connections Image

By Meg Hill

“Downwell” is not a quiet game.

When I pressed the “A” on the Xbox controller and a succession of jarring sounds rung out around the library I expected to be scolded.

Longitude: Games and Play from the Asia Pacific Region has placed a number of games on interactive display at the Library at the Dock as part of Melbourne Games Week – throwing aside library conventions and drawing out visitors’ inner child.

After years of conditioning, an adult – generally – walks into a library and automatically moves into a mode of make-the-least-noise-possible. Observing a small child shows this is not natural, as do my experiences being kicked out of my high school’s library.

Not everyone matures at the same rate.

But none of the people working on their laptops, their backs to the games and faces overlooking Victoria Harbour, even gave a dirty look.

When I moved to a second game, two security guards walked into the room. I thought I’d made a grim gallery mistake – maybe you’re not actually supposed to play the games.

“They’re all individual games, it’s so creative,” one said to the other.

“This makes me wish I was still on night-shift,” he replied.

The exhibition celebrates games as a “broad and persistent aspect of culture with the capacity to connect diverse groups”.

It “highlights games as activities beyond escapist entertainment but as nuanced, challenging and inspiring forms of cultural expression”.

The game Yesterday told me, when I pressed start on the touch screen: “Time is film waiting to be developed in a dark room. The starry night casts its reflection on the pond. Fish startle the lotus leaves.”

It’s a 3D puzzle game that explores love and encounters from a “girl’s perspective”. Its music is what I’d describe as a lullaby and it forms the consistent soundtrack of the exhibition. This makes you feel even more disruptive when you start a game and score “a little less calm”.

Next it said: “Our encounter is developing from the negative of darkness.”

But no such encounter was developing with the rest of the library-goers. Their heads stayed down.

Maybe the curators planned for this. Over the exhibition’s run –­ October 17 to November 25 – there will be a string of workshops away from all screens, teaching participants how to play some of the world’s oldest games. This includes the world’s oldest board game – Go, invented in China more than 2500 years ago.

Artist Hugh Davies curated Longitude through his research into Australian and Japanese independent and experimental games.

To play the next game, RE:CODE, I had to directly face the backs of those perched along the library bench working on their laptops.

RE:CODE takes you to into a city space through a digital interface when you scan what looks like an artistic design, but holds digital codes.

I didn’t recognise many of the city scenes it showed me, but I was glued to them for a significant while. Those working on their laptops carried on.

I faced my screen while facing the laptop-workers, who faced their screens while facing the harbour – which looks fairly enticing in spring.

It was quite a nice day outside.

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