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Published July 26, 2010

If you live in Brooklyn and love games as much as we do, you may have heard about Game Play, a two-week festival devoted to video game performance art. Unfortunately, the festivities concluded this past weekend, but I was able to attend two of the shows before the end of their runs. Its “Off Off Broadway” roots definitely showed a bit, but it was nice to see some local enthusiasm for our industry in the heart of Hipsterville.

The shows at the Brick Theater included “Kewl-Aid Man in Second Life,” a guided tour of the virtual world starring the famous pitcher monster; “A Short Lecture of a Different Time,”a history lesson told through 8-bit graphics; and “Theater of the Arcade,” which took several simple game narratives and adapted them for the stage. I attended “Grand Theft Ovid” and “Modal Kombat,” both of which I’ll discuss after the jump. The $15 ticket price is a bit steep for amateur theater, but I think the show could develop into something special in a few years time. Be sure to at least keep your eyes peeled next year if you’re a fellow Brooklynite.

Grand Theft Ovid

This student project was a live machinima featuring graphics from World of Warcraft, Grand Theft Auto IV and even Guitar Hero III. Director Eddie Kim and his fellow students acted out pre-recorded dialogue with in-game characters, telling stories from Metamorphoses with a heavy dose of humor. Because these kids were manipulating characters in real-time, the results were much less polished than say, “Red vs. Blue,” but I appreciated seeing so many different game genres pulled together to tell cohesive stories. For instance, in the story of “Daedalus and Icarus,” the latter’s wings were constructed of guard towers in Warcraft 3 and his flight (and fall) were captured in a GTA IV parachute drop. Another highlight was “Apollo and Daphne,” in which the kids invited fellow World of Warcraft players to participate in the live play. The results were about as hilarious as you’d expect.

Modal Kombat

Again, this show was a little rough, but the clever concepts made up for the shortcomings in the execution. In “Modal Kombat,” David Hindman and Evan Drummond turned their acoustic guitars into video game controllers. The games were modded to respond to certain pitches (as far as I can tell) with a supplementary foot pedal in some instances. In Pong, upward and downward slides moved the paddles accordingly, while in Mortal Kombat, the two used both staccato and sustained notes to create a violent “ballet.” At its best, the examples on hand showed how visuals, music and interactivity could be combined for a sensory experience akin to a poor man’s Rez. Attendance was a bit too sparse to get much audience participation, but I’d love to see these guys and others continue to improve upon the ideas.

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