For a gallery of photos from the event, click here.
Video games and traditional art collided recently at Vector Game + Art Convergence, a new Toronto festival.
Created in the vein of popular Games-Art convergence festivals spawned in New York (Babycastles) and Paris (Gamerz Festival), the five-day Vector featured a smorgasbord of events aimed to inspire new collaborations between artists of both fields. The event filled three gallery spaces with panel discussions, workshops, collaborations and more.
Mainstream games were even turned into performance art by groups such as Toronto’s own Toca Loca. Using projectors and live bands, the group used its own original score and transformed Halo’s stoic soldiers into a line of elegant ballet dancers.
Vector was created by Toronto residents Skot Deeming and Clint Enns. Deeming was inspired after reading blog article by Rich Oglesby focused on games that could transport players into other worlds. They soon realized that they had a mutual admiration for these experiences. But in Deeming’s eyes, playing abstract exploration games like the award-winning Proteus on a small laptop didn’t do the imaginary worlds justice.
He realized that giving the games room to breathe on a gallery wall would make for a grander and more immersive experience, effectively drawing the attention of non-gamers and opening the games up to a communal experience.
The philosophy behind Vector grew from a desire to not only play games, but also to play with how they were presented. “It’s all part of the same spectrum.” Deeming noted. It was all about play.
Jacob Knipfing, co-creator of Zenith, says his game started out as a school project, and over the course of a year, developed into something more substantial. The third-person cowboy skating game is set in a technicolor desert with some Jet Set Radio-style grinding, and a rewind mechanic that allows players to backtrack a few metres.
Vector acted as a forum for new ideas about games, as well as incorporating diverse perspectives, through a panel on feminism in games and a demo night for games created by members of Dames Making Games, a non-for-profit organization that supports women interested in creating games. Cecily Carver, co-founder and program coordinator, says she’s “very encouraged and inspired by the commitment that Vector’s organizers have shown to including feminist and social justice perspectives throughout the festival.”
Christine Kim of the Vector team and games studies scholar Cindy Poremba asked three independent video game developers to make pieces of installation art. They called the show “Ludacy,” and it featured the work of locals Damian Sommer, Alex Martin (Droqen), and Cale Bradbury (netgrind).
The exhibition at Propeller was titled “net.works,” a juried show of work submitted to an open call. It included Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia, an autobiographical exploration of her trans-identity in an 8-bit format, After by Aaron Oldenberg, which somberly approaches the subject of the death of a loved one, and Jose Ulloa-Acosta’s Tetris: building ruins, a video piece that depicts falling Tetris pieces reimagined as real-world bricks that smash upon impact with the ground.
With the “net.works” exhibition, computers and consoles were on display next to the games they were running. “It doesn’t make sense for us to not show technology,” says co-curator Katie Micak. “Like paint, it’s part of the artwork.”
Games shown in galleries and demoed at Vector can be accessed at http://vectorgameartfest.tumblr.com/artists.
(Editor’s note: Special thanks to Alec Holowka for his editorial contribution to this story.)