Thursday, May 17, 2012

Library Videogame Collection Showcase, Friday, June 1st 3 - 9 PM at the Logan Center

Over the past few months, LUIGI members have been intimately involved in the selection process that has guided the University of Chicago Library's recent acquisition of over 230 videogames, representing the beginnings of its newly-established videogame collection, to be housed in Mansueto.  To celebrate the establishment of this collection, LUIGI is pleased to present a day-long showcase of select titles representing the breadth of the University's holdings.  This showcase will be held at the newly-opened Logan Center, which itself will soon become home to the University's collection of videogame hardware.

A six-hour event, this showcase will be broken into half-hour sessions, each of which will focus on a specific genre, gameplay element, visual idiom, or subject matter.  Positioned at the intersection of art and technology, videogames have seen astounding formal changes throughout their fifty-year history.  This showcase has been designed to highlight both what videogames have drawn from other media and what makes them uniquely worthy of study and preservation.  The use of three screens for each session will allow for the simultaneous presentation of a cross-section of developments in gaming history.  A final 90-minute session will bring together some of the collection's must-see titles, including Rayman Origins and the high-definition remake of Shadow of the Colossus.

The schedule for the showcase is below; additional information on the curatorial themes of each session follows.

Library Videogame Collection Showcase

The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E 60th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Room 603
3:00 PM - 9:00 PM

3:00 Session - Our Intrepid Hero

3:30 Session - Fast Forward: Racing and Speed

4:00 Session - Gun Crazy

4:30 Session - Player Vs.
Pong Sports (1977, Atari Video Computer System)
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1994, Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

5:00 Session - Ilinx: Vertiginous Spatial Navigation

5:30 Session - The Uncanny and Horrific
Limbo (2010, Xbox 360)

6:00 Session - Cinema Invents Ways of Playing: Remediating Hollywood

6:30 Session - I am Your Density: The Joys of Complex Interfaces

7:00 Session - My God, It's Full of Projectiles: Moving through Space in the Shooter
Rez HD (2001/2008, Xbox 360)

7:30, continuing to 9:00 - The Spectacular Session
The full lineup of this session will be announced at the showcase.

Our Intrepid Hero 

Itself a homage to the adventure serials of the 1930s and 40s, George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg's 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark provided a rich template - the unflappable treasure hunter, alternately outsmarting the traps of ancient temples and besting modern gun-toting baddies - that game developers began exploiting immediately, and show no signs of stopping thirty years later.  Highlighting three examples of this trope from three decades of gaming history, this session will simultaneously display the adventures of Pitfall Harry in Activision's 1982 Pitfall! for the Atari VCS, Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3, released in 2011 for the PlayStation 3, and, of course, the iconic Laura Croft in Core Design's original Tomb Raider, released in 1996 on the PlayStation.

Fast Forward: Racing and Speed

This session recognizes the ability of videogames to thrill us with speed – and to place the responsibility of harnessing this speed in our hands. WipEout XL sends the player twisting though sci-fi cityscapes as part of a long tradition of futuristic racers.  SSX 3 is a downhill snowboarding game known for its loose grip on real human abilities.  Forza Motorsport 4, in contrast, exemplifies the graphical and experiential realism of the racing simulation genre.

Gun Crazy

This session is devoted to that most notorious of videogame subjects: the hero with the gun. Contra III: The Alien Wars is characteristic of the action/shooter of the early 1990s: punishingly difficult with an excess of enemies and projectiles  closing in from all directions. The game’s over-the-top 16-bit graphics and surprising shifts in perspective make it a must-see. GoldenEye 007 is a groundbreaking mid-90s first-person shooter and one of the most acclaimed movie-to-game adaptations of all time. Vanquish is a high-speed spin on the modern cover-based shooter genre, bringing the chaos of the early action genre to the present generation of games.

Player Vs.

This session is devoted to games of competition that pit the player against a single opponent, produce complex interpersonal connections, and remind us that videogames are part of the more general category of games.  They also show that even in non-narrative videogames, the player is both actor and audience; the most satisfying matches, even for the loser, can be those that are well constructed and the best demonstration of the game’s complexities.  Players work against each other to win, but work together to create an engaging performance.  When the opponent is not another player but the computer itself, games such as these highlight the subtle forms of competition between player and programmer that form an essential, though easily overlooked, component of the videogame experience.

Ilinx: Vertiginous Spatial Navigation

"The pleasures of videogames," Epsen Aarseth writes, "are not primarily visual, but kinaesthetic, functional and cognitive."  Although it's open for debate whether or not this well-defined line between the "visual" and "kinaesthetic" Aarseth proposes actually exists, there's certainly no denying that the illusion of bodily movement ranks high on the list of gaming's pleasures.  Taking its inspiration from Roger Callois' term "ilinx," which he proposed as a descriptor for games "based on the pursuit of vertigo ... which consist of an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception," this session features games that encourage players to queasily pursue mastery over unusual geography and/or physics.

The Uncanny and Horrific 

Game scholar Bernard Perron writes that the interactive component of videogames "intensifies the emotional experience of the horror genre;" game designer and theorist Richard Rouse III posits that the success of the horror genre in videogames was "inevitable."  Whether one finds oneself skeptical towards or in full agreement with these claims, there's no denying that presentations of horrific, uncanny, and disturbing imagery and themes have enjoyed a rich history within videogames.

Cinema Invents Ways of Playing: Remediating Hollywood

Although the stark graphics and competitive rush of Pong, the rhetoric of musical performance that surrounds the rhythm genre as explored in Frequency, and the painstaking pursuit of simulation in Forza Motorsport provide plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the notion that videogames have never aspired to be anything other than "interactive movies," there's also no denying that the visual language of Hollywood cinema has had an enormous impact on videogame design, especially as technology has improved and opened up more options.  The three games grouped in this session explore various attempts in the history of videogames to not only borrow plot elements and action-scene scenarios from popular movies, but also visual idioms, from hand-drawn animation to shot/reverse-shot editing of dialogue sequences.

I am Your Density: The Joys of Complex Interfaces 

Acting as a counterweight to the self-conscious remediation of cinematic language on display in the previous session, this session explores a specifically "gamic" form of hypermediacy, highlighting games with especially information-dense interfaces that require constant interruptions of and intrusions into the games' depicted space.  Although they stretch across multiple genres, all three of the games presented here of present strong examples of the ways in which this heteroglossic clutter can crowd out games' windows onto their world, often resulting in unique aesthetic effects.

My God, It's Full of Projectiles: Moving Through Space in the Shooter

The typical premise of classical side-scrolling and rail shooters are undeniably cliché: you, the last surviving fighter pilot, are all that stands between earth and the alien army. But to focus on the hints of a narrative is to miss the constantly shifting patterns, both visual and aural, that make the shooter one of the most abstractly beautiful, immersive game genres. Axelay is a 16-bit side-scrolling/on-rail hybrid shooter of the spaceship variety. Panzer Dragoon Zwei places you on the back of your trusty dragon, shooting down steampunk airships in a glorious early 3D environment. Rez HD makes the rhythmic and abstract subtexts of the genre into text, punctuating successful shots with clear tones and enlisting the player’s help in creating its soundscape.

- Chris and Ian

Machinima Screening, Friday, May 25th

On Friday, May 25th, at 6:00 PM, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center (Cobb 307) presents a selection machinima videos, curated by Cinema and Media Studies PhD student Kalisha Cornett.