Ravindra Naidoo, Catherine Fargher, and Peter Liang. Photo: Chris Peken

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With the proliferation of smartphones and the ease of entry into the gaming space becoming more accessible, more and more people are playing games and beginning to see them as the creative and artistic endeavour that they are. Three events in particular occurring in Sydney over the next month-and-a-half look to explore and display this to the public in more depth.

First it is important to understand the cultural significance of the video game industry in our society. The most common misconception when people think about gamers is their age, which according to the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association of Australia’s (IGEA) Digital Australia report in 2014, was 32-years-old on average. Regarding the sheer size of the gaming community, the same report found that 93% of households had at least one device for playing games and that 65% of Australians played video games, often for approximately an hour per day.

With these figures in mind, the Australian Council For The Arts has begun funding video game based arts projects. One such project is by Catherine Fargher, who was given a grant to help develop her highly successful childrens’ theatre show into an interactive multi-platform gaming format. “I’m working with a screen director and multi-platform producers to create a games platform, TV episodes and an interactive storybook,” said Fargher. As part of the month-long DoDarlo festivities, Fargher and her collaborators at Hero Videogames are running Game Prototyping With Dr Egg, an event for children to come along and get a small insight into the games development industry, whilst also testing out the prototype of their new game The Dr Egg Adventures.

Coming from a theatre and writing background, Fargher herself has had the opportunity to learn about the artistic and creative side of the game industry throughout the development process: “I saw some pretty amazing games like Alice:Madness Returns, Thomas Was Alone and Monument Valley. Games [that], especially in terms of the artwork and the worlds that developers create, have an exceptional level of imagination and creativity built into them,” she said.

When asked whether he believes video games are given the credit they deserve, Hero Videogames cofounder Ravindra Naidoo said: “I think they are starting to now, whereas before they hadn’t.”

Another group of young creatives looking to break the stigma associated with gaming is Pygmy Tyrant, which is a game development company founded by four friends following a group project together at college. For most developers in this industry the hardest part is conveying to non-gamers how much creativity and passion goes into each project. “With other creative efforts you need to learn one individual skill, such as writing or painting, whereas with games there are so many different tools that go into it, so it’s extremely hard to get that across to people,” said Willis Smith, cofounder and developer for Pygmy Tyrant.

PLAYMADE – Local Goods And Games Night will be hosted by The Pygmy Tyrant, and coincides with the release of their fourth game Punch Elite, which sees them returning to their creative passions to create a “really gamey (sic) game” after having to bottle some of their creative juices to create their most successful release to date Punfound, a simple word game. “Events like this are extremely valuable to us because they help us connect with the local community and display our games,” said Smith.

The final event of the three will see veteran video game composer and world record holder Tommy Tallarico bring his Video Games Live show to Australia. This show brings video game music to life through a full symphony orchestra synchronised to video game visuals.

During his 25 years in the industry Tallarico has worked with some of the biggest games franchises in history from Earthworm Jim in the early 90s to Tony Hawk Pro Skater, Twisted Metal, Metroid Prime, Sonic and Madden in the mid-90s and right up to today working with the developers of Destiny, Assassins Creed 4 and Mass Effect. With this extensive experience, Tallarico has seen the games industry grow and develop a significant cultural standing over the years: “I’m 47 and my generation was the first to grow up on video games, so now that my generation is having kids you’re seeing our culture evolve to where at one point or another where everyone has played video games,” Tallarico said.

The video game industry according to Tallarico mirrors the film industry in terms of their growth an acceptance within society, “the first video game, Pong, came out in 1972 and it was black and white with no sound or acting. Then we got sound and colour and it’s only over the last decade that we’ve gotten great storylines and character building. So it’s kind of like we’re at the point the film industry was in the 50s and 60s.”

Tallarico explained the concept behind his show by saying “the mantra of our show is to not only show how creative and artistic games are, but also to introduce young people to an appreciation of the arts and symphony. For us the most rewarding part is the thousands of letters and emails we receive from parents saying that their child has asked to take piano or violin lessons so they can learn the music of Zelda or Kingdom Hearts after seeing our show.”

Given the sheer size of the games industry and the rapid nature of it’s growth, it is only inevitable that we begin to see more and more people developing an appreciation for the artistic and creative endeavours poured into each and every video game.

EVENTS:

DoDarlo – Game Prototyping With Dr Egg (Food supplied by Greenhouse Cafe)
Jun 20, Spunky Bruiser, 68 Oxford St, Darlinghurst, www.dpb.org.au

DoDarlo – PLAYMADE Local Goods And Games Night
Jun 17,  Darlo Village Hotel, 234 Palmer St, Darlinghurst, www.dpb.org.au or www.pygmytyrant.com

Video Games Live
Jul 30, Enmore Theatre, 130 Enmore Rd, Newtown, www.videogameslive.com