Chinese arcade games on display

Updated: 2014-03-11 11:04

By Jack Freifelder in New York (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Art Video Games in China - a month-long free exhibition displaying a collection of works by Chinese video game designers - debuted this weekend at the Ace Hotel in New York and will run through March 31.

The event, presented by Babycastles, an association of independent video game developers, features works by four Chinese designers and offers people the opportunity to see both the aesthetic value of Chinese video games and how those games differ from the narrative in the mainstream market.

Bryan Ma, a New York-based video game designer and the exhibit's curator, said his involvement with the event started several months ago.

"Babycastles approached me early in the planning process," Ma said. "They had been working towards planning a show that would tie into the connections with Chinese contemporary art, but with a distinctly Babycastles feel to it. There is a growing awareness of independent game design and its intersections with new media art, but it is still sort of on the fringe."

Chinese arcade games on display

Custom-made arcade cabinets stand ready to be played at the Babycastles installation at the Ace Hotel in New York on Sunday. Art Video Games in China, which runs from March 6-31, is a month-long free exhibition displaying a collection of works by Chinese video game designers. Jack Freifelder / China Daily

In the five years since its inception, Babycastles - a self-proclaimed "cultural bridge organization" - has created makeshift arcades in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as exhibitions in a number of high-profile locations, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the Moving Image and the American Museum of Natural History.

Ma said that most visitors to the Ace Hotel event would find the games "a bit challenging", especially because "the work is experimental in a lot of different ways".

"Most people who are not very engaged with the community will see arcade cabinets and they're going to think about '90s era arcade games," Ma said. "It's not the simplest material to engage with, even if you are familiar with this sort of work that's being done."

"Somebody more familiar with the world of independent game development and art video games might come to this event and see some stuff that they've just never seen before," Ma added.

"I expect a lot of people will be a little confused by the work, but that's kind of also the idea in some ways."

The Armory Show - a leading international contemporary and modern art fair, which takes place every March in Manhattan - has pledged its support for Babycastles' latest pop-up endeavor. NYC & Company, New York's official marketing and tourism firm, annually partners with The Armory Show to distribute information about participating venues.

Ma said the importance of the Armory Show's support for this exhibit is the fact that "people who are not necessarily engaged with this sort of material will get a chance to cross over".

"The mainstream video game industry, internationally speaking, is already kind of conservative traditionally, but there have been a lot of examples of people doing really personal, creative works that are not intended to be commercial," Ma said.

"Just thinking about what it means to have an interactive real-time experience is a valuable leap to be taking."

However, Art Video Games in China is not the only project that Babycastles is currently spearheading.

Babycastles is also in the process of working to open the Babycastles Gallery, "a long-term, three- to five-year exhibition space for contemporary independent video games in New York City", according to Babycastles' website.

"People might write something off as being derivative, or being a copy of something else, but there's a really different context that the people creating these works are operating in," Ma said.

"I think it's really valuable to show, and I'm really happy to bring some people out of their comfort zones a bit," he added.

(China Daily USA 03/11/2014 page2)