By Steve Wright
Us media types were treated to a special sneak preview of the newest in ACMI's "Winter Masterpieces" series, Game Masters, ahead of its official opening tomorrow in Melbourne.
Opening the experience, ACMI CEO Tony Sweeney was proud that both ACMI and Melbourne itself were playing an instrumental part of "celebrating the last 50 years of games and the industry," likening the always-present hot air balloons bobbing up and down in Melbourne's skyline to action straight out of a platforming game.
As the media gallery (of mostly Sydneysiders, seeing as how they entered ACMI shivering as if in the Arctic itself), nodded in agreement, Sweeney asserted that "games are fundamental to culture, and therefore to ACMI."
Conrad Bodman, curator of Game Masters, and previously Game On at London's prestigious Barbican Centre agreed. "ACMI is charged with profiling the auteurs or any field; gaming is certainly part of that," he said.
Sweeney continued on by saying he pleased to have worked to bring Australia, and the world, what he believed to be "the largest exhibition of games ever presented."
And what an exhibition it is.
Sweeney and Bodman walked us through the various stages of the exhibition itself. Beginning with "Arcade Heroes," punters' senses will be overwhelmed by the neon sights and retro sounds emanating from 16 classic arcade cabinets with titles like Space Invaders, Pacman and many more. Expect to spend some time reliving the old days of gaming, where placing a quarter on the machine meant you were next in line to play (actually, what did you Aussies put down on cabinets? No idea!) and difficulty spikes non-existent…only because all games were near-impossible on the whole.
The next area along is definitely the largest. Called "Game Changers," this is the heart and soul of the exhibition, and is exactly what Game Masters was designed for: to give the public an in-depth look at the individuals and studios who've shaped -- and subsequently changed – the gaming industry. Focusing on fourteen entities, there are massive sections of the exhibition showcasing the work of Telltale (all the Lego games ever), Sonic Team (that one's kind of obvious), Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Soli), Peter Molyneux (Fable), Blizzard (Diablo), Tim Schafer (Brutal Legend, Grim Fandango), Warren Spector (Deus Ex) and many more.
Each individual section is chalk full of stuff to see and do, from playable versions of games, right down to extensive selections of concept art. Of course, ACMI has also commissioned interviews with the developers that can be viewed on the floor, or later on via the Game Masters website or accompanying e-book (the first of its kind in Australia, but more on that later).
Lastly, the exhibition focuses on indie games and their essential movers-and-shakers, starting with a spotlight on Braid's Jonathan Blow and moving into the success stories of thatgamecompany (Journey, Flower) of Braid, alongside Australian studios Firemint (Flight Control, Real Racing) and Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride).
While the exhibition itself isn't to be missed, non-Melburnians don't miss out. ACMI has developed a Game Masters' digital program with out-of-towners in mind, "incorporating…a suite of online resources including a bespoke website [and] eBook (RRP $17.50 at the iBookstore)," confirmed ACMI. There's also a new mobile game, Game Masters: The Game which is free to download from the Apple App Store or Android's Google Play service.
Though, as is always the case with an exhibition of this calibre, the whole Game Masters experience is best taken in when you can combine all of its various features. Since the exhibition runs from 28 June all the way until 28 October, you really don't have a reason to miss out! Come on down to ACMI, in Melbourne's Federation Square, and have a play yourself.
Stay with Stevivor.com for more from Warren Spector, Tim Schafer and Firemint's Rob Murray in the days to come.