Tuesday, July 3

Game Masters Review: Almost possible at home

The last few days have been rough: my first two days back at work after a calming, romantic and expensive week in Melbourne with the love of my life. I could write a post about every awesome breakfast, lunch and dinner I got my hands on, but I'll spare you the gory details (read: if you want the best Eggs Benedict on Earth, go to Riverland Bar near Federation Square). I'll instead write about something more relevant to this blog's themes, specifically: vidyagaemz.

I had the good fortune to attend the Game Masters Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image last Thursday. Don't get me wrong, I walked away feeling somewhat disappointed, but there is something here for everyone. For me, it was the Donkey Kong cabinet in impeccable condition and full working order that I would've hogged for an entire day if not for the siren call of Little Bourke Street's culinary delights. For you, it could be anything: the Metal Gear Solid series juxtaposed to great effect, a drool-inducing display of pretty much any console released in Australia since the dawn of the medium, or even the Dance Central 2 arena where many people required napkins after being served with righteous, piping hot dance moves.

There is something for everyone, but not a great deal to take away. You can't even take photos AND I WANTED TO TAKE PHOTOS OF DEM BEAUTIFUL YOJI SHINKAWA (of Metal Gear fame) PRINTS!!!

For starters, I own about sixty percent of the games on show. Worse still, my TV screen is larger than most of the displays that these games were channeled to. I couldn't escape the feeling that I could've done Game Masters better from my own living room. It would've been lacking the glorious arcade cabinets, a few large projectors, and a respectable crowd; but it would have been possible. Hell, a few years ago I would've had the small clutch of arcade classics lingering on my hard drive somewhere.  I guess I should note that I've been hoarding console games for the better part of two years and my Steam library is getting ridiculously large, so I'm aware that this isn't a criticism that'll be true for all.

Perhaps the greatest criticism I can level at Game Masters is that it almost completely disregards the 8 and 16 bit console eras. Yes, Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2 are playable, as is Super Mario Bros, but the collection is missing some of the greatest games from two generations of hardware. It's not even as though you could argue that it's due to the setup of the collection: most games are grouped according to their creator but this isn't the case for the "Nintendo" display. Game Masters is primarily composed of recent releases, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that a big part of the gaming pastime is glossed over. 

It's also worth noting that some very notable franchises (and therefore "Masters") aren't on show. No Grand Theft Auto (Dan and Sam Houser), no Resident Evil (Shinji Mikami) and no BioShock (Ken Levine). I thought at first that it may have had something to do with assembling an exhibition that is "safe" for all ages, but the entire Metal Gear Solid saga is on display, and that is not suitable for children. The lyrics in your average Singstar (also on display) song probably aren't really suitable for children, so a little more viscera wouldn't have gone astray.

As disappointing as it was, I felt a certain buzz from seeing some of the greatest games ever made in the same space, being celebrated along with their creators. Yes, I feel the exhibition could've been bigger and that certain events weren't adequately advertised on site (read: forums and talks from industry legends), but it's a beautiful thing to see people of all ages playing the games that have defined your (read: my) life.I couldn't in good conscience recommend that you fly to Melbourne to see the show, but if you're in town, it's worth a look.

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