Remember the golden age of video arcades? The clatter of clanging tokens, 8-bit bleeps and the cheers of caffeine-fuelled competitors? Waiting patiently in line to shatter your best friend’s high score on your favourite game?
The Arcadian Renaissance — an interactive installation for the upcoming Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Arts Festival — will capture that same boisterous spirit of competition and camaraderie while featuring the best of the Toronto indie gaming scene. But without the wasted quarters and the faint smell of nerd sweat.
Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the celebrated all-night arts festival, is partnering with the Hand Eye Society to feature six vintage arcade consoles that have been modified to play games by local developers. Starting at sundown on October 2, the exhibit will be featured in the atrium of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the newly opened headquarters of the Toronto International Film Festival.
The Hand Eye Society’s “Torontron” arcade cabinet has been seen at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Flash in the Can Festival and most recently, FanExpo. Five more Torontron-style cabinets have been built especially for the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event, thanks to support from local game companies Metanet, Spyeart, RSBLSB and Untold Entertainment, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
The featured games were chosen to reflect Toronto’s vibrant indie gaming scene: highly accessible yet artistically sophisticated — and fast enough to play so that everyone gets a turn. The Arcadian Renaissance is expected to be a popular attraction for the city’s tech-savvy citizenry at the all-night event that drew over a million visitors in 2009.
“This is an amazing time for Toronto’s gaming community, not just as far as business is concerned, but culturally as well,” says project coordinator Jim Munroe. “Developers with artistic or experimental aspirations can create games that will be enjoyed by the masses. That’s the idea behind The Arcadian Renaissance: that video games can bridge the gap between high art and populist entertainment.”
Visitors can check out The Arcadian Renaissance at 350 King St. W. on October 2, 2010. The exhibit will run from 6:57 p.m. until sunrise, with a special midnight tournament of Nidhogg, a swordfighting game by celebrated Brooklyn-based indie developer Mark “Messhof” Essen, shown on the big screen.