Video game competition returns with Slamdance | ParkRecord.com

Video game competition returns with Slamdance

by SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

The third edition of the Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition at the Slamdance Film Festival will kck off Jan. 19 in Park City. The competition is similar to the film festival in that it features independent works by up-and-coming creators in the industry. Games are submitted to Slamdance for consideration and then several are chosen as finalists. The winner of the Game Competition Grand Jury Award will receive $5,000 in cash and prizes. There will also be audience and student awards.

"Video games today are as important and influential as movies have ever been," said Peter Baxter, the president and co-founder of Slamdance, who is a filmmaker as well. "The type and standard of creativity we are seeing at Slamdance Games is akin to the trail blazing days of independent filmmaking, a time that artists reacted with more imagination and against the generic fare of the movie studio."

The 2007 entrants have themes ranging from "biting indictments of modern corporate culture to fantastical adventures crashing castles," Sam Roberts, games competition director of the competition, said. "We have interactive fiction, beat-em-ups, non-traditional puzzle games, and experiments in flow theory."

The 14 finalists for the 2007 competition are Base Invaders, The Blob, Book and Volume, Braid, Castle Crashers, Cultivation, Everyday Shooter, FlOw, Once Upon a Time, Plasma Pong, Steam Brigade, Toblo and Toribash.

"We’re only the second major competition like this," Roberts said. "Now there is a third competition that hasn’t even had its first go yet, but games have been being made for years. They are sold and traded on the Internet like any other type of file."

Roberts said the games in the competition were chosen because they push the edges of what games can be, experimenting in art style, gameplay, metaphor, story, concept and time. He said they also provide challenges and inspiration for game designers working the traditional space, and game designers who will work in the future, while also entertaining.

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Roberts said game making is expanding and becoming recognized as an art in the same class as film and music, partly, he said, because of the rising generation of game makers grew up playing video games and have a base knowledge of what makes a good game good.

"Schools all over the country are offering courses in game making and classes in game-type graphics," he said. "There is a generation of people coming up who have played games their whole lives and really understand things like game play that generations before maybe couldn’t understand."

"People are already making games that are really saying something interesting," he continued. "There’s such a built up palette for an artist of what they can do, and filmmakers know where to push to get a certain effect and those things are just getting figured out for video games. We want to help support those things and help video games become a major artistic medium."

Much like film, music, theater and other art forms, Roberts said games are powerful because they are a method of escape.

"All art is a form of escape and games are art," he said. "They force you to look at the world through someone else’s eyes."

Some of the games in the competition will come into the festival having already created a buzz. Roberts said adding, "I think Book and Volume is a high point because it’s a piece of interactive fiction set as a text adventure, which is basically a dead genre at this point. True to the heart of the gaming beast, it’s an interesting approach to the genre."

Jenova Chen, creator of 2006 finalist, Cloud, is back in the 2007 competition with FlOw. A game Roberts said is completely based on Flow Theory.

"It’s a game that is all about trying to get to a state of ‘flow’ from the player," he said. "The game gives some procedural feedback so both the game and the player are working together to find the ultimate playstate for getting through the game."

Braid, created by Jonathan Blow, is another of Roberts’ favorites. The game play of Braid is based around time manipulation and solving puzzles.

"You have to work your way around this game by manipulating time and solving puzzles, which must be done differently for each area and each level," he said. "The game itself is a metaphor for the message it’s trying to send the same game played in a different way would make no sense."

Of the 14 finalists, 11 will be screened in a way similar to the films. Each screening will be about and hour and a half long and include a question and answer session with each game’s creator as well as time for everyone to play each game.

There will also be free playtime at the game lounge located at the Slamdance headquarters at the Treasure Mountain Inn.

"I’m very excited about this year’s games," Roberts said. "It’s been very gratifying for the three years we’ve done it. The quality of games has improved every year. There’s always new and exciting stuff coming in."

Guerilla Gamemakers Competition Schedule

Friday Jan. 19

10:00am Cultivation Screening

12:00pm Toribash Screening

2:00pm Free Play

Saturday Jan. 20

10:30am Book and Volume Screening

12:30pm Base Invaders Screening

2:30pm Braid Screening

5:00pm Games Panel 2

Sunday Jan. 21

10:30amToblo Screening

12:30pm Castle Crashers Screening

2:30pm Free Play

5:00pm Games Panel 2

Monday Jan. 22

10:30am flOw Screening

12:30pm Everyday Shooter Screening

2:30pm Free Play

Tuesday Jan. 23

10:30am Steam Brigade Screening

12:30pm Super Columbine Masssacre RPG Screening

2:30pm Free Play

8:30pm Games Award Presentation