Hello you lot! This is the start of a new series of posts here that give recaps from each VideoBrains event for those of you who couldn’t make it (or anyone who wants to relive it). August’s theme was ‘Show and Tell’ – a couple of our speakers had some certainly niche items to bring with them.
And so, we opened with Mink Ette, and her talk “GET THE CRYSTAL GET THE CRYSTAL: Why Room Escape Games are the most fun reason to be locked in a room for an hour”. Yes, that’s a Crystal Maze reference. To those of you who have never heard of The Crystal Maze before, that guy that wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Richard O’Brien, had a game show in the 90’s where he played a harmonica while a team tried to complete puzzles. It was great. Mink has built a Room Escape game, off in Portland, Oregon, and spoke about the challenges of making something so unique, citing her inspirations in games such as Myst or Detarou’s rather abstract titles. If you’re ever off to Portland, or you know someone there who would be interested, give her game a go!
Following on, Will Freeman spoke on his niche passion – arcade machines! Showing off his fancy arcade board, as well as a picture of his “favourite cardboard box”, he described how the designs of arcade games are fundamentally different to that of console releases, and how that caused the growth of a true challenge: the 1cc run. A mark of achievement in arcade titles, the elusive 1cc run is where you complete an arcade game with just one coin, no continues. Unfortunately you can’t do any 1cc runs on dance machines, though, that’s the real crime.
Then, we had our absolutely phenomenal resident speaker Hannah Nicklin on her third of six talks around the psychogeography of games. Kerry Turner was the subject this week, driving force behind The Rabbit Club and co-developer of Heartwood. On stroll through Brighton and Hove, they discussed her fascination with fake environments, her background developing, and it’s all brought together with Hannah’s typically poetic style. If you’re in a reading mood, you can find her talk hosted in that lovely textual form over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
This month saw a number of people talk about their niche passions, and Pat Ashe brought evidence of his – a sample of his collection of games made for and developed by musicians. Collecting cookies and money to cause women’s panties to literally drop with R-Kelly isn’t exactly something you’d normally see on the back of a game box. There are games from Peter Gabriel, Prince, even Frank Sidebottom himself, Chris Sievey. There was even a Shakin’ Stevens game, The Shaky Game, which came with a lovely introduction from the man himself!
Have you ever heard of First Banister by Juan Muñoz? It’s a sculpture that is simply a piece of flat banister against a wall, except it has a knife hidden on the other side. If someone was to run their hand along it, they’d get more than a little surprise. That was the basis for Thomas McMullan’s talk ‘Putting pins in the buttons’. He spoke about how games can use a feeling of discomfort to great effect, citing the end of Red Dead Redemption as a great example. Sometimes, games make you more than a little uncomfortable, subverting tropes and rules to make you squirm.
Under the cover of darkness, VideoBrains August came to a post-watershed close with Alice Bell’s talk on XXX Fangirling, the world of shipping, and fanfiction, and some drawings you probably wouldn’t be showing your family. Exploring the the premium fantasy dating simulator series Dragon Age, she closed the event hilariously! With fantastic representation in the LGBT+ community, these communities are for everyone, whether you’re looking for smut or romance, there’s something for everyone. That said, the one risqué drawing shown did elicit the reaction “Oh he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying that” from someone. I’ll let your mind wander to what that could have been.
September’s event will mark one year of VideoBrains! With the theme of Spy Party, and including Michael Cook, Helen Gould, Edward Burton Joe Martin, Holly Gramazio, Tom Hatfield, and our resident speaker Hannah Nicklin, it’s sure to be a belter. You can buy your tickets here – and, if you want to give a little more, you can support the VideoBrains Patreon here.
See you next month!