If a film made by Brisbanites topped the American box office, or a Brisbane band found their way onto one in three American iPods, it'd be a game changer for Queensland's culture industry. In the video game industry, it'd be old news.
Brisbane-based Halfbrick Studios' mobile game 'Fruit Ninja' can be found on one third of all US iPhones. Thanks to that achievement, and the work of other local developers like Defiant Development, Curious Bear, Disparity Games and Visual Outbreak, Queensland now accounts for 17 percent of Australia's $2.5 billion gaming sector.
It's high time, then, for Queenslanders to find out more about this growing industry. That's the aim of Garage Gamer, the State Library of Queensland's new exhibition dedicated to locally made video and mobile games.
“It's being run by The Edge and State Library of Queensland and it features a venue that's going to be open seven days a week filled with playable games,” SLQ events coordinator Susan Kukucka explains. “They'll be refreshed as new games are created and launched. The events program features workshops, talks, films and special events such as a trivia night, concerts, album launches and our fortnightly Level Up games nights.”
The first of those Level Up games nights comes this January 11. You'll be able to grab a drink, play the latest Queensland made video games, and bear witness as two teams of designers go head to head.
“It's being hosted by the QUT Creative Precinct's Game On Program and brIGDA, which is the Brisbane Independent Games Developers Association,” Susan says. “They've come up with this idea that's basically a cross between 'Spicks and Specks', 'Iron Chef' and 'Cut n Paste' where two teams of developers will battle it out, responding to design challenges and attempting to make a game within three hours. It's game development as a bloodsport.
“The audience will be able to get involved by voting on the best game and on how the games are progressing, and by picking the design challenges. You'll get to see how a game comes together behind the scenes, the raw look of the game and how a game designer actually goes about the challenge of creating a playable experience. All that's going to be visible, because we're going to be filming and projecting it for people to see. It'll expose the inner workings of a game, at least as much as you can in three hours.
“There'll also be other challenges for the audience during the night — we've got a ‘Fruit Ninja’ Kinect tournament on a five metre tall screen, and other activities around the space. It's going to be lots of fun and a good experience you're unlikely to get anywhere else.”
Indeed, the other aim of Garage Gamer — beyond showing off Queensland's prowess in an emerging field — is to recapture the social aspect of gaming, something that's become less prominent as so much of the multiplayer experience has gone online.
“The Level Up Game Nights are designed to be fun, social events,” Susan says. “We're inviting people to come along after work or school and stay back late at the exhibition, play the games and meet their friends. We'll be launching demos and full versions of new games as they're released, and the game makers themselves will actually be there, so you can come and meet these people that are making these amazing things.
“I guess our inspiration for these nights is to recreate that fun experience you might remember from your childhood, when playing video games was about playing with your friends and trying out new games together. It's about celebrating games as a social experience. The side benefit is that you get to be one of the first people in Brisbane, or the world, really, to experience the games that are being launched out of here. So it should be good fun. “And yes, there is a cash bar.”
The State Library of Queensland hosts Garage Gamer from Jan 5 to Apr 14, including the first Level Up games night this Friday Jan 11.