Pop-up arcade project proves video games more than just violence, a form of art

A Ryerson student organized a pop-up arcade last week on campus to show that video games can be more than just shooting or punching people in the face.

Amanda Wong, masters student at Ryerson UniversityMasters student Amanda Wong is the organizer behind the LUDIC Arcade that was set up on the main floor of the Student Learning Centre on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wong said she wanted to share the diverse world of video games and expressed why she’s passionate about them. “They can become a work of art within themselves,” she said.

The arcade is Wong’s final project for her communications and culture program, which she’s tackling instead of writing a thesis. Along with the practical project, an accompanying paper on the students’ experiences was expected.

Wong approached some of Toronto’s local game developers who agreed to include their games in a showcase. Some developers were members of Dames Making Games, a non-profit organization that promotes including more women in the gaming world.

In one game, the commonplace sexism of many mainstream games is turned on its head—a knight slashing his way through pumpkins isn’t trying to rescue a helpless damsel; the damsel is also trying to make her way through layers of orange fruit to save him.

This example is one of the reasons why Wong considers video games to be art. She believes they are a form of expression comprised of many artistic skills like theme and aesthetics, and described them as “interactive movies.”

She used the PlayStation 3 and 4 game Journey as an example, where you assume the role of a robed figure traveling through a desert.

Matt Miller, a critic from the video games magazine Game Informer, said in an online review that individual moments in Journey “managed to give me goosebumps, and those moments have remained on my mind for weeks afterward.”

Wong acknowledged that the definition of art is complex and debatable, but said that “if video games can be just another method for people to be able to express themselves, then of course that’s important and we shouldn’t discredit their works just because we can’t agree on what is and isn’t art.”

Students playing Journey, a PlayStation game, at the Student Learning Centre (Emerson Brito/The Ryersonian)

Students playing SSMP, a game created by a local Toronto developer, at the Student Learning Centre (Emerson Brito/Ryersonian Staff)

Although there weren’t too many people at the arcade, Wong was able to attract individuals who share her passion for video games.

One visitor to the arcade said he had his moral beliefs shaped while playing games by assuming roles of digital stalwarts like Zelda and Mario.

“They taught me how to be a good person,” said Tristan Miller, a first-year environmental and urban sustainability student. “You feel a sense of satisfaction for doing something good.”

Masters student Andrea Luc, a LUDIC arcade volunteer, said video games allowed her to assume and learn about different perspectives, ranging from a gay teenager to a mage. “They’re a way for me to experience things I might not get to experience and explore myself.”

Whether video games are someone’s passion or irrelevant to their daily lives, Wong hoped visitors were able to see what games can be outside of the mainstream and why they mean so much to her.

“This is me opening my door,” Wong said. “I want to share this with you.”

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Oct. 28, 2015.

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