‘Play’ exhibit showcases interactivity as art

By Thomas Pardee

Students and faculty from one of Columbia’s Interactive Arts and Media programs have the art of gaming down to a science-at least that’s what they’re trying to prove.

The Game Design Department’s second annual “Art of Play” exhibit kicked off on Oct. 30 in the Project Room, located on the 4th floor of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave. It features more than a dozen 3-D, 2-D and “monitor-based” pieces made by students and faculty in game design.

Terrence Hannum, internship coordinator of the IAM Department and exhibit organizer, said while “Art of Play” aims to celebrate their very specific concentration, it also has educational and practical applications for game designers.

“It gives students who are in the game design concentration a chance to flex some of their muscles outside of the classroom,” Hannum said. “We’re trying to allow some communication between different concentrations in our department, and to give students the opportunity to put out there what wouldn’t fit in a class project.”

Andrew Forster, a junior in the IAM major, is displaying his game Tombstone: A Wild Westerner’s Trail, at the exhibit. It’s a single-user combat game where the player shoots enemies with supercharged weaponry. He said he developed the game over the summer and based it on classic Wild West movies like Tombstone and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in order to develop the aesthetic of his game.

“I studied these movies to look at the landscapes and the scenarios,” he said. “In those movies, it’s all very simplified. I wanted to keep my game that way-simple and fun.”

Forster said he appreciates the chance to see how other students think of his work and how other designers are taking more of an artistic approach to game development.

“It gives students an idea of what it’s like in the gaming industry and an idea about what is possible,” he said.

Faculty work is also showcased in the exhibit. Theresa Devine, an adjunct faculty member who teaches game development and programming in the department, has her mixed-media piece

“Toxic:Silence” on display.

It’s a series of four oil-on-canvas paintings and a monitor displaying images from her Lincoln Square neighborhood, where there were 47 reports of domestic violence in a single year, all in a half-mile radius of her home. Viewers can use an XBOX controller to shift from slide to slide, scroll through text and view the piece at their own pace.

She said as a painter, she can’t relate the same concepts as effectively.

“Games are more in-line with how people communicate today,” Devine said. “As purely a painter, I felt impotent at connecting to an audience. The ‘game’ portion of the piece acts as a gateway to let people connect to the concepts the piece is trying to convey.”

Zach Breman, a senior in the game design concentration who attended the opening of the exhibit, said gamers have to walk a thin line when presenting their work as art because public perception of art still tends to follow conventional definitions.

“[Creating art out of video games] is a hard thing to do,” Breman said. “People put the work into it, and to them it’s art. But for the viewer, it’s hard to agree in a traditional sense. But as the technology in games expands, [their artistry] will, too.”

Mirella Shannon, a faculty member in the game design concentration, brought students in one of her programming classes to the exhibit during its opening. She said it’s valuable for them to see the work that other members of the game design concentration are producing.

“You get a sense of the whole scope of what’s going on in the department,” Shannon said. “That’s a good thing to see.”

The “Art of Play” exhibit runs through Nov. 27. It’s free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday.