11/15/2010

“Welcome To My Country & To My Unit”: ATTRACT MODE X BABYCASTLES Wrap-Up Part 1

by Matthew Hawkins

Well, now that the dust has finally settled and the show is officially a wrap (I actually took everything down myself yesterday), a full rundown is more than a little overdue. The thing is, I was somewhat expecting Adam to shoot the first shot, and was simply going to fill-in the blanks, but he clearly had his hands full with the Scion show that also just went down (UPDATE: the Giant Robot blog has an excellent recap, which can be found here)! So with no further adieu…

I cannot overstate how massive and flat-out insane last week was. Many months work of planning and fretting finally came to a head. And the end result? Well, let’s take it from the top:

Pre-Show

Everything officially kicked off last Monday, with me running around the city and distributing flyers, much like I did for FORT90 X BABYCASTLES. Though unlike that previous affair, in which I had about two and half weeks to take care of promotions, this time I only had four days to build up hype (for a number reasons that I really don’t need to get into, at least for the time being). Needless to say, I found myself in the quite the crunch! Anyway, here we have the flyer hidden in a sea of other promotional material on a random wall in St. Mark’s…

When I asked indie toy and comic shops for the opportunity to post the flyer in their businesses, everyone was very accommodating. Even Forbidden Planet, despite the fact that they stopped selling my zine (along with everyone else’s), happily obliged. But indie game stores, the few that we have there in NYC? Could not be bothered. Apparently, the grand return of the arcade to 42nd Street, featuring awesome game related artwork and music, and all for totally free, is something their customers would not be interested in! Thankfully, at least one shop was super supportive, and I feel like a total dick for not remembering its name. I’m referring to that new shop that just opening up in St. Mark’s, the one that’s on the second floor, close to 2nd Ave. Not only were they more than eager to help spread the good word, but they also had a copy of Recca for sale…

Meanwhile at Babycastles Manhattan, another major source of stress was how there was virtually zero time for show prep; whereas the previous exhibitions were allotted around five days for setting up, Adam and myself were given only about three. So with absolutely zero time to waste, Hilary and Dave got to working on their arcade cabinets in the midst of utter chaos (among other things, the previous show’s stuff still had to be taken down and moved out, plus the walls repainted white). Again, I’ll spare the gory details and simply state that plans changed constantly; originally there was supposed to be six blank cabs to pass along to artist pals of mine, to be customized for the show. But in the end, could only get two, which were awarded to Ms. Florido and Mr. Mauro; I still remember asking Hilary if she was interested, and the response was: “Sure. But do you think anyone else would really care for a shoujo manga arcade cabinet?” What a silly question!

But the party only truly got started way early Tuesday morning, when Adam made his long-awaited return to New York City soil! He showed up at my place around 6am, and only a few hours later was at the Showpaper Gallery, kicking things into high gear. So it was just the four of us, racing against the clock, though we received plenty of support from Cory back in Seattle, who there in spirit (mostly via iChat and Skype). Back to things not going according to plan: some might recall that I was originally going to curate the event with another video game zinester, but in the end, Cory not only ended up being a suitable replacement but the absolute ideal collaborator!

Every single minute of those three days were utilized, and the following pics are from the final 24 hours before show time…

… That’s Adam and I trying to figuring out where to place Mar?‘s Pokemon wood cuts on the wall. And here we have Arthur, from the Babycastles’s tech team, trying to get Jottobots up and running on one of the remaining cabinets…

To be completely honest, I didn’t think Hilary or Dave would have enough time, yet slowly but surly, things began to really take shape quite beautifully…

Zach Gage stopped by a little past midnight, mostly say hello since he knew Adam was in town, and to show off his latest iPad app (UPDATE: which everyone can read more about here). Though Zach also ended up helping out with the wooden Pokemans…

Around 5am…

Show prep went down to the wire; here’s Adam putting up the prints, based upon Cory’s work from The Controller, which I picked up from the copy shop only four hours before doors opened. Would have been sooner, but they kept crashing their computers due to how intricate everything was…

… Naturally, there was a disaster at the eleventh hour; many of the controllers went missing, accidentally tossed out by the custodial staff apparently. So new inputs had to take their place, and there were resulting incompatibility issues of course. Also, the CPU inside Dave’s cabinet was completely fried when someone yanked the AC cord right from the wall. You know how you always hear that it’s not the right way to turn off a computer? Well, that advice is no bullshit. Stress levels were at their zenith, mostly due to everyone’s lack of sleep. But regardless, it was soon 7pm, Thursday November 4th…

The Opening

… Almost immediately, the place was packed…

… At least one big fear, that being of a low turnout, was instantly dismissed. I have all my good friends to thank for that, for spreading the word. Eric’s phenomenal preview over at Tiny Cartridge instantly comes to mind, plus folks like Ryan via the Same Hat Tumblr ensured that not just gamer folk knew about the phenomenal line-up. The end result was a wonderful mix of old friends and new ones, an eclectic mish-mash of gamer types, cartoonists type, plus curiosity seekers literally from the streets, wondering what the hell was going inside that window they passed by…

Andy Nealen, whose helping to put together the show after us, the IGF showcase, with Adam…

Here we have the artists posing with their handiwork…

… Get ready for a shocker; they were HUGE hits with everyone! Regarding what games were inside, Dave’s cabinet, because it looked reminiscent of one that would have something like Double Dragon or Final Fight, had Calvin & Hellen’s Bogus Journey, another side scrolling brawler (and easily one of the most popular games from my last Babycastles show)…

… Which BTW, was up and running eventually, thanks to a spare motherboard in the back! Thank God. As for Hilary?s cab, it was Deth P Sun & Cactu’s untitled game, which was also at the Silent Barn show. This one I was even happier to see again, due to how it wasn’t displayed in the best of circumstances last time around…

Rounding out the rest of the selection was Souther Salazar and Petri Purho’s game….

I read reports that Octopounce by Saelee Oh and Anna Anthropy was hugely popular at its Giant Robot debut last year, and history ended up repeated itself that night…

J. Otto Seibold and Kyle Pulver’s Jottobots was yet another title to make a repeat performance; it was last seen (and played) at the very first Babycastles show I ever attended, almost a year ago. Which is when I also met Kunal and Syed, the brains behind the Babycastles empire! What a long and winding road it’s been since that fateful night…

Fun-fact: in addition to bringing all five of the original ARTXGAMEs titles together since their debut, and on the east coast for the very first time no less, there was originally going to be a sixth game! The latest one to be exact; I’m talking about Return of the Quack. Which unfortunately we were asked not to exhibit, since Scion wanted to handle it’s grand debut themself, which again went down in LA earlier this weekend. Fair enough.

Anyhow, if there’s one thing I’m truly proud of about our selection of games, it?s the overwhelming positive response each one received. Every single game was simply awesome, period! None of the controllers were left untouched for more than a few seconds the entire evening as a result…

The packed place included plenty of press. Here we have Rocketboom interviewing Adam, myself, and Hilary…

… Unfortunately, due to all the noise, from the folks and the games, only my interview segments were used, due to my booming voice and all, as you’ll see…

… For those wondering what the deal is with me flailing my arms around, along with other body ticks, I have zero idea. Lack of sleep I guess? Or am I always like that?

Well, cuz this blog doesn’t feature a modern gallery mode, I have to spread all the pics across three posts, like usual. So to be continued in parts two and three!

Previous post:

Next post: