11/30/2010

Welcome To FLATLANDS

by Matthew Hawkins

Christ, where does the time go? I just wrote about my last Babycastles show, and already there’s another one coming up! But first, a quick rundown of what’s been going on…

- First, a brief announcement: I’m writing for Giant Robot Magazine! Somewhat. Mostly providing capsule reviews of games, but still, I’m in Giant Robot Magazine!!! My first issue is on stands now I believe. Unfortunately, I’ve been too busy to track a copy down, and my usual go to place for the rag no longer exists! Otherwise known as Giant Robot New York (RIP).

- On a related note, and I really can’t go into details since it’s far from completed, but because it’s also somewhat been dominating my mind for the past few days: for those of you who dug my chiptunes piece for EGMi, get ready for something equally big. And also for the newsstands perhaps?

- And now for some bad news: finally got the email from SXSWi stating that my proposed lecture on the wild west that was internet dating circa the 2000s was not approved. In the end, I simply didn’t get enough votes, internally speaking (I obviously got enough from all my fine pals the everyone else out there reading this to qualify for contention in the first place).

Needless to say, I’m pretty bummed out! Was really looking forward to entertaining a bunch of techie dorks in the middle of Texas with my dating horror stories (plus tales of triumph, which there were a few). Oh well. Anyhow, I hope all my pals who are proposed panels get their green-lit (so long as they’re not about how hard it is to be a video game journalist or something equally silly).

- Things have been way hectic for a good while now, but once ATTRACT MODE X BABYCASTLES was finally done and over with, I took upon myself to finally get some much needed r&r. And that included playing some games for a change. The timing could not be any better as well, with it being the busy holiday season, when all the end of the year heavy hitters come out and all!

The one game I’m assuming most are expecting to hear that I’m totally obsessed with is Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, and that would be true (it’s a fantastic follow-up to the first installment, which doesn’t try to top it, but instead take everything that was so awesome before, times it by ten, and add a few new elements to make it almost a different game) if not for the fact that I finally got my hands on Split/Second. Never before have Daytona USA, Burnout, and the best parts of Michael Bay’s movies. I’ve also been really getting into Vanquish for whatever reason. Commence the Japanophile jokes… now!

- Saw Harry Potter 7 part 1 with Dave Mauro on opening night. It was awesome! Really dug the slower than usual pace (makes me wish every flick past part four was a two parter), the kids’ acting gets better with each installment (though they’re also getting way too old for their roles; not sure how I feel about so much chest hair from Harry or Ron being so muscle bount), and I honestly cannot recall another recent example in which the fantasy world that’s portrayed has been so richly defined (obviously having the source material being a string of books and being the seventh installment in a film franchise certainly helps, though the second batch of Star Wars flicks proves that nothing is a given). Oh, and Emma Watson was as dreamy as always!

- Thanksgiving also recently came to past (as everyone already knows, I realize). It was my first with Katie, who decided to stick around NYC this year! Now, I usually go out to Babylon in Long Island to spend the holiday with Dave Roman and his clan, but his folks decided to spend this year’s in Aruba (they have a time share), plus Dave’s sister Michele and her husband Rob had a family gathering on the hubby’s side in Philly, so it was just me and Katie at Dave and Raina‘s in Queens. They made a turkey everything! Plus we watched a Garfield Thanksgiving special on DVD, though the highlight for Katie was discovering the existence of the His 9 Lives book. Plus the special was also a small taste of all the fun that’s had during Dave and Raina’s holiday special party, which they’re both hoping was enough to entice Katie to attend this time around. Pro-tip for the two party hosts: try to dig up a Cathy Xmas special, if such a thing exists.

- And the following Saturday, I made the trip out to Bethlehem, PA to finally meet the parents. I know! Though even bigger was meeting the disembodied baby head that Katie’s dad keeps under the BBQ…

- Later that night was my early Xmas present to the gf: we saw Tim & Eric live! Their Awesome Tour, Great Job 2010 edition (aka the Chrimbus Spectacular) rolled into Time Square that evening and we were there among many other Tim & Eric diehards (at the 11pm showing, which was added when the 8pm sold out in the blink of an eye). As expected, it was AMAZING. The only real downside was that not enough of the usual Tim & Eric gang were in attendance, like David Liebe Hart, James Quall, or Pierre, though considering how expansive this particular tour is (all the other ones seem quite modest in comparison, scale-wise), and how they’re all old dude (or DILFs as Katie loves to call them), it’s totally understandable. At the very least, everyone made appearances in the video segments, which yes, included some new Cinco products and a Brule’s Rules!

Highlights include the opening stand-up comedy routine by Neil Hamburger, whose joke “What’s do you call someone with Tourette’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome? Robin Williams.” had me laughing uncontrollably for like five minutes straight (thankfully the crowd that evening was far more receptive than when he opened for Faith No More; folks that night legit wanted to kick his ass), and the show’s finale, a set performed by Puss Whip Gang Bang! God, cannot wait for that special on December 5th. And the only other downer was how there was not an Awesome Record, Great Songs Volume Two for sale as I had been secretly hoping (nor has one been announced and they have more than enough remixes, as evidenced by the pre-show audio, to justify one).

- And later tonight will be a long-held dream, finally realized: gonna see Pee Herman, in the flesh! And live on Broadway; myself along with Dave and Raina will be see the live stage production of Pee Wee’s Playhouse!!! It shall be epic.

- Going back a bit, yesterday was Cyber Monday, and you had bargains all over the web. But in case you’re still looking for that special someone, specifically one that appreciates the finest in game culture related goods, I’m happy to state that the Attract Mode sale (our first one ever) is still in effect!

Now’s the time to nab certain goods you might have been on the fence about, such as Cory‘s ultra fab EXP & The Controller; you’ll see why when I say it’s the new gold standard for video game zines, I ain’t bullshitting (though considering how the first batch completely sold out in its first month at the store, and completely unannounced might I add, the word is clearly getting out and cost is not such a factor after-all).

- There’s so much more to talk about, but since things are a bit time sensitive at the moment, should perhaps wind things down by mentioning that in-between all I mentioned above, I was involved with the play-testing of a brand new game. Unfortunately I didn’t have my good camera handy with me, but these iPhone pics should suffice…

Basic gist: it’s a board game that uses various boards from other board games. But it doesn’t play like a traditional board game! Instead, it… well, you’ll all get the chance to find out for yourselves, this Thursday!
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For my fourth (count ‘em: fourth) Babycastles event, I’m extremely proud to say that I’m curating a brand new game from Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi: FLATLANDS! And because my description above does it very little justice, I’ll simply let the game’s official blurb fill in the blanks…

“Flatlands is a collaboration between architect Nathalie Pozzi and game designer Eric Zimmerman, a physical game installation premiering at the Babycastles Arcade in Manhattan on December 2. Incorporating Eric’s collection of approximately 200 game boards, Flatlands is a game about aesthetics, strategy, and argumentation. Two players select boards from an archive-like structure and play cards that make statements about them. The third player – the judge – decides on the truth of the statements. A contest of linguistic and social smarts, Flatlands forces players to look at the artifacts of games in new ways.

Nathalie Pozzi is an architect whose work combines art and architecture in multidisciplinary installation projects. Eric Zimmerman is a game designer who co-founded the development studio Gamelab and the nonprofit Institute of Play, co-authored game design textbook Rules of Play, and teaches at the NYU Game Center.

Flatlands is the fourth collaboration between Pozzi and Zimmerman. Their past work includes the physical games Sixteen Tons, which received the Developers Choice award at the Indiecade festival of independent games and Cross My Heart + Hope to Die, which won the Jury Award at the Come Out and Play festival.”

…. BTW, some might recall the last time I played Sixteen Tons. Anyhow, It’s quite different from anything I’ve been involved in and from what Babycastles has presented thus far, yet it’s exactly in line with what we’ve been trying to present!

Though there will be some video games as well, selected offerings from Gamelab, the company that Eric founded in the late 90s. Which, to put it bluntly, helped pave the way and set the pace for local independent game development in New York and New Jersey that is so thriving today (the profound impact that Gamelab has had on the world of casual gaming as a whole also cannot be overstated; they did create Diner Dash after-all). I still have fond memories of wasting hours upon hours with Blix, Loop, and Junkbot, so the idea of a new batch of folks rediscovering their brilliance is simply exciting!

I’m also pleased as punch to have Chris Burke (mostly known by his chiptunes pseudonym of Glomag) provide audio for yet another Babycastles opening shindig, but this time he’s bringing along his partner Tamara Yadao to perform as foci + loci! For those who don’t know already, they create improvised soundscapes by interacting with Halo 3 and LittleBigPlanet simultaneously. This vid might help shed some light, though it simply needs to be experienced first-hand.

A magical evening is in store for everyone who can stop by, so please do so if you can! And as always, please RSVP if at all possible. Along with any assistance in help spreading the word, that would be fantastic as well. Again, it’s something different; I’m all about celebrating video games, but this time it’s all about celebrating games period! Something I’m certain everyone out there can stand behind. See you all this Thursday, at 7pm!

  • http://bltidm.com Jenn dlv

    STEINSKI ?! ARE YOU SERIOUS?!

  • http://www.fort90.com fort90

    Let me check.

    Ummm… yes.

    Yes!

  • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

    All I want to know is… Where can I find a cool disembodied baby head? Thanks!

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