On the last weekend of October, I was invited to present one of my short films at the Vermont International Film Festival, as well as create an art installation to be displayed in Champlain College in Burlington. Since I am the coordinator of TAG I was also invited to check out the local game and tech spaces, and bring some TAGsters along to visit for the weekend. The plan was to meet the game students of Champlain College and give a little presentation about the Montreal (academic, indie and art) game scene.
Allison Cole, Nick Kornek, Gersande La Flèche and myself packed up and left for the US of A on a Friday to embark on this glorious quest of representing TAG down in the picturesque town of Burlington.
We started with my exhibition opening, which went really well. My art installation, ‘The Curating of Self’ is about examining the increasingly fractured nature of female identity. The installationis comprised of three constellations of self-images including social media avatars, a video self-portrait, and various artist portraits. I was particularly interested in the ways that women chose to adapt their identities via the selection and creation of avatars and profile pictures , in a subconscious response to sociocultural expectations. (More photos here)
We met many lovely people at the opening, including curator Chris Thompson and Champlain College film professor Mira Niagolova, who who gave us a warm welcome and many recommendations on where to eat and take in the sights of Burlington. This lead to us unearthing a lot of local gems, as well as eating a lot of amazing food. While it turned out that our game presentation would be cancelled due to lack of interest from the game students at Champlain, the enthusiasm from the Film students and faculty at Champlain and the Film Festival more than made up for it.
While the game students missed out on us, we visited the tech event of the season: Tech Jam, which was co-organized by the local maker-space “Generator”. This place was definitely deserving of our attention. It is a combination of artist studio, classroom, and business incubator focused on making things. The aim is to create a community of collaboration between artists, engineers, and entrepreneurs in order to foster a fertile environment for innovation, creativity and idea fulfillment. Go visit them if you are in Burlington!
On Sunday we kept exploring the local gaming scene and we found Quarterstaff Games, the Burlington hub for table-top gamers. Beside being a store, they run (non-profit and charity) gaming events. Their gaming space looks like an old fashion community center with vending machines, neon lights and an abundance of passionate people (including the staff). Their calendar was filled with events like Pathfinder Society meetings, Warhammer miniature paintings, Magic: The Gatherings and such. We left with a new board game for TAG: Mansion of Madness. Must try when in TAG!
So what was this Tech Jam and why did our game presentation get cancelled?
Answering one question helps answer the other. The Tech Jam website explains that “the idea for the jam came out of a shared concern: that young people might be leaving the state for better jobs without being aware of Vermont’s myriad high-tech career opportunities.” This is something we kept being reminded of throughout the weekend: “Job, jobs, jobs, get hired, how?!” As a university town, Burlington is very conscious about creating job-market-ready graduates and, of course, jobs; but what are these jobs the whole town so eagerly speaks of? Probably they have nothing to do with game studies academia, indie game making, or experimental game design. I believe that if we were from Ubisoft, our presentation wouldn’t have been cancelled due to a lack of interest. Of course, TAG cannot give the type of opportunity to fresh graduates that Ubisoft can, but there are other careers out there and keeping an open mind can help graduates in ways they might not expect.