As anyone who's ever played Shadow of the Colossus, Rez, or Ico would likely attest, video games have become much more than just amusing distractions for geeks and teens. It's as much a legitimate art form as painting or sculpture, and no less a source than either the Smithsonian or Museum of Modern Art (both of which have exhibited arcade classics in recent years) can back that up.
Local artist and gaming fiend Anabel Martinez also is a big proponent of the legitimacy of video games as art, which is one of the reasons she's helping co-organize and promote this Saturday's "Controllers & Canvas" event at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Mesa.
"Absolutely, I consider gaming [to be] an art form. It's impossible to see the music composers, artists, writers, animators, and everyone involved in the process and dismiss it as 'just gaming,'" Martinez says. "Those that don't [believe that] simply haven't been exposed to many games or don't understand the process behind them. The stigma keeps them from what could be an amazing experience."
And she also believes that the annual "Controllers & Canvas" event, which debuted last May at Bookmans in Mesa, will be just as amazing an experience for not only local video game enthusiasts and geeks, but anyone else who's ever gone a few rounds with a pixilated foe.
Martinez, who is a member of Firebase Gaming (a Arizona-based social gamer group run by creatives and enthusiasts), says the inaugural "Controllers & Canvas" came together last year after Cothrun "wanted to put together an event that celebrated the creative side of gaming" in the Valley. She was more than happy to help.
That includes such projects as her digital pieces and prints inspired by character and conceptual art from such titles as Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and BioShock Infinite, snazzy Mass Effect 3 armor and other imaginative outfits created by Valley cosplayers, or the plastic pixel art of Melissa Kaylor (a.k.a. Mel the Gamer Girl).
"In one sentence: The purpose is to celebrate the creative side of gaming," she says.
Martinez says the inaugural "Controllers & Canvas" came together last year after Cothrun "wanted to put together an event that celebrated the creative side of gaming" in the Valley. She was more than happy to help.
"We both realized that while there were lots of tournament events locally, there weren't any that really showcased the artists, costumers, fan filmmakers, et cetera," Martinez says. "Even at Phoenix Comicon, I realized that it was hard to find other gaming artists."
So she reached out to the Valley's gaming community for feedback and to gauge interest and discovered a few things.
"They wanted to learn from folks who were already creating stuff for their favorite games, give suggestions, see folks in costume . . . basically a mini casual gaming con," she says.
One of the new events at "Controllers & Canvas 2.0" will be the "Beat the Geek: Video Game Edition" competition, which will involve participants with heads full of gaming trivia duking it out with Jaime Ruiz of Gotham City Comics & Coffee, an expert in such things.
Martinez says that the contest will entail a preliminary round where competitors will be asked 10 random multiple-choice questions relating to gaming. The three who prevail will then face off against Ruiz in the finals in pursuit if a pair of passes to Firebase's bowling/gaming event on Friday, May 24, at Lucky Strike during Phoenix Comicon weekend.
If pwning at trivia isn't up your Hogan's Alley, however, "Controllers & Canvas 2.0" (which will benefit Pepped Up!, a local charity that provides portable entertainment for children afflicted with cancer) will also feature an appearance by the folks from University of Advancing Technology showing off and discussing their in-the-works Borderlands fan film titled Change of Hart.
Valley costumer Allen Amis of Anarchy Sqaured Creations will also host informational sessions devoted to helping others build their own video game-related props and armor. Various retro and modern gaming stations and a children's coloring contest are also planned.
Chad Stafford, a Valley-based digital artist and animator, will have a table set up at the event exhibiting his works, which include stills from his upcoming Pokemon parody flash series. And Kaylor also will show off her newest efforts on the plastic pixel art front, including recently created framed shadow box pieces.
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Kaylor says that happenings like "Controllers & Canvas 2.0" are important to help the Phoenix-area gaming scene level up and continue to thrive.
"I think it's important for events like this to happen so that the local gaming community can get together, hang out, meet new people, make connections, and enjoy some rad art," she says.
Controllers & Canvas 2.0 takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Mesa. Admission is free.