AGO Let's Play: SimCity Modernism
Image courtesy of the AGO.
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AGO Let's Play: SimCity Modernism
AGO Let’s Play is a series of programs that investigates the intersection of art history, game arts and design. Join us on Twitch where we’ll play and talk through a different game each week. We’ll explore how games shape the domain of culture, co-opt art historical traditions and inspire new forms of community engagement. Twitch is an online space for viewers to watch others play through a game, while offering their insights about a game and in our case, art more broadly.
For the first program in the series, we'll talk with Paolo Pedercini, a scholar of game arts. We'll discuss a pioneering work of game arts, SimCity (1989), which served as the basis for new modes of gameplay and world-building. As an early example of the ‘simulation’ genre, the game is widely regarded as the precursor to games like Civilization, Farmville or Stardew Valley, which, albeit with greater sophistication, simulate real or imagined environments. Created by Will Wright, SimCity features an intricate system of letters and geometry that merges to form urban landscapes: factories, skyscrapers and roads evolve as players design their own city.
Flatness of tone and perspective is a defining characteristic of SimCity — as is its strict adherence to the grid. This is not unlike works of Modern Art and Minimalism in the AGO Collection which clearly show such visual qualities. In the late 1980s, computer programs, still in their outset, did not yet have the capacity to produce realism. Thus, many games consciously resisted this quality and instead favoured the language of abstraction. SimCity best exemplifies this approach, proving simplicity is both a virtue and a pleasure.
This conversation will be led by Nathan Huisman, AGO’s Curatorial Assistant for Learning & Studio Programs.
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Paolo Pedercini is a game developer, artist and educator. Working under the project name Molleindustria, he produces games addressing various social issues such as environmental justice (McDonald’s videogame, Oiligarchy, Phone Story), religion (Faith Fighter) and labour and alienation (Every Day the Same Dream, Unmanned, To Build a Better Mousetrap). Molleindustria obtained extensive media coverage and critical acclaim while hopping between digital art, academia, game industry, media activism and Internet folk art. He has lectured in a wide range of venues, from the oldest squat in Rome to the venues like the Game Developers Conference, the Digital Games Research Association, Ars Electronica, the Centre Pompidou, and Cabaret Voltaire. In addition to these activities, Paolo is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he teaches experimental game design, creative coding and animation.
Nathan Huisman is an Experience Designer who has worked across many fields, including theatre, film, television, museums, science centres and art galleries. His work has been presented in many cities such as Los Angeles and London. He holds a CASC award for co-creating Junkyard Playground (Best Science Centre experience in Canada in 2018). Nathan has worked as a producer for high profile artists, including Canadian LGBTQ icon Brad Fraser, CBC’s Mary Walsh, and Juno award-winning Tanya Tagaq.
We acknowledge GAIN (Game Arts International Network) as our consulting partner.