Above: “Harold Pinter’s Duck Hunt,” from the 2010 festival.
8-Bit villains, roleplaying heroes, and an evil queen who wants to destroy Earth by boring its gamers to death — these are not sort of things we usually see on stage. But the people behind Game Play, a three-week-long theater festival celebrating games and the people who play them, know that the best theater has no time for reality.
Everything on the festival’s schedule comes straight from the heart, with each performance dripping with love for all things gaming — from text-based adventures to MMORPGs and everything in between. With the festival continuing through July 28 at the The Brick, in Williamsburg, we spoke to its curator, writer-director Gyda Arber, about Street Fighter, Centipede and the problem with Sim City 5.
There’s been a lot of discussion of women gamers, and how they fit in. As a girl gamer myself, it’s been interesting to see that discussion grow. I’m not sure that anything has changed, but at least people are talking about it.
Dysfunctional Theatre Company has a show in the festival called “Final Defenders,” and the lead character in that is a girl gamer who has to hide the fact that she’s a good gamer from her boyfriend. That’s the only show that’s dealt with it so far.
Definitely would be…probably Centipede. I was at a camp or something, and there was a game room. They had ping pong and Centipede, and I wasn’t into ping pong. I got pretty good at it, pumping all those quarters in. And then of course Super Mario. We weren’t allowed to have a gaming system in the house, so I had to go to friends’ houses, but everyone had a Nintendo.
And then in middle school, Street Fighter was really big. I remember, I was at a party and there were all these boys lined up to play Street Fighter. I beat the guy who was just killing everyone, and everyone was like, “Whaaaaaaa?” It was a big moment. It cemented something for me. Like, I can beat this guy, and this is his game.
Of course! Dhalsim. I think the other kid was playing Ryu. He hadn’t worked out that you can’t hide from Dhalsim. You can’t run away. The strategy that he’d been using had completely failed. It was pretty awesome.
I like my little people to be happy. I love building stuff. The latest SimCity, I’ve been building lots of colleges. They make people happier, smarter, and help the rest of your city. The industrial gets more high tech, so it pollutes less. In the new SimCity, though, the maps are really small. It’s kind of a bummer. You fill them up in ten minutes. There’s no place for your Sims to live!
With the festival opening, I haven’t had the time to play as much as I love. I just got this new game, it’s called Long Live the Queen. You’re a princess, and everyone is trying to kill you, and you have to survive up until your coronation.
It’s totally a play! Each week you have to learn new skills, so you have to choose — do you learn diplomacy or weapons? Someone is going to try to kill you next week, but will they try to kill you with a sword or will they try to kill you with intrigue? The game totally changes based on what you choose. There’s like twenty different ways to die. It’s awesome.
Always have a great story — in my opinion, anyway. I know a lot of theater people like to just run around and throw stuff, but for me, a great story is key. The best games, like Final Fantasy 7 still sticks in my head, because that story was so well done.
Final Fantasy 7 is my all-time favorite everything. That was life-changing for me. Most of the games I’d played, I’d done platformers and arcade games and stuff, and that was the first time I realized there could be a really awesome story. I played with my college boyfriend, and I got totally hooked. It was really magical. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten that since.