Mary Ann Benedetto (outpt) and Paris Graphics

Since their first collaboration at Blip Festival 08, Mary Ann Benedetto (outpt) and Paris Graphics have appeared onstage together at close to a hundred chip concerts. Their luminescent retro game visuals have graced many a wall in the New York City area, and have been popping up at Datapop at South by Southwest, two tours with Anamanaguchi, the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, and 8static chip events in Philadelphia. Paris has even presented talks on handheld graphics visualizers at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles while part of the Data Beez West Coast micro-tour.

This past weekend, while joining Anamanaguchi at the PAX East Friday concert, the two offered us details on an experimental indie game they are developing together: an interactive environment in its initial phases of development. The software is meant to involve audiences in the creative process behind generating live visuals.

Peter of Anamanaguchi announced at PAX East that the band would be writing the soundtrack to the forthcoming Scott Pilgrim videogame. Some people have been wondering whether what we were seeing during the performance of the game's theme song was all pre-recorded.

Paris: Yeah. We weren't even sure what we were going to see either. We've been sworn to secrecy, because that's been really confidential.

What platforms are you currently considering for your collaborative game title?

Outpt: Mac/ PC and web browser.

Paris: At this stage, in terms of prototyping things we are looking at what is practical. For instance, what kind of variables are there that would allow people to do something that would be rewarding or engaging?

Outpt: Our interest is in making a game that does not have a win or lose scenario, something that is organic in its use of audio and graphics.

Friday in Boston with Anamanaguchi

Some makers of electronic music have talked about wanting to demystify their process. This seems to be an interest of Shaw-Han Liem, a musician and VJ, in entering independent game development.

Outpt: I think a lot of people look at what we do and think it's very mystical. I had somebody come to me after the PAX East performance and say, "How do you make all that come out of the controller?" To see how it works and understand it better could make it more appreciable.

Paris: We want people to be able to try it out themselves.

Will there likely be those who are reluctant to consider this VJ-like experience a game because it is not being framed by the win-or-lose system of rewards we are used to?

Outpt: Even if it's not strictly rewarding in the sense of collecting points, there's something strangely compelling to it. For instance there's a lot of people who like the free play in Rez, which is simply about enjoying the rhythms. Electroplankton and Sim City don't have a purpose, and yet people find enjoyment in them.

In your observation as a teacher, how prevalent is the stereotype in our culture that coding is for boys?

Outpt: There's a huge bias. I got involved in a game development project at NYU that was being run on a grant from the National Science Foundation to introduce programming to young girls between the ages of eight and twelve. The idea that math is for boys is both very annoying and unfortunately very ingrained in people. For instance in my small computer science department, of the thirty of us who graduated that year only four of us were girls. However, what I find is that when you start out with code and end up with a visual output, the girls are much more interested. They become much more creative and end up pushing things further.

Are you trying to get your students to broaden their ideas about what can be done with a gaming experience?

Outpt: I do see a lot of people who have hangups about what a game should be. "It should be a shooter" and "It should have rocket launchers." Of course if you go out and work for a Triple A game developer, this is their bread and butter, making that sort of game. I compel them to think outside of that and make really insane choices, so that you have the chance to branch out. You can do something that could be a complete failure commercially: it still could be very interesting.

[To find out about a live show April 5 with Anamanaguchi in Brooklyn, visit the Knitting Factory website. More images from PAX East can be found on flickr. Photos by Jeriaska.]