Cooperative Gaming Co-op

Cooperative Gaming Co-op


Arcade Cabinet 2012, Installation Shot, Image Courtesy of Artist


Interview by David Kim, ZERO1 Intern


The Cooperative Gaming Co-op curated by John Bruneau and James Morgan, will be held during (e)MERGE, The ZERO1 Street Festival on September 14, 2012. Bruneau and Morgan are New Media artists from San Jose and are both faculty members teaching game studies at San Jose State University. I got the opportunity to sit down and interview one of the artists, John Bruneau, about his thoughts on Cooperative Gaming Co-op and how it works.

DK:What is Cooperative Gaming Co-op about?

JB: The Cooperative Gaming Co-op is building a DIY arcade for ZERO1. We are constructing our own arcade cabinets and inviting guest curators to come in. We will have cabinets curated by Sarah Brin, Anna Anthropy, and Zach Gage. We are also bringing in the Oakutron and a Winnitron which themselves are themed cabinets that are part of the GIY culture as well. In total, we’ll probably have about eight arcade cabinets lined up. Some of them are made by us and some are made by other artists. This arcade that we’re building is going to be essentially built from the ground up by people who are finding and converting old arcade cabinets or fabricating them themselves.

Besides the arcade cabinets, the other part of the Co-op is we’re running game swaps. We are inviting people to bring their games and trade their games with other people’s games. The games can be old or new. They can be your favorite games or games you don’t want anymore. We are also encouraging people to bring games that they created themselves. That way they can socialize not only about the old days, but let them revel in this revival of the democratization of media. So you don’t have to be a big company to make a game. Everyone can make a game. There are software packages and developer platforms available to help them do that. Anyone who wants to come and make games just for fun can come down to the Co-op and learn how to do that. We’ll talk,chat, and play together. We can even make new friends as well.

DK: How are you “Seeking Silicon Valley?”


JB: Silicon Valley is the birthplace of video games and the arcade. Both of those spun out of Atari and the research centers up and down El Camino Real. Atari created their first arcade game called Pong that was basically put together really cheaply. It was essentially a clone of Magnavox Odyssey's Tennis game. It was one of the simplest ideas that seemed achievable. That’s when the first arcade cabinet in Sunnyvale was born. All they needed was a box, TV, and some wires. They added a coin slot from a laundry machine. From there, more games like Computer Space and adaptation of Space War have added to the arcade cabinet phenomena. After that Atari wanted to make a home version of the arcade. This resulted in the first home console called the Atari VCS. This was not a single game system. You can swap video games by way of cartridges. The birthplace of the home console was right here in Silicon Valley.

DK: Why are you excited to be part of the ZERO1 Biennial?

JB: I’m really excited about the ZERO1 Biennial because I was really involved in CADRE when it first started as part of ISEA 2006 where it branched out from there. So I feel like my DNA is sort in its creation. Because of that, I try to do something interesting every year we have a ZERO1 Biennial. This year I think it’s really exciting because James and I are essentially running our own project with this one. In the past, I have worked in teams, which is great, but this time we are coming in to our own as far as organizing shows. There’s also so much hype about the street fair and the week of projects. There’s so much going that we’re going to have to split the show and have it at two places at once. We are getting a lot of feedback and people are really excited about this. This makes me excited even if I don’t know if we can pull the whole thing off. The excitement itself gives me hope that this will come together and we will rock the (e)merge street festival.

DK: Like the entrepreneurs and technologists who have helped make the region famous, artists are often innate risk-takers. How do you innovate and infuse risk-taking and experimentation into your work?

JB: This show isn’t exactly about my work. I’m working as kind of an organizer. I am organizing curators and the curators are deciding the games. So it’s probably three steps removed from actual work that I’m doing myself. However, the games that I see coming in are from the Indie sector of game development. Since they are free from the financial burdens of the big corporations of the triple-A sector, they can push the boundaries of innovation because the risk isn’t as great per say. Larger companies would never say yes to a crazy idea, but two people that are working off their laptops in a coffee shop are the ones taking the risks now. As far as innovation risk taking in the games media, I see the Indie community being the one that’s spear heading that. Those are the games that we are showing off.

DK: Where would you place this project in the context of art theory or history?

JB: This is a moment in history. I would say the present is actually blossoming with an influx of interest in games. I think that comes from the fact that games incorporate all these different aspects of creative fields. Things like artificial intelligence, aesthetic design, sound design, and human machine interface. Those kinds of things are all converging and I think that we’re seeing a real boom of creativity at this point in history, and I think we’ll look back and kind of look at this sort of games revolution as happening in the 2000’s where all these kind of ideas are coalescing that’s going from just a commercial medium to more of a cultural phenomenon.

- What other artists are doing similar work to this?

JB: The cool things happening right now are IndieCade and Babycastles. Babycastles is continually putting on really amazing Indie showcases of game work. IndieCade is a once a year conference, symposium type hybrid where all sorts of Indie developers are submitting their games. The judges then go through and pick the finalists. Then everyone gets to go to and not only to see and play the finalists’ work, but also hear really interesting talks by people in the field.

Check out the Cooperative Gaming Co-op at the ZERO1 Biennial Website and at (e)merge, the ZERO1 Street Festival for their exhibition. To all the gamers, bring in your games for their game swap.