Review :: Graphic Festival 2011

August 26th 2011

Last weekend Sydney Opera House was over-run by gamers, comic fanatics, geeks and of course, the curious nerd-culture virgins. It was the second annual Graphic Festival, and it was glorious. For me, there were three stand-out events: a screening of Tekkin Kinkreet with a live score, the Independent Games Festival taste tests and the Single Panel Comic Competition.

If big screen anime is (for an anime fan) better than Christmas in the U.S, seeing Tekkon Kinkreet is bigger still than Ramadan in the Middle East. Although Michael Arias (still the only American to have directed a feature- length anime) brought this baby out in 2007, it still has a visual poignancy matched by few others; it’s a true cult classic. Set in Treasure Town, a district presumably in Tokyo, we follow Black (Kuro) and White (Shiro) – two renegade orphans protecting the town and stealing to survive. Things go tits up when a man called Snake comes in and threatens everything. At Graphic, a live score performed by percussion giants Synergy, Sydney’s own Fourplay and Warp Record’s Plaid (the original soundtrack composers) delivered the intensity the film deserved. I can still feel the geekhood as we all burst in to tears during a pivotal scene.

Leaving the Opera Theatre's converted cinema, I made my way downstairs. Weaving through nasal teens, 40-somethings sporting backpacks and plenty of young uber-cools, I reached the west foyers to see, play and stand-in-awe-of selected games from the Independent Games Festival. The IGF takes place in San Francisco once a year and brings together game-makers and players from all over the world. Unfortunately I missed out on playing Minecraft, this year’s winner, because a sleep-deprived 12-year-old was hogging it – the little bastard – while his encouraging mother looked on, weaving good-work’s in with we-better-head-off’s. *Sigh* . The couple of iPad games on display were pretty good: Helsing’s Fire really utilised the hand-held medium well, and Colourblind, a sort of modern, reworked Snake (Nokia 3210 anyone?) was awkwardly addictive – half an hour passed and I still had over 40 levels to go.

What blew me away by a long shot was a game from 2009 called Limbo, a neo-horror, black –and- grey beauty of a game where the main character is a young boy in search of his sister. The game moved fluidly across a 2-D in 3-D plane, with extremely blurry backgrounds and foregrounds. Playing it was both satisfying and incredibly frustrating; maneuvering through the landscape, avoiding obstacles and giant spiders, planting traps and finding practically-invisible routes made the game more challenging that trying to fit your entire fist in your mouth.

My final Graphic event was the Single Panel Comic Competition, presented by Melbournite Andrew Weldon. This is a man dedicated to his comic art: unassuming jumper, jeans and worn sneakers, unkempt ear-length hair and unshaven. Legend. He presented some of his own works as well as the ten winners. The theme was ‘Air Your Grievances’, and the works ranged from feminist cynicism and existential strife to political frustration and general bitterness with life. Weldon talked about the venting that goes in to comic making, especially of the social comment variety. To be a good political cartoonist, he quoted, you have to be a good hater.

Ironic, then, since Graphic 2011 was overflowed with so many happy, nerdy, fun-having lovers.


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