Edinburgh Interactive Festival

This article is from 2007.

Edinburgh Interactive Festival

That’s entertainment

As The Edinburgh Interactive Festival roles into town, Henry Northmore looks at the links between art and technology

The Edinburgh Interactive Festival returns (with another slight name change) for yet another year of serious discussions on gaming culture. Once again, the programme organisers have widened their remit, looking at the world of interactive entertainment from the internet to mobile gaming. As an annual festival, the EIF has to react yearly to ever expanding leaps in technology and the potential new consoles, websites, home computers and even mobile phones have for ever more complex games and applications. However, this year the two main themes appear to be discussions on the potential to use technology for truly artistic endeavours, and the rise of virtual societies such as Second Life. Names like Stephen Berkoff will be involved in discussions on the ‘Art of Performance Capture’ as more actors become involved in videogame production as well as seminars on MMORPG Eve Online.
These two strands are drawn together in one of the panel discussions, ‘Developing in Second Life’, chaired by Second Life’s Ricard Gras, who is passionately involved in bringing art projects and film to the virtual universe.

‘I think it’s starting to be accepted that interactive content or interactive media will be the art form associated with the 21st century.’ explains Gras. ‘There was cinema in the 20th century and literature and theatre before. Every time new technology comes along – as with the printing press, the telephone and TV – it has a huge affect on society, let alone art.’

Second Life is one of the developments at the forefront of bringing art and culture to internet communities: Suzanne Vega and Jimmy Carr have played gigs there, and the world even hosts its own festival (Secondfest, with a line-up that included New Young Pony Club, Pet Shop Boys, Hadouken! and Coldcut). However, the so called ‘establishment’ still find it hard to equate programming, the internet and videogames with what they see as ‘real’ art. ‘In culture there is always elitism, the idea that there’s the artist and then there’s the hoi polloi,’ says Gras. ‘I fully disagree with that, because everybody is capable of creative thoughts and creative activity.’ New technology and innovations like Myspace, Youtube and Second Life are making art more democratic. Users have the tools at their finger tips to create and distribute art, film and more to a huge potential audience.
This year, for the first time, the public can purchase tickets to attend the second day of the conference. As per usual there will also be the annual Game Screenings, a chance to get a sneak peak at some of the latest videogames including Guitar Hero III, BioShock (pictured) and Rise of the Argonauts.

‘The EIF is a unique event because it’s really looking not just at games but at entertainment, technology and content creation from such a wide perspective,’ says Gras. ‘And I think this context, as part of the wider arts festivals across the city, is the perfect environment to host it.’

The Edinburgh Interactive Festival, Odeon Lothian Road, 221 1477, 12—14 Aug, 10am, £10. www.edinburghinteractivefestival.com

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