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Vintage Video Game Pole Position Gets "Sweded"

A digital artist created a DIY version of the cult Atari Formula One racing game.
November 8, 2011, 6:38pm

Popularized by Michel Gondry in his feel-good comedy Be Kind, Rewind, sweding is a low-tech technique that consists of re-enacting blockbuster movies with everyday materials such as cardboard, paper and plastic. Young crafty people with ideas and time in their hands have helped spread the "sweded" concept worldwide with a series of "no-budget flicks" that pay homage to Gondry while using the typical conventions of the "YouTube homemade movie."


And now this practice, which has parodied Hollywood in every possible way, is embracing the gaming world. Marieke Verbiesen's interactive piece is indeed a personal and lo-fi interpretation of Pole Position, the 1982 cult pioneer in racing video games, originally released by Namco on the retro-classic Atari 2600.

Since 2003, this Dutch artist, currently living and working in Norway, has been crafting electronic arts and interactive design projects that borrow certain pop culture aesthetics, drawing inspiration from mythical video games, in particular. Being born in the 1980s, she witnessed the emergence of a booming gaming scene, and like many of us who grew up counting Mario and Luigi among our best friends, she displays a fondness for retro-gaming, 8-bit soundtracks and highly pixelated forms.

Recently, Verbiesen took the sultry game vixen Lara Croft and placed her in a 2D ’80s graphic interface for the installation Tombraider 0.1, a sort of 8-bit Tomb Raider prequel that never existed. In her latest creation, exhibited at GameCity in the Netherlands, she turned the legendary Pole Position into a handcrafted interactive installation.

Verbiesen wanted to revive the spirit of early game developers, celebrating their ability to create highly sophisticated and immersive worlds with limited technology and rudimentary graphic design. She constructed an intricate cardboard and wood model, exquisitely painted and painstakingly decorated to create the setting for the game, and combined it with the visual programming software Max/MSP/Jitter, to recreate the original game, but with a neat twist. Preserving the original interactivity, the installation makes the simple gaming world of Pole Position a physical space, which the player controls both on and off screen.

The project brings back childhood memories of playing video games with my older brother (who always cheated, the bastard) but seems to also harken back to an even earlier time in our childhoods when you pause to notice that you’re basically playing with a plastic model car.

The chart below explains the basic set-up and design of the project, should you grow tired of your Xbox and be ambitious enough to try to recreate the experience in your own living room.

[via prostheticknowledge ]