Gamevillage, exhibition architecture

LAb[au], laboratory for architecture and urbanism
Manuel Abendroth, Jérôme Decock
Naziha Mestaoui

Year of conception: 1999

ABCD, Paris, France
AVA, Brussels, Belgium

Commissioned by:
Infogrames, Lyon France
Completion date of the study: 1999

Brief and program:
Study and conception for an exhibition of 6000m² dedicated to the 30 years of video games

Project abstract

The exhibition concept has been commissioned by the French video game producer Infogrames to celebrate the 30 years of video games. The exhibition also has been envisioned as a pilot project to launch a vast building complex in Lyon, a 'gamevillage', dedicated to the culture of video gaming, including cultural, educational, scientific and industrial facilities. According to these ambitions the

project focused on video games as a mass culture having a two-fold approach: on the one hand to present its interdisciplinary domain of applied research and on the other hand to immerse the public in an environment of play and exploration proper to the realm of video games.

The mapping of videogames:

The starting point of the design was the indexing of video games according to time, from 1971 to 2001, and to the 7 main actions gamer's perform in video games such as: kill, win, drive, control, explore, fly and fight. Following these chronological and categorical indexations, the 150 most important video games in history constituting the main core of the exhibition, could be classified.
The first result was a grid with cells filled to a greater or lesser extent, giving an overview of the evolution of video-games. The next step consisted in dilating the filled squares and contracting the less filled or empty ones. This plotting of video games generated a diagram along or according to the presence and the amount of video games produced in a given year. This drawing was intended to cover the 6000 square meter ground of the exhibition space. In order to enhance the organizational role of this diagram, its timelines have been extruded into space using translucent fabrics transforming the exhibition space into a labyrinth if there wasn't the map on the ground for orientation. Through these curved walls and along each of the 7 categories a corridor was cut forming the so named action corridors giving the exhibition a second linear circulation direction.

Hypertextu(r)al environments:

After having determined the main structure of the space a second reading of video game history has been undertaken. In the development of video games five important topics have been identified giving a thematic and transversal understanding of video gaming culture and the importance of its genre within the general scope of our contemporary culture: avatar, interface, generation x, artificial intelligence

and networks. Following this logic the most important video games according to these aspects have been selected on the map and links created between them. The result was 5 circuits crossing and cutting through the space, which further have been marked with dashed lines on the ground. Along each of these paths artistic and scientific works should be presented in closed but translucent boxes. In this manner each indexing had its own spatial and graphical expression.

Hence, the folded plastic fabrics structure the space in a fluid manner combining linear and chronological logics, whereas the thematic paths create a transversal reading, circulation. The superposition of these circulations creates an open structure in which the visitor negotiates his own way following even a specific guided tour or just letting himself drift through the multiple directions of the established interconnections. For example a visitor enters the exhibition by a certain action then explores the evolution of video games during one year, to discover a specific theme which leads him to another game action and so on.

This structuring of data and the different reading forms it proposes can easily be compared to that of hypertext. The exploration of the space, such as in a hypertext, integrates the user as an active part of the visit. According to the combinatory of possible reading paths, each visitor can follow either a guided or an associative reading through the interconnections, links. The visit to the exhibition therefore turns into a unique experience across the culture of video games. In this manner the spatial organization transposes the traditional linear organization of exhibitions into a hypertextu(r)al environment of playful exploration and interaction.

The exhibition furthermore plunges the visitor into a progressive immersion and interaction in correspondence to the technological development of video games shifting from a bi-dimensional medium of 'bitmaps' to the one of hyperspace of 'procedural mapping', surround sound, force feedbacks,...This progression has been translated in the presentation of video games itself: in the first

section of the exhibition the different videogames are shown on flat screens, getting progressively folded in space up to a point where they become complete spaces themselves, the 'play-.stations' fusing simulated realities with the concrete space.

The exhibition design is an example of how nowadays information structuring techniques, those of hypertext, can constitute through its graphical and spatial transposition a semiotic system; (a new type of) an exhibition architecture.

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