RMIT: Arcade games take the controls on South Melbourne’s post-COVID plan

Classic arcade games have been reimagined along Clarendon Street in South Melbourne as part of an urban activation project between RMIT’s Future Play Lab and the City of Port Phillip.

Street Arcade brings together games, art and music in a unique collection of interactive play experiences, showcasing talent from First Peoples, games students, emerging artists, as well as established designers and musicians.

Future Play Lab’s Dr. Troy Innocent has led the games design element of the project, leaning on his research into urban design and placemaking.

The Future Play Lab works across urban play, creative placemaking and speculative design to re-imagine, reconnect, remake place and improve social interaction, community activity and societal wellbeing.

Innocent says strategic urban design plays a particularly important role in re-connecting people with public spaces post pandemic.

“COVID has taken a toll on once bustling cities and streets, so now more than ever we need to explore opportunities for community activity and social interaction.”

“This project plays into that in several ways – through activation of local businesses, connecting local artists and designers with public space, and the ways that urban play can reimagine and reshape place.”

“Bringing arcade games onto the street creates new possibilities for social connection – a place to meet friends or strangers, to take a break and, ultimately, to bring play and playfulness back into our everyday lives.”

Master of Animation, Games and Interactivity student Eamonn Harte created Tram Chaser, a game inside the 10-in-1 Arcade inspired by aspects of Melbourne and city life.

“I thought, what’s more Melbourne than running for the tram? So, I made a platformer game about running down the street trying to avoid obstacles so you can get to the tram stop on time,” explained Hart.

“It’s the first time I’ve collaborated with so many different people on one project. I worked with the other students on collating the student games, integrating the art assets to keep the visual style of the games cohesive, and ensure all the games run smoothly.

“It’s also been amazing to see the arcade machines being assembled. It’s one thing to know that you’re making a game to be played on an arcade machine, and then entirely another to have it in front of you and be playing the games with a joystick and buttons.”

Monique Kemboi, also studying a Master of Animation, Games and Interactivity, co-created another game in the 10-in-1 Arcade – Sticky City – and says it’s been great working at The Future Play Lab, despite having little to do with creating games in the past.

“Considering that I had no prior expertise in game creation, it was a privilege to work with others, and I learned so much in the process,” she said.

“I was able to play and gain an understanding of the inner workings of game creation by aiding with the graphic design of several of the Clarendon Street Arcade titles.

“Being a part of an idea’s transformation into reality has sparked my interest in game design, and I can’t wait to see what else we create.”

The games are water-resistant and respond to the streetscape, acting as spaces to lean, sit, or place a drink, encouraging social play.

Street Arcade will run until Sunday 9 October.

RMIT University is ranked as #1 in Oceania and #15 in the world for studies in art and design. Find out how a Master of Animation, Games and Interactivity can bring a vision to life.

The Future Play Lab works across speculative design, creative placemaking and urban play to explore new ways of being in the world.