Reprinted from the Independent Weekly

Local gaming joins the spark conflagration


Established and evolving storytelling mediums are at home at SPARKcon, as the annual event expands into new arenas—some stranger than others.


Even with video game sales down this year, games still represent a creative medium that has opened new doors for storytelling, with games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and The Beatles: Rock Band earning raves from critics not previously enamored of the medium. So it’s only fitting that the newest feature at SPARKcon is gamingSPARK, a representation of both new and established Triangle game makers.

Local games being spotlighted include a sample from Achron, a highly anticipated time-travel combat game from N.C. State University grad student Chris Hazard, Spark Plug Games’ DQ Tycoon, which lets players manage their own virtual Dairy Queen, and Spectral Assault, a physics-heavy adventure created by a group of nine N.C. State students.

The spotlight on local gamers takes place at 5 p.m. at Urban Design Center on Friday, Sept.18. It also features a special demonstration of Alii Motion Technology, presented by Alex Lian of Duke University. This cross-platform technology has the capability to turn any standard Webcam into a motion controller for a real-action gaming experience. It might be a sign that the Triangle will be home to those who will create not only the games of the future, but new ways of playing them as well.

Those with a more competitive streak can embrace the area’s biggest gaming hit, Epic’s Gears of War 2, with a gaming tournament that promises a 32-inch Hitachi TV from Integrated Audio Video as its grand prize. The event starts at 1 p.m., and will continue until one chain-gun-wielding super-soldier remains.

Elsewhere this weekend, poetrySPARK encourages experienced and aspiring creative types with an open mic night at Morning Times at 10 E Hargett St. on Friday. Saturday’s poetrySPARK event features a series of poetry readings. from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The themed readings include “Formal/ Metrical,” “Narrative/ Lyrical,” “Humor Me” and “Experimental.” In a related event, storySPARK will feature a poetry slam on Fayetteville Street on Saturday from 9:15 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

FilmSPARK deals head-on with the issue of film production in North Carolina, showcasing both shorts by local filmmakers and plans for attracting more productions to the area. The shorts series, held at Artspace, includes films touching on everything from the end of Kings Barcade in downtown Raleigh (“The Death of Kings”) to stalking St. Nick for failing to deliver a childhood gift (“Killing Santa”). The shorts run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Artspace on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, SPARK-goers will be able to actively participate in plans for the future of North Carolina filmmaking with “The State of Film in N.C. Roundtable.” The discussion of how to keep North Carolina an attractive state for film production (seriously, the Wilmington-filmed One Tree Hill can’t run forever) includes N.C. Film Office director Aaron Syrett, N.C. State professors Devin and Marsha Orgeron, and the Indy‘s David Fellerath. The event takes place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Artspace.

And you can even meet an unusual NC celebrity filmmaker in the form of Chris Knight, who is highlighted Friday as “The Dude Who Took Down Viacom.” Knight’s unsuccessful bid for a seat on Rockingham County’s board of education in 2006 spawned a viral YouTube clip comparing his efforts to Star Wars. Unfortunately, his results inspired a copyright infringement lawsuit from Viacom—a lawsuit he managed to win. Come hear his story at Artspace on Friday from 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m., and take comfort in the fact that North Carolinians are making impressions in all forms of creative media—even those prone to legal scrutiny. —Zack Smith