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Character building Henry Northmore looks to Dundee as digital arts festival NEoN returns for its second year

N ot for nothing does The List frequently refer to Scotland as a centre of digital excellence: the success of games developers, including Rockstar, institutions such as Abertay University and now the return of digital arts festival NEoN, all show a nation in rude technological health. NEoN (North East of North) is a week-long Dundee event that aims to take discussion beyond just the city’s hugely successful games developers and look at how technology can be used across the arts. The festival’s 2010 theme is ‘character’, and a series of talks, workshops, exhibitions, commissions, screenings and performance will take place across Dundee to explore how this idea can be realised through digital means.

‘Last year’s event set the bar very high, with some inspirational speakers and guests,’ says Donna Holford-Lovell, Chair of the NEoN

organising group. ‘This year we have moved up several gears, to create something wholly new which incorporates even more content and a much wider variety of topics.’ Guests include EIDOS’ Ian Livingston, Designers Republic’s Ian Anderson, animation and special effects guru Dr Ken Perlin and the first solo UK exhibition by acclaimed Japanese artist Akinori Oishi, creator of a series of enchantingly simple micro games and films. ‘I’m excited to experience how British people are thinking about digital media at the NEoN festival,’ says Oishi. ‘The most interesting thing about participating in a festival is communicating with friendly people and native audiences.’ The inclusion of Peter Thaler and Lars Denicke from contemporary character design organisation Pictoplasma is a masterstroke. ‘It’s an open project with a network behind it

that is dedicated to character design,’ explains Thaler from their Berlin studio. ‘We will give a little speech talking about where we think these characters that are very much reduced to the bare essentials get their power; how we perceive them and what gives them the uncanny impression of being alive in a certain way.’ Alongside a screening, Pictoplasma’s characters will also be invading Dundee ‘guerrilla style’ as their latest project working with costumes steps out and onto the streets.

NEoN festival is very much about breaking down barriers and proving that digital art influences all aspects of our modern lives. ‘Bringing together people who are creative in the arts, often has an incredibly strong impact,’ says Thaler. ‘These people often have a very strong relationship with their characters and it becomes very personal, often the characters are like family members them.’ The convergence of the real and digital is liable to produce something special in Dundee. Keep your mind open to the possibilities. to

NEoN runs across Dundee, Mon 8–Sun 14 Nov.

GAMES REVIEWS With the launch of DJ Hero our games experts look at a selection of music related games hitting the shelves

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2011 Xbox 360/PS3 (THQ) ●●●●● If you want grappling action, Smackdown vs Raw delivers. There aren’t any major evolutions in the gameplay compared to last year’s update but the new WWE Universe mode, the chance to cause havoc backstage in Road to Wrestlemania and improved online matches add to the spandex- clad mayhem. (HN)

Saw II: Flesh & Blood Xbox 360/PS3 (Konami) ●●●●● Sadly Saw II is actually just a little bit worse than the first instalment. The graphics and controls are clunky, the instant deaths infuriating and there are no moments of tension or scares throughout (a major failing in a horror title). Some of the puzzles are fun and gory but most are just annoying and repetitive. (HN) PES 2011 Xbox 360/PS3/PS2 (Konami) ●●●●● The major addition here is complete control over the length and direction of every pass, shot and through ball. Even Pro Evo veterans may struggle at first, but persevere and you’ll find the best incarnation since 2007. It’s got its usual problems (commentary, licensing), but this feels more like real football than its challengers. (Brendan Miles)

22 THE LIST 4–18 Nov 2010