Why is Canberra the home of Australian live-action video games?

blind 17 April 2013

This week, Canberra Youth Theatre’s 35 Degrees 17 South is showing in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Australia – you can watch it unfold on ABC TV.


On 15 May, Boho Interactive’s Word Play opens at CSIRO Discovery. Word Play is a ‘live cinema’ work about the outbreak of a new disease that infects language and ideas. The audience interact live with the performers via mobile phone, asking questions, making decisions and in some instances directly controlling them in live video-game sequences.

Two different interactive performances driven by audience using smartphones in one month might just be coincidence, but there’s a weird tradition of live-action video games coming out of Canberra. Boho have been making interactive science-theatre performances using hacked game controllers since 2007. Companies like Last Man To Die were building shows aronud audience-triggered QR codes 6 years ago, and Serious Theatre’s Void Without Void handed the audience control over an astronaut in a live space simulation.

I’ve seen enough theatre in enough places to know that this is unusual. Of course interactive theatre is everywhere, and artists all round the world have been creating live versions of computer games since at least the 90s. But for a scene the size of Canberra to have so many companies making works that are (a) interactive, and (b) using handheld controllers is well beyond the statistical probability.

Melbourne has a trash theatre garage addiction, Sydney has a endless waves of hyper-ironic writer-performers, and Canberra is punching out nonstop live-action video games: anyone got an explanation?

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