Comeau, whose primary occupation is as a translator, made his name as an independent video game producer, for the first games in Acadian French. He is presently the UNB Department of Culture and Media Studies’ Media Artist in Residence.
Nocturne is Halifax’s annual event that promotes “art and wonder” and, along with street artists, bands, installations and other candy for the senses, Comeau was invited to participate with a digital game. The happening, launched in 2008, has grown exponentially and welcomed a whopping 30,000 visitors in 2015 to hundreds of locations and art installations.
The 2016 theme was “Motive” and the art present asked the following question: “How have our motives shifted while adjusting to such frequently changing urban infrastructure, environmental uncertainty, political movements, and media landscapes?”
Comeau’s piece, titled “Arcade” was featured in an occupied office on Barrington St., home of the Francophone Justice Access Centre. The creation of the work was sponsored by the Fédération Régionale des Arts et du Patrimoine de la Baie Sainte-Marie, the region Comeau is originally from in Southwestern Nova Scotia.
Guests to Comeau’s installation were invited in to play the videogame either on a laptop, or projected for the viewing public. “Arcade” is an adaptation of one of Comeau’s earlier games, “La vie d’Arcade”, the first videogame about Acadian Culture in Acadian French. Comeau’s game questions the use of standard French versus Acadian French and is told from the point of view of a teenager. The Nocturne version was presented in English only to reach a larger portion of the visiting public.
The version of the game created for the exposition was also meant to stimulate discussion about living in a context of a linguistic minority. Eleven thousand Acadians live in Nova Scotia, a province that has an estimated population of 921,000.
Comeau’s old-school digital game aesthetic is present in “Arcade.” His characters are pixelated and move in a robotic way, as opposed to more recent games that strive for life-like characteristics. Enlarged, his characters have features that resemble Japanese manga with big eyes and even features.
Interestingly, the digital game’s title is also a reminder of the history of Nova Scotia. The term Acadia is thought by some historians and researchers to have been chosen by colonizing Europeans because the region was thought to resemble Arcadia (in ancient Greece), a place of great wellbeing. However, in English, the term “arcade” comes from the Latin for an avenue containing arches and was used in relation to games only since 1977.
In his role as Media Artist in Residence at UNB, Comeau is available for consultation –to discuss digital game creation ideas and practical aspects- with the larger Fredericton community. He can be reached by emailing: email@example.com.
Sophie M. Lavoie writes on arts and culture for the NB Media Co-op. She is also an editorial board member of the NB Media Co-op.