iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles premiered its latest video game-related art show last night, called the iam8bit Entertainment System. The centerpiece of the show was Travis Chen's homemade two-player console, which is a custom-made PC running MAME encased in natural bamboo, with two homemade controller boxes playing three different indie games: Canabalt's two-player version, the Sportsfriends bundle's BaraBariBall, and Chen's own Adventure Time game jam game, Bad Atticube.
Chen is a former Neversoft developer who now works on both iOS games with Scopely and his own indie creations, including the recent Typing Karaoke. iam8bit pitched the new show to him as "being kind of like a mock release of a game console" (in the shadow of next week's E3 and its two new consoles), and Chen said he emailed iam8bit co-founder Jon Gibson to say, "Jon, I'm building the console."
Chen's work is impressive: The "iES" wood case was laser-cut (though Chen says some sanding was needed to bring it all together), and the front of the console has an LED screen that shows various ASCII text. There are colored buttons on the top of the main unit, and pressing those changes whatever's shown on the screen, from crazy visualizers to a running dialogue between the console and its player.
The console is being offered for sale in the gallery, and Chen says if it does sell he wants to customize it for the buyer. But if it doesn't sell, Chen has other plans in mind. "I want to enter it into Indiecade and maybe even the IGF," he says. "Not too many guys are entering hardware, and I think that's really interesting; the idea of indie hardware."
The iam8bit Entertainment System, and the rest of the work in the show, will be on display through June 30 at iam8bit.