BY MIKE EXELL
I am not a journalism student.
I am not undertaking an arts degree.
I am in my third year of a commerce degree majoring in economics.
In these two and a half years of tertiary education, I have learned many things; however, there is one piece of information I would bet the house on, that arts students are cooler than commerce students.
More importantly, I think I have finally discovered the reason why arts students are so much cooler: it is because of games.
The games that arts students play are different from commerce student games and this is what makes these weird indie kids cool.
It would not be unusual to see five or six commerce students holed up in a basement, having a LAN party, all playing counter-strike against one another.
However, when I think of an arts student playing games, I picture them at a pizza parlour, playing an original frogger machine from the 1980s while waiting for their gluten-free, environment friendly cheese, onion and mushroom pizza.
In order to test my theory, I decked myself out in my most indie arts student clothes and went to meet the most informed arts student I knew.
Claire is a 19-year-old part-time arts student at UWA.
She also is a co-manager at Red Hot Party Hire, which specialises in jukebox hire but also rents out arcade game machines.
She is an art student who does not undertake full time study and has industry knowledge of retrogaming.
What better person to show me the ropes?
My plan was to visit the main three indie hubs north of the river in Perth: Greens & Co in Leederville; Planet Video in Mt Lawley; and the Moon Cafe in Northbridge.
The game of choice here is Connect Four, so I purchased us a slice of chocolate hazelnut triangle (which I was told the norm for doing at cafes, eating cake), picked up a game of connect four and sat down.
I have to admit, once we started playing, I did feel a wee bit of nostalgia.
All of those lunchtimes in primary school where it was raining, so we got to play board games in the library.
However this feeling of nostalgia was soon overtaken by my massive competitive streak, wanting to win any at contest put in front of me.
The first game I won, however, only just.
Claire was a worthy opponent, who had many chances to win the first round, still winners have been known to be grinners and I was extremely happy with the result.
Unfortunately, game one proved to be an aberration as I was soundly beaten in the next three rounds.
The chocolate hazelnut triangle proved to be an excellent purchase as it became a substitute for beer to drown my sorrows with.
The idea of playing Connect Four, while snacking and drinking a skinny latte, wearing skinny jeans and a skinny tie, would never had entered my thought process as a commerce student; however, the competitiveness combined with cake proved to be a winning combination.
We abandoned Leederville to go to the home of all things indie north of the river, Beaufort Street in Mt Lawley.
As soon as we arrived, I started to play a game with myself, I called it “spot the arts student” and, unlike Connect Four, I was winning.
We moseyed our way over to Planet Video to continue my education on arts students.
It’s an independent record/video/book store, stocks clothes from obscure designers, sells CDs of local bands and vinyls, and has cult film posters for sale and a book store (which I’m told is where arts students live).
Planet also continues with this theme of art students gaming being much cooler than commerce students’ games.
The game machines that Claire led me to in Planet were two pinball machines, based on the films “Dirty Harry” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”.
Automatically, these machines are already cooler than any commerce student game because they have Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger plastered on each machine.
Pinball machines are much harder than they look; however, lucky for me I was not playing Claire head-to-head because if I was, I would have suffered some further public embarrassment.
This embarrassment was internal because my performance on the Terminator machine was appalling. I’m glad there were no other witnesses apart from Claire.
Despite my atrocious form on the pinball machines, I continue to see the appeal in this form of retrogaming.
The last stop of this indie adventure was at the home of all late-night meals in Northbridge, the Moon Cafe.
Despite not coming to the Moon to sample arts student games, one of the first things I was greeted with when walking in was a table arcade machine (the same type Red Hot Party Hire specialises in).
There seemed to be no escape from cool arts student gaming wherever I went in the indie scene in Perth.
Not only was there a table arcade machine. There was a selection of board games, such as Scrabble, Connect Four and Guess Who?, behind the counter that were available to borrow with a $10 deposit.
Even in my attempt to see what else makes arts students cooler than commerce students, the recurring theme of gaming continued to rear its cool $70 haircut head.
For my final lesson on retrogaming, Claire took me back to Red Hot Party Hire’s workshop to educate me on the table arcade machine.
At the workshop, I sampled two classic arcade games, Pac-Man and Frogger.
While playing these games, I realised why all these art student hangouts stock these games: they are a lot of fun.
Frogger originally came out in 1981, and I found myself sitting in a workshop in Hillarys 30 years later, wanting nothing more than to beat George Costanza’s high score.
Arts students are all about being cool, alternative and having a good time.
This is the biggest difference between arts and commerce is not the fact that arts students play retro games, but how they go about their gaming.
As mentioned above, commerce students wouldn’t be out of place at a LAN party competing for superiority.
From what I can tell, they play videogames for the sense of achievement or for the competition.
Arts students play their games at cafes and indie hangouts (such as Greens & Co and Planet) for a bit of “to pass the time”.
They don’t go to these places to play the games. They play the games because they are at these places.
It is not for the sense of achievement, or the rush of the competition, it is purely for a bit of fun between friends.
And that’s cool.