nQuumbar

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2007: nQuumbar – Torque Game Engine (TGE) add-on – the nQuumbar engine allows the player to explore a TGE game world and leave marks of their presence and passing on the landscape. Images are taken from Graffiti-engine – Torque Game Engine participant tool, Next Level Festival, Brisbane, Australia, October 2007 using the wayfing world produced by redback games and designed by Nic Bidwell, JCU as part of the wayfinding project

Production team: Michael Shay. The nQuumbar project was funded and supported under the auspices of a JCU (Cairns) Teaching & Learning grant. In particular we must thank Nic Bidwell for her enthusiasm, support and collaboration.

Concept:

The nQuumbar or graffiti engine is inspired by observations of projects which endeavour to represent culture – particularly those oral and traditional knowledge aspects often referred to as intangible culture. Current potential of game engine technologies and virtual world building technologies, has seen an increasing exploration of re-presentation of culture in virtual world simulations.

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DSE: Irene’s World – three views of the terrain (ACID 2006)

For example, the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design project, the Digital Songlines Environment (DSE) has produced a range of faithful recreations of Australian Indigenous traditional lands. These landscape simulations have subsequently been populated with native fauna and flora as well as given depth with rich audio layers of natural sounds.

The purpose of projects such as Songlines is to re-present traditional culture in a way more appropriate to its spirit. In the Songlines case, each one of the DSE iterations was produced in consultation with the elders of the communities whose lands were being simulated. However, while the Digital Songlines Environment and similar projects have to potential to produce rich simulations of cultural heritage, they tend to remain an expert-team based product. The nQuumbar tool was developed in order to enable an intuitive, naturalistic interface which would permit involved communities to make their own marks on the represented world and to be able to announce: ‘here, in this place’, thus re-enfranchising their involvement and sense of ownership in the simulated world.

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Why Graffiti?

From tags to intricate murals, graffiti claims place in public worlds. Fresh graffiti is typically viewed as a problem, unless in a sanctioned site, but the longer it lasts the more valued it becomes. Some graffiti is even recognised as part of a legitimate history or art, from the antiquity of the Viking graffiti left on the walls of burial mounds in the Orkney Islands to the now carefully preserved walls of a renovated power station in Brisbane.

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The nQuumbar project name is derived from the word for drawing in the local language (Guugu Yimidhirr) of Indigenous communities around Cooktown (QLD) where our programmer hails from. The original word is Nguumbar, pronouced ‘noombar’ – but over the project period an initial spelling error on my part became a habit.