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THE RETURN OF HISTORY

By Graham Leggat

Pax Athletica.

This summer Athens plays host to the 2004 summer Olympic Games. If, that is, the Greeks can put aside two millennia of disorganization and pull the damn thing off. It’s probably too much to expect a latter-day Leni Riefenstahl to mark the event with a stunning piece of filmmaking — nor, ideologically, would you necessarily wish for that — but if you have a cell phone and Verizon service, come August you can enjoy a smart, literate piece of independent game making to while away the time between important calls.

At press time, media consortium Tricycle NYC is putting the finishing touches on its first mobile game, Pax Athletica. A twist on classic track-and-field games, with one eye on Olympic history and the other on the underappreciated irony of specific moments in international competition, Pax Athletica takes the player on a journey of discovery through a broadly comic rendition of seven events from the first Athens Olympics, in 1896, to the present day, employing legends such as Nadia Comanici, Greg Louganis and Jesse Owens.

The return of history, first as tragedy and now as farce? Perhaps. But that reduction leaves aside how much skill is required by the game play. Elegant and simply designed, with a minimum of explicit narrative, the game is a neat exercise in visual storytelling that owes as much to the efficiency and impressionism of short films as it does to the zeroes and ones of sharp coding.

The fiercely independent Tricycle NYC is a partnership between Cashmere Games (formed by ex-members of Rockstar Games), Ham & Pixel (run by acclaimed commercial photographer Sacha Waldman) and Idealogue (the inventive marketing outfit that works often with Adidas).

Pax Athletica will be available for download via Verizon’s Get-It-Now network. For more information: www.pax-athletica.com.

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