Game Arts Curators Kit & Community Calls

Game Arts Curators Kit is a new seventy page handbook for anyone interested in bringing a curatorial eye to the presentation of videogames. Over 25 writers and editors have generously shared their field-tested experiences of exhibiting games, spanning the practical to the political, the ethical to the esthetic.

Beginning as an idea in a session led by María Luján Oulton and Chad Toprak at GAIA 2019, Chaz Evans and Rene G. Cepeda took up the massive task of coordinating the writing of over 25,000 words on our nascent art practice during GAIA 2021.

It’s currently available in wiki form and invites input from the community, with plans in progress to have it published physically by VGA Gallery. There will be a roundtable on its creation as a part of Society of Literature, Science and Arts 2021 on Oct. 1st.

Can you help us signal boost? Share this excerpt page, the wiki itself, and this tweet with anyone you feel would benefit from it!

Here are some tiny excerpts below from the individual topics:

In Goals, Chaz Evans writes “This toolkit is an attempt to document at least a portion of the collective experience of this group in order to share it broadly with other video game curators and organizers, or those who may consider becoming video game curators and organizers. One particularly desirable goal, then, is to strengthen and broaden this international network of support and therefore also the depth and ability of the discipline. While one group has defined the initial goals of organizing games in public, the goals will shift after you, the reader, define your own.”

In Themes, Clare Brennan writes “Think about both the logistical restrictions AND the character of the exhibition’s location, and what this could mean for the narrative of the show.”

In Formats, Emilie Reed writes “Do you have a contingency plan for presenting a work that is broken, run out, or out of order?” ” In the venue, the lights were low and the footing was occasionally uneven, due to it being a historical building then used for concerts and parties, so special care had to be taken to reduce trip hazards, leave enough of the floor clear for crowds, and offer sufficient seating to encourage engagement with longer games.”

In Selection, Ron Morrow writes “Thorough research is critical, else you can fall into the trap of presenting history from the perspective of the loudest voice in the room. Is a game really the “first gay representation in games”, or is it “the first openly and on-screen gay representation in a AAA game that is commercially successful in the West”? Both are significant, but the distinction is important.”

In Artworks, Isabelle Arvers writes “Video game manipulators can be seen as activists. But there are also game detournements/mods/hacks that are not political, but rather poetic, aesthetic or contemplative. Artists and game makers provide another point of view to the game industry by using the game aesthetic, or by hacking games to provide a gaming experience and create a distance towards the world we live in.”

In Accessibility, Jenna Caravello writes “Some gamers experience tremors or reduced mobility, making controllers and keyboards more difficult to use (button mashing in general is not comfortable for many people). To help with this, PC and mobile games alike can include modes with larger hit-boxes and reprogrammable controller buttons.”

In Diversity, Mer Grazzini writes “A pretty common problem, sometimes born out of good will but incorrect anyway, is to center all the attention over the “diverse ones” around the thing that makes them diverse. Women or nonbinary all grouped in a talk about how it is to be a woman or a nonbinary in the industry. Third world devs all together talking about the third world difficulties.”

In Creators, droqen writes “Especially in the case of events where creators are not present, they may never really get closure on what occurred, and a simple follow-up email sharing any photos and the response to the event and their work can help them understand what occurred, and build a stronger relationship between curators and creators.”

In Audience, Shalev Moran writes “This audience often has less game literacy, and thus requires more mediation; but often also less expectations, and thus can find interest in a more diverse array of games. For better or worse, arts and culture audiences will not judge your work by “game standards”, but rather by a broader cultural standards and in comparison to other cultural expressions.”

In Teams, Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan writes “After a helper reaches out, meet them quickly while energy is high. Warmly welcome them, tell them about the community and expectations. Learn about their motivations and skills and assign them an easy task with a short deadline. For example: write a 2 sentence description about a game by Monday. A few days later do a punctual check-in: how are they doing? If the first task is complete, thank them and get their feedback before assigning another task. Cycle through a few small tasks with the new helper, escalating in autonomy and difficulty. If the helper has misestimated their capacity, it’s best to know quickly. If all goes well, they easily become integrated with the team.”

In Partners, Angelo Careri writes “Whereas one could be tempted to seek as many partners as possible, be sure to prioritize the need for mutual benefit. The more partners you get, the more interactions and constraints will need to be taken in account. Logos are a nice addition to your press release but keeping your project in scope is arguably better.”

In Venues, María Luján Oulton and Rene G. Cepeda write “Drywall is also not the only solution to unwanted light reflections, a simple vinyl window film can also reduce glare without eliminating light sources!”

In Online, Jose Luis Pacheco Boscan writes “Keep a private communication channel with your team, be aware and collectively inform any noticed concern or issue during the event and try to solve it together. Remember interactions create complexity and this applies to online events as well.”

In Regions, Jose writes “Regions don’t have fixed boundaries and are not strictly territorial, they can also be cultural or social. This is especially driven in the Regions by the presence of phenomena such as globalization, transculturation and migration. Is there any significant experience change in your event for people located in the capital, in downtown areas, in the margins or in different countries your audience may be in? Is there any tradition, linguistic or accessibility change? Is the technology you plan to use available for all the members in the audience?”

In Duration, Lauren Kolodkin writes “An exhibition dedicated to showcasing work around a particular theme or topic may wish to have a calmer environment. That means longer opening hours over a longer period of time, without thousands of people queuing to play. If the works encourage multiple interactions in order to examine them critically, how long is needed in between visits?”

In Scheduling, Jo Summers writes “Don’t have the person who is traveling the furthest go on first!” & “Put someone who isn’t you in charge of timing for the session so it takes an immediate worry off your plate. Get them to introduce the talks and make sure things keep to schedule.”

In Exhibition Design, Brice Puls writes “When scheduling installation, assume approximately 20 minutes per game “station” for basic hookup and plugging in of the system. Account for additional time including furniture setup, shelving or hardware installation, cable management, and cleanup. The combined time can give a good indication of the potential total hours needed to set up the entire space, which can be then divided by the number of individuals installing the space. Always overestimate, add 5-10% to whatever a realistic amount of time it would take to complete each task.”

In Permissions, Leland Heller writes “Your initial message should include the following: an introduction of yourself and your organization (if applicable), the exhibition’s purpose/theme, how/why the game will be displayed, and logistical details about the exhibition (timeline and location). Always make sure to express your appreciation of their game!”

In Funding, Jim Munroe writes “I also carefully track my time with applications, because it makes it easier to plan for future applications (ie. I’ll never try to do that again in two weeks – it took 55 hours!) and because it sometimes can feel longer than it actually does, because it’s boring or emotionally tiring.”

In Interactivity, Rene, Emilie, and Saraelena Cabrera write “The simplest solution would be to allow players to start the game from the beginning, however this will result in tutorials being played over and over as well as not offering the full experience. In other cases, the game may be more suited to be played at home at leisure so the themes are fully communicated or the state of flow and control fluency is achieved. As such, not all video games may be served by presenting them in their interactive form and other approaches such as screenshots or gameplay videos may be used.”

In Conduct, Jamie Sanchez writes “How might your curatorial selection, event activities, or chosen venue affect participant behavior? How can you dissuade any undesired actions?”

In Governance, Sagan Yee writes “Who are we and who do we serve? Why is this important to us? How can we remain sustainable? What will we be doing 5, 15, 15 years from now? And who is responsible for answering these questions? Whether your group is an incorporated non-profit, a team of festival organizers, an ad hoc arts collective, or “a bunch of friends who got together one day and decided to do something cool”, they all involve governance whether explicitly stated or not.”

In Documentation, Zuraida Buter writes “But wait, how will you spread the word about how wonderful the previous event was? A magazine is reaching out to you asking for photos of the event. One of the creators is asking for photos of people enjoying their game to put on their website. Didn’t you take a photo with your mobile phone at some point, that will probably do it, right? Maybe you can scour the internet to see if anyone posted their photos? After a day of work you scrape together 3 decent photos, 6 blurry photos, and a confusing video.”

In Communication, María Luján Oulton writes “Make your competitors your allies. Working in conjunction with related events and personalities is always a good idea. Check which other events with similar audiences do, and discuss ways you can support each other and do cross-promotion.”

And now: Community Calls! Got one you want shared? Email!

Game Arts Job: This new position will be responsible for managing and expanding exhibitions, events and community associated with several key MoHA programs, including Fantastic Arcade (celebrating, amplifying, and supporting the unique and underrepresented within indie games and beyond), Welcome to my Homepage (an online artist residency), IRL (exhibitions, education, and residencies related to VR, AR,, etc.), a monthly indie games meetup, and MoHA4 (a hybrid physical/digital art gallery and membership-as-art program).

Touring Exhibition Opportunity: Nom Nom: 40 Years of Pac-Man Design and History ran from February 7 – May 30, 2021 at Chicago Gamespace and was a critical and public success. Curated by Tim Lapetino and Jonathan Kinkley, the exhibition assessed the history, design and legacy of Pac-Man and explored the game’s development and evolution from its beginnings at Namco in Tokyo in the late 1970’s to its introduction in the U.S. market where its expansive design and global marketing and licensing made Pac-Man a household name. It was comprised of seven playable games including two arcade cabinets, one pinball machine, and four console and PC titles; art and artifacts from the game’s development and advertising, video didactics, vinyl records, press clippings and Pac-Man licensed products and collectibles. This exhibition appeals to a broad and diverse public, attracting thousands, and is an ideal point of access for game art venues seeking to increase their visibility and recognition. A tour partnership will include four playables, a checklist of 45 Pac-Man artifacts, wall artwork, title wall and label didactics, video and images. Exhibition image documentation is here. Select press is here: WGN TVChicago TribuneWGN RadioNewcityThird Coast ReviewClassic Chicago Magazine. Interested venues may contact Jonathan Kinkley at