Videogame Arts Around the World in 2023

From special guest editor, María Luján Oulton… We are bringing back to life GAIN’s annual roundup newsletter, an inspirational collection of game arts related photos from events around the globe.

For the first time since 2019 we reached out to friends, colleagues and like-minded groups asking to share their favorite pictures from the videogame arts event or project they worked on in 2023. The result is events from 23 cities covering five continents. The game arts community is coming back in a big way!

If you like it, please spread the link (or retweet) and let us know about any events or people that have not been named here so we can include them in future roundups.

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Overkill Festival’s co-director Marie Janin writes from Netherlands, “The Overkill festival hosted its new edition in November 2023 under the theme ‘The Outburst of the Digital Swamp.’ Since 2011, the festival brings video games, playful and interactive art and films together to explore social topics. Within this edition, diving into the digital and physical swamps the festival program looked into navigation, layers, role play, co-op as means to rethink agencies when re-imagining the future. This year festival included a LARP integrated in the heart of the exhibition, a performance program, film screenings, workshops, lectures and music. The 5 day program was created by co-directors and curators Marie Janin and Aike Lütkemöller, guest curator Kostis Stafylakis, playful programmer Zuraida Buter and fluid programmer Erik Peters. The Overkill Festival is produced by Sickhouse, a playful artspace in Enschede, The Netherlands.”

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Bethlehem Anteneh, founder of PlayLab in Ethiopia tells us about the event: “PlayLab happens once a year for 2 weeks. Its first time was in 2021. Through an open call, it pulls visionary individuals from very different industries and in a 1 week lab format helps them integrate play based methodologies to collaborate on producing new forms of playable experiences based on industries they have entangled with. It is a gathering that teaches its community first to support them in breaking boundaries and making their own experiences and finally showcase them all in a one day epic and inspirational public closing event. The vision is to co-create one of the most artistic, academic and experimental gatherings that brings cultures, societies, and thoughts together through the power of games-thinking to nurture empathic and innovative social systems. This is where we start small. See you in the near future with more dreamers making big bets for a better world using games. If there is anyone out there in the universe reading this and is with ideas on how to make the next year’s episode poke some hearts and minds, your hearts and minds will be most welcome and appreciated!”

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From Tokyo we received an update on 同ZINE (douZINE) and Tokyo Indies by KC: “This year, the doujin and indie game anthology 同ZINE (douZINE) reached its third volume. Through the zine, two games—DON’T SAY YES, and Release Notes received English translations. We exhibited at game and art events like ZINE Fes Saitama, Tokyo Game Dungeon, and Digital Games Expo, while also sending the zine all around the world to places such as Australia, Taiwan, and the USA. Tokyo Indies (pictured above), which I help out with, continues to have its meetup every third Wednesday of the month after its renewed start post-COVID in a new venue in Akihabara, providing a space for local indie devs to connect while receiving feedback on their games.”
Nomi, also from Tokyo, shares some words summarizing the spirit behind Gæmz Meetup or Gæmz “As we focus on building a community and having a place to hang out, during the regular gatherings, everyone has a chance to talk about things such as what they have been up to, who they are, etc. It’s not forced but recommended as I think it’s nice to get to know each other.”

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Apocablyss HQ takes place in Montreal, Canada hosted by Paloma Dawkins who describes it as “a series of intimate events focused on experimental, digital or acoustic performance with an improvisational or interactive element taking place at Apocablyss Studios headquarters. This series is meant to bring together local artists and show goers from a diverse range of practices to experiment with play and emergent interaction as a world-building practice.”

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Also from Montreal, Canada, Jess Marcotte, co-founder of Queerness and Games Conference tells us about their latest activity: QGJam, “An expansion of the Queerness and Games Conference, QGJam challenged participants to collaborate to create games inspired by a series of invited panels by queer gamemakers, scholars and cultural critics. We organized the game jam as an explicitly anti-work and radically speculative exercise, asking participants to center self-care and experimentation and to rethink the toxic aspects of traditional game jam culture. The panels, headlined by Austin Walker, Kawika Guillermo, Sharang Biswas and others, discussed worldbuilding and rituals through a queer lens; these panels served as the theme for the jam, giving jammers free rein to interpret and respond to them. QGJam drew over 300 participants and 50 game submissions, which we played together over the course of a week and then discussed at a final closing session moderated by the organizers.” You can find the jam submissions here and the Symposium recording here.

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Co-founder Tanya X. Short shares an overview of 2023 for Montreal’s Pixelles

  • The Pixelles Game Incubator was held for its 11th(!) year, welcoming another cohort of 10 new game-makers 
  • GDC Ensemble had its 5th year, including raising travel funds and hosting events on-site. 
  • Creator Fund selected another 6 games for its grant
  • We hosted a special “Bibliothé” event
  • Various workshops spotlighted talented creators and voices in games and helped them share their skills with our community
  • The Writing Portfolio Program carries on, helping game writers build their professional portfolio with workshopped samples.

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From Austin, Texas, Jay Roff-Garcia, Digital Arts Coordinator of Games Y’all intends to “celebrate, amplify, and support the unique and underrepresented within indie games and beyond. For presenters, our events offer casual feedback, playtesting, and networking in a supportive social environment. For attendees, the events are a chance to play locally-made and unreleased games, meet friends, and get inspired. We uplift diverse voices and creations while striving to nurture an inclusive, trusting, and supportive space for our community.” You can reach them via email and learn more at their website.

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Jonathan Kinkley from Chicago Gamespace shares some of the events and exhibitions they hosted last year: “LIGHT CYCLES: 40 Years of TRON in Games and Film: an exhibition of TRON arcade, computer and console games that explored how 40 years ago, a film and video game electrified theaters and arcades across the world by taking audiences – for the first time – inside a computer game.The exhibition was curated by Tim Lapetino and Jonathan Kinkley.”

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Reality (Beta) was made in partnership with Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, There chicago-based new media artist Thorne Brandt created a looking glass-style mobile camera filter, augmented by AI, that ‘proves’ we are living in a computer simulation.

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NarraScope had its first hybrid edition in June at the University of Pittsburgh. Co- founder Andrew Plotkin tells us that “Narrascope is an event that supports adventure games, and interactive fiction. Many kinds of games now fall under the banner of IF; we aim to bring together writers, developers, and players of all stripes for an accessible and affordable meeting of the minds.”

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Marie Foulston, current Art Director of No Quarter writes: “No Quarter is an annual exhibition organised by NYU Game Center. Each year four leading creatives working across games are commissioned to create new playable works. These games and their creators come together for one night only to form an eclectic arcade that challenges our expectations of what it means to play together. This year’s artists were Everest Pipkin, Ben Blatt, Blake Andrews and You+Pea who created new works that included artisanal hand-crafted arcade cabinets, architectural psychological phenomenons, a spot of agricultural administration on an asteroid, and  a lot of multiplayer mayhem on the motorway.” The event was curated by Marie Foulston, produced by Matteo Uguzzoni with artwork by Will Anderson. Photo credit: John Hwang.

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From Seattle, Christopher Floyd founder of Indies Workshop shares with us an interview that was part of a recent extensive front-page article concerning video games, published in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times and a picture for their recent videogame launch You Will Die Here Tonight (above).

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Dizzy Spell founder Rafael Fajardo writes “In 2023 our collaborative curatorial project, Dizzy Spell held its longest pop-up during the inaugural Denver Month Of Video, in July, highlighting very short games and vignettes. Emblematic of the form are games by André Blyth collectively entitled Patient Rituals. Co-curator Justin Ankenbauer described our curatorial vision as ‘An Exhibition of games which are short and sweet that challenge traditional video games while still offering rich content.'”
Rafael shares a great piece of media coverage that got them “visits by 60-90 people each weekend we were open. They stayed for hours and played and discussed each game”

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UCLA GAME LAB’s director Eddo Stern shares with us  “Last spring UCLA GAME LAB folks Jules Johnston, Vinny Roca, Jenna Caravello, and Hua Chai organized PUPPET JAM!, a one-day game-jam-style event of workshops: Shadow Puppetry, Object Performance Play, and Big Puppet Making in which everyone involved collaborated to experiment and craft puppet games, vignettes, and a final parade. Among many other events we hosted at the lab, Carlin Wing ran a Ball-Making Workshop involving a talk on  the history of ball construction, and making of physical and virtual balls using  previously discarded playing balls, old sheets, liquid latex, vinegar, medical tape, bicycle inner tubes, Amazon packing materials, plastic bags, rubber bands, wine corks, and other such stuff. At the end of day we 3D scanned everything and created a beautifully imperfect handmade shared 3D balls asset library.”

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María Luján Oulton shares with us “This year I got the opportunity to tour OASIS. The videogame exhibition to Mexico City, invited by the CENART Media Center The exhibit originally commissioned in 2022 by Udit University (Madrid) was specifically adapted to include an updated selection of works (video games, VR and program activities) reinforcing the international panorama and the local content in partnership with Mexican Universities and international embassies. The exhibit lasted for over a month and we got the chance to fly in several of the artists and game designers to give talks, workshops and meet the local audience.” Pictured above:  “SOLA” by Agustina Isidori.

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Hernán Saez (Videogamo), co-creator of NAVE Arcade & NAVE Arcade Tour writes from Argentina, “Nave Arcade is a classic black and white vertical SHMUP with several twists, the most notable being that it can only be played in its original cabinet, of which there is only one unit. It was created in 2012 by the Argentinian dedicated-hardware game studio Videogamo, Inc., known for DOBOTONE – a game console designed for parties that won the Best Experimental Game award at Tokyo Game Show’s Sense of Wonder Night in 2016 – and GOL-E-GOL, an electronic foosball game specially built for the No Quarter 2022 showcase at the NYU Game Center in Brooklyn. Since its launch, NAVE hasn’t stopped touring through various provinces of Argentina and its neighboring country, Chile, with almost 200 public presentations at parties, bars, museums, and on the streets. In 2023, NAVE completed 11 years of uninterrupted touring, concluding the year in the city of Rosario, province of Santa Fe, Argentina, with the 11th World Tournament, the ultimate competition held annually since 2013.”

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Also in Argentina, BIT BANG held its ninth edition. “From October 23 to 28 we were witnesses or accomplices of the time-space journey that was the ninth edition of Bitbang. We take with us forever this warm energy, which drives us to continue doing this festival, the new connections and the increasingly stronger bonds, the advice of those who opened up and transmitted amazing advices, the deep and passionate debates, and the fun so eclectic every day.”

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In Antwerp, Belgium,Thomas & Hannes Deville, the two brothers behind Deville Arcade, presented “Games & Culture”, a local event hosted with the support of Flanders Audiovisual Fund that brought people from games and culture together, with talks ranging from an artistic director in digital arts to a long-time gamedev community host.

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Antwerp was also host of the art & games festival Different Perspectives Festival created by Pepijn Willekens “with this second edition in 2023, we explore how games bring people together and spark social dynamics. The festival showcased a game expo, concerts, artist talks for a general audience, and a dedicated network day for professional artists and game developers. For our next edition, we’re going explore the merging of videogames and theatre, promising an exploration of artistic boundaries.”

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From Berlin we hear from Thorsten S. Wiedemann, founder and artistic director of A MAZE. / Berlin: “our interdisciplinary approach inspires game creators, cultural institutions and the games industry to look beyond the pure entertainment aspect of gaming. We build on an impactful games culture, where activism and thought-provoking interventions are crucial aspects of our company agenda. Our exhibitions, talks, play-formances and workshops are riding the rising wave of arthouse games and playful media. The A MAZE. Awards in seven categories are defining arthouse games and foster further experimentations with interactive contemporary narratives and mechanics. The upcoming festival is on May 8-11, 2024.”

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Last April, Now Play This held its 9th edition and Sebastian Quack, Artistic Director between 2020/2023, writes about it. “In 2023, the ninth year of Now Play This Festival took place at Somerset House in London with an exploration of one of humanity’s foundational experiences – love – through the lens of experimental game design and playful art. Given the theme, we wanted to take it slow and allow audiences time and space across a 9-day festival process challenging emotions. On top of the exhibition, we ran an events programme with intimate, critical conversations, careful experimentation and joyful evening events.” You can have a look at some of the reports in The Guardian and The Evening Standard. For a selection of pictures from the festival don’t miss the 2023 gallery.

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Most recently London was also the host to The Other Market, an event organized by Lynn Hughes, JoDee Allen and Don Undeen that took place inside Greenwich Market. Lynn explains the event/game as “a collaborative production part of a larger project that asks how understanding the different ways liveness operates, and can be structured, helps us build different types of digital, physical and social experiences? How, for example, can we integrate trained actors as nodes in games, which would otherwise involve only untrained participants and/or amateur role players? We want to steer games and, by implication, the future of interactive culture, away from single player experiences in front of a screen towards radically contemporary, mixed experiences where the digital reinforces the centrality of the material world, especially the body and our relations with each other.”

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Arcadia Festival held a new edition in Dundee, Scotland produced and curated by Biome Collective. Co-founder Malath Abbas: “The 2023 festival included public programming of talks, games and performance as well as a series of workshops aimed at producers in the games space exploring pressing topics and themes. Arcadia Night featured over 10 micro-talks from game developers, makers and thinkers from across the industry, an experimental array of games exhibited and a performance by the wonderful Tinderbox Orchestra that together created an inclusive, fun and social atmosphere.

Arcadia Labs was a collective effort to learn from our past experience and that of partners from across the UK and Europe in the cultural game space. The workshops focused on prioritising inclusion, addressing the climate emergency and exploring sustainability. These thoughtful and meaningful discussions helped form bonds of friendship and care between participants as we collectively planned for the future. Additionally we also published the Festival Toolkit that is a concise and adaptable toolkit for festival producers in the videogame space and beyond.”

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From Spain, Eurídice Cabañes and Luca Carruba co-founders of ARSGames share a series of events they ran in Spain last year: GameArtopia , La Ciudad en Juego and Homo Ludens: videojuegos para entender el presente. GameArtopia is the first online catalog in the subgenre of Game Art and takes the form of a virtual playable archive of Catalan, Iberoamerican and International GameArt. La Ciudad en Juego is an invitation to look at the city from a videogame perspective and in doing so to think how about how to use the potential of play in order to play with the city and transform it. Homo Ludens: videojuegos para entender el presente was curated by Luca Carrubba and commissioned by Fundación la Caixa. The exhibition offers a new perspective on the concept of gamer, showing a videoludified world in which life and games converge more and more every day. Over forty artpieces are presented, including video games and works of art, in an interactive environment that turns the exhibition itself into a collective gaming experience.

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Isabelle Arvers, pioneer game arts curator shares her latest exhibition held at Espace Gantner, Belfort . The exhibit took inspiration from Ailton Krenak‘s works. “Currently the global games market is still dominated by Europe, the United States and Japan. The exhibition ‘Aux futurs ancestraux’ adopts a decolonial perspective on art and games in order to echo works conceived on the periphery of this global and globalizing culture. ‘Aux futurs ancestraux’ immerses us in other types of representations, cities, landscapes, narratives and cosmogonies, conceived and expressed in other languages, and seeks to decolonize our imagination through the co-construction of narratives born of the encounter between oral tradition, endogenous knowledge and the virtual universes of videogames.” The exhibit included photo installations, drawing, performance, video installations, immersive, interactive and videogames, inviting its audience to reconnect with what connects us to our ancestral futures: the living. Video here.

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Clara Hirschmanner one of the founders behind Play:Vienna tells us that “Play:Vienna is both an artist collective and a network. We create playful art, and host urban and pervasive games in Vienna since 2012. We regularly organize our community event, called the urban game clinic, in which we want to experiment with new game ideas and play together in the city. It is open for everyone to bring their own ideas, or to just come along and play. As play:vienna we want to give people the tools to investigate their own public spaces through play.”

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Lan Roed writes “our team got Heart Projector running again and we had a wonderful event last month! Heart Projector is a collective of Vancouver developers who curate and organize pop-up arcades. The arcades are often free and open to the public and encourage audiences to engage in experimental and artful videogame experiences. Our latest event was guest curated by Matt Hughson who develops new games for retro consoles on the subject of the local homebrew scene. We’re so happy to be back and sharing weird games with folks again!”

Subscribers to GAIN’s newsletter will have already received the highlight photo posts about our big events last year — but if you didn’t, you can check out our game arts curator symposium GAIA, our co-op comic launch, and our inaugural Toronto Games Week posts!

If you enjoyed this roundup, you might want to explore the 20152016, 2017, 2018, or 2019 posts! Do cool game arts stuff and would like to be included in a roundup next year (or possibly even this year, if we find the time to update this post)? Email us!