We’re at a point of complete global saturation. Pull up #gamedev on Twitter and look: endless, infinite talent, as far as the eye can see. How many of these people have you never heard of? How many of them still have relatively large fan followings? A body of work full of fresh ideas and plentiful things worth talking about? It’s far too common for many a creator to be overlooked in the sea of digital detritus. Other than providing platforms for their work, places of discussion and promotion, these multifaceted crowds can become a mass of the unknown.
So, what’s there to do? I would argue one such solution is being explored online and in physical locales, their impact proving worthwhile in exposing more people to the work of others that they may have otherwise never seen. The solution: digital art galleries or collections. For those tastemakers among us, curating is a forever rewarding endeavor. For instance, take a peek at the Triennale Game Collection, a fantastic group of games if there ever was one. It’s really a tour de force of imagination that features work from, in no particular order, Mario von Rickenbach & Christian Etter (@any_user/@etterstudio) , Tale of Tales (@taleoftales), Cardboard Computer (@cardboardcompy), Pol Clarissou (@polclarissou), and Everest Pipkin (@everestpipkin). While some of these fine folks had already found a foothold in the industry, others were up-and-comers who now have some serious releases under their belt: Rickenbach having created KIDS, and Clarissou being part of the team that did Vignettes.
For the 2016 XXI Triennale International Exhibition in Milan. It was showcased to show off the cutting-edge of video games at the time, as well as the future of the medium. Playing it well after the fact, it’s easy to fantasize about how perfectly each entry would fit within a gallery space, the context of which frames these games as something to engage with in a more critical sense. The playfulness, exciting visuals, and experimentation of each compliment one another, creating a cohesive whole that very much serves the purpose of a snapshot into the emergent artistic movements within indie development at the time and stretching into today.
Each game is wholly unique: Il Filo Conduttore (Rickenbach & Etter) is a short interactive film about a variety of playful interactions with a pullcord. Loci Omnes Caelesistis Kyries (or L.O.C.K., Tale of Tales) plainly lays itself out as a machine housing the entirety of the universe laid out geocentrically, with Earth at the core you spin a wheel that moves you outward to the vast edges, or back inward to terra firma. Neighbor (Cardboard Computer) takes a snapshot of a world, a man living in a mystic crater in the desert, and tosses you into the mundanity of it all. Days pass as you wander the crater, tending to plants and creating aloe salves, meditating, writing poems, passing those poems off during the occasional visit from your friend Sam, or making offerings to the transmogifier to see what is given in return. A Glass Room (Clarissou) collects a slideshow of photos projected against the walls of an empty room, with a radio dial and flickering imagery superimposed on it. You can navigate these slides by pulling in different directions, exploring a maze of memory while tuning the radio to catch glimpses of life on the other end.
My personal favorite is The Worm Room from Pipkin, a greenhouse generator that you can endlessly walk through. Its straightforward design and striking visuals against silence punches through the other experiences, creating something bespoke and calming. It’s meditative, a place of contemplation, and in the context of the gallery, perhaps the place to unwind from what must surely be a busy exhibition, or an opportunity to think over the other games without the unwavering din of others.
While the Triennale International Exhibition isn’t explicitly a games show, and its Game Collection seeming to be something of a one-off, there are several other events that exist for the sole purpose of curating and showing off interesting work, giving them quite the signal boost to break through all the noise. Juegos Rancheros/Fantastic Arcade provide a frequent venue to showcase whatever projects have caught the eyes of its curators. Even the Portland Indie Game Squad plays host to many an event that allows local creators to show off their work.
These types of collections and events need not be based in the physical nor do they need to serve only games; The Zium Museum and The Zium Garden provide a much-needed space for digital artists to thrive. Here are two art galleries within executables, ones in which a user can explore halls and rooms in first-person, creating unique sculptures or artistic expressions that couldn’t exist elsewhere. There’s also The Museum of Other Realities which does a lot of what the Zium titles do but within a VR space that updates frequently like any other brick and mortar gallery or museum.
With so many wonderful outlets for this necessary space that artists and creators can thrive in, what more is there to say? Keep the visions for these places alive, they’re desperately special and need to continue for the sake of the medium. Promote the work of others you know, curate and tastemake your own collection, host an event. Too many voices fall to the wayside of the infinite scroll of the timeline. Make them heard.
The Triennale Game Collection is available on Steam.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.