Free public event highlights connections between art and video games through ‘Colour, Line and Form’
The Smithsonian American Art Museum invites visitors to its ninth annual “SAAM Arcade” to explore how video games act as a vehicle to expand the way Americans tell and experience stories. This free, in-person public event returns to the Kogod Courtyard in the museum’s main building on Saturday, July 30, from 11:30am to 7pm ET.
The theme of this year’s Arcade is ‘Colour, Line and Form’, exploring the essential elements of visual expression. American Armenian artist Arshile Gorky said, “Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.” When people break something down to its most basic characteristics, innovation and creativity emerge in new and unexpected ways. Game developers use these same basic elements to create an interactive experience for players, relying on color, line, and shape to tell complex narratives and engage a wide audience. SAAM Arcade is part of the museum’s ongoing commitment to the study and interpretation of video games as part of the nation’s visual culture.
A variety of games will be available to play in the Kogod Courtyard, and the centerpiece of the program is the Indie Developer Showcase, which features eight games that embody the idea of color, line and shape to create unique experiences for developers, players and observers. The museum will showcase offerings such as “Cai Cai Balão,” highlighting dazzling Brazilian hot air balloons, while “Chicory: A Colorful Tale” encourages players to create art with their own paintbrushes, emphasizing the importance of color. Clean lines and shapes are the focus of “Space Hole 2020”, while “Manifold Garden” is based on various forms of architecture, and “If Found” returns players to basic black and white drawings. The importance of form can be found in “Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield” and “Treachery in Beatdown City”, games that showcase the agility and acrobatic movements of the human form. Finally, “Gallery Zium” connects art and video games by incorporating collections from various museums into their presentation.
More than 20 games were considered under the theme of Color, Line, and Form, and the final selections were selected by Saisha Grayson, Time-Based Media Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Chris Totten, Assistant Professor in the Modeling, Animation and Game Design Program at Kent State University and founder of Pie for Breakfast Studios; and museum staff.
Attendees will also be able to play classic arcade and console games from MAGFest, and there will also be a special Art Quest that connects video games to objects in the museum’s collection at the information table. Detailed event information and a full list of featured games are available on the museum’s website. Additional commentary on this year’s theme is posted on the museum’s blog, Eye Level, by Lauren Kolodkin, program coordinator for the SAAM Arcade.
The museum is hosting the second annual Game Jam, an open online event where anyone of any skill level can submit their own game. Participants can work independently or in groups; there are no size limits for Arcade 2022 Game Jam. Participants do not need to register in advance and can join the jam by simply creating an itch.io account and uploading their game to the SAAM Arcade 2022 Game Jam page. In addition to this year’s SAAM Arcade theme, the museum also encourages participants to draw inspiration from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection and tap into the extraordinary creativity and diversity of American voices as they create games for this jam. Rules, guidelines and frequently asked questions about sweets are available on the itch.io museum page and website. The game runs from Thursday, July 28 to Monday, August 1, as aspiring developers and artists create brand new video and board games centered around the theme of community and individuality. On Monday, August 1st, all games submitted to the SAAM Arcade 2022 Game Jam will be available for the public to discover and play for free, indefinitely, on itch.io.
The museum partnered with IGDA DC, the local Washington, DC chapter of the Independent Game Developers Association, to host and moderate a dedicated Discord server during the jam. Discord is one of the most popular ways of online communication between gamers. It allows friends, teammates, colleagues and individuals to connect with other SAAM Arcade participants directly via voice, video or text. IGDA DC will offer technical assistance to participants and help the long-standing SAAM Arcade community come together virtually to develop new and innovative games.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a leader in the study of the impact and artistry of video games and was one of the first art museums in the United States to acquire video games as part of its permanent collection. Video games create immersive participatory and social spaces, imagined by artists and designers and enabled by players whose individual interactions are uniquely necessary to complete the experience. SAAM Arcade highlights this aspect of video game appreciation by encouraging hands-on engagement and personal exchange between independent developers, gamers and new audiences.
SAAM Arcade is made possible by the generous support of Events DC. Media sponsorship has been secured from Washington City Paper.
For the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the most significant and comprehensive collections of American art in the world. His works reveal the rich artistic and cultural history of America from the colonial period to the present day. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets NW, above the Gallery Place/Chinatown subway station, and is open from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary crafts and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW and is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Timed entry passes are required to visit both locations. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Museum Information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.