LA Game Space helps video games grow

These two men want video games to evolve. Their LA Game Space will be a nonprofit center for video game art, design, and research. While waiting for Modern Warfare 4 and FIFA 14, maybe this is the real future of gaming?

Humans are meaning making machines, we like to understand how things work, we have to get to the bottom of things. If you do something for a while, you not only get better, but you naturally understand it better, start making sense of it.

Writing about video games and technology every day means I’m (hopefully) getting better at writing, but also gathering an understanding of the current state of the gaming industry and the opportunities and dangers that it presents in the future. A sensible internal story develops about this thing I spend so much time with.

These meta ideas only seep here and there when reviewing a product or game, to add some spice and a bigger picture. Today, however, I came across a project that matches my inner understanding of video games, so I have the opportunity to cut right to the chase.

LA Game Space is a project by Adam Robezzoli and Daniel Rehn, completed by an excellent Kickstarter campaign, which aims to create a center for video game art, design and research. More than helping newbie developers enter the industry, he wants to create a hotbed of creativity that redefines what a video game is – something more cultural, engaging, socially conscious, something more adult perhaps. ?

This kind of rhetoric was more than a little familiar and reminded me of some similar projects I’ve worked on – although my “in” has been the player or reviewer’s point of view rather than the developer’s. I did my best to communicate this in my TEDx talk titled “Sustainable Perspectives on Video Games”. In it, I’m suggesting that we need to talk about games in a new way – approaching meaning as well as entertainment – and I’ve tried to make my point with the various musicians, playwrights and comedians I work with to produce unusual responses to games (of which I’ve included an example below). LA Game Space seems to be doing the exact same thing, albeit subverting the expectations of developers as well as gamers.

The response to my speech was not what I expected. First, Exeter Cathedral invited me to put my money where my mouth was and incorporate a video game into their Sunday service, not something I saw coming. Others, who I expected to be more savvy, didn’t quite get my “games can mean something” perspective. Even a recent TED blog on The 7 Benefits of Gambling still focused on self-improvement rather than meaning as the best way to justify gambling.

As LA Game Space co-founder Rehn says, “We share a desire to expand the notion of what games can be and who plays them. A big part of our efforts at LA Game Space will be to develop the “video game” both in terms of content and audience.”

More formally, LA Game Space is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary center for art, design, and research. It will explore the potential and expand the possibilities of video games through residencies, exhibitions, research labs, conferences and workshops. Although based in the Los Angeles Arts District, it aims to provide access to these resources to everyone through online participation.

Although less obvious, Rehn explained how the project wanted to engage with more than just developers. “We are also a public non-profit organization with more than half of our space dedicated to exhibitions. Although our daily existence has a rotating artist residency, we will also have regular exhibitions where anyone can come and play. /discover new gaming experiences. Like you, we wanted these exhibits to reach gamers and non-gamers alike, and semantically break down what it means to be someone who plays games into a million pieces.

The type of support that LA Game Space will offer is not new to the industry. Flower, Journey and more recently The Unfinished Swan are games that have benefited from Sony’s foresight to support smaller developers. But that’s the exception to the rule, and most developers have to take the well-trodden path of mainstream game genres if they want to attract publishers and, ultimately, an audience.

In many ways it reminds me of the work that the Game City festival in Nottingham UK does to engage the general public with game creators. They’ve taken the cultural market a step further with the Game City Prize which relies on a panel of distinguished judges (outside the gaming world) to choose a top game each year.

It’s the cultural possibilities of video games, suggested by these sorts of projects, that keep me interested in playing games – as well as the overall enjoyment of the hobby. I can’t wait to see what comes out of LA Game Space in particular. If you like the sound too, there’s still time to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign (and receive their super bundle of 30 indie games).

I leave you with two videos, one on LA Game Space from David Surman and an example of a creative video game response from Rebecca Mayes. Both benefit from being touched by Silent Hill, and both suggest the games can be more than they already were. Why not play both together?

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