Alt, Queer and Underground: Silverstring helps bring altgames to Vancouver scene

The Heart Projector altgames arcade, August 27th 2016; photos by Anna Bradley

The Heart Projector altgames arcade, August 27th 2016; photos by Anna Bradley

There’s an open door in a brick wall. No one is around, but everywhere else in the district is factories barred by chain link fences, so the door must be the entrance to the Altgames Arcade. In the shadows of the concrete stairwell hang placards lit by rainbow LEDs. “The space you are in modifies and influences your behavior,” Claris Cyarron, the curator, warns you. “Architecture can be both empowerment and oppression, while queerness has no choice but to resist.” On the third floor you emerge into a space that looks just like a balmy 70s bungalow, complete with palms, billowing flower print curtains, wood paneling, and a tiled floor. The colourful guests fiddle with a dozen screens nested in piles of wires, navigating strange spaces in neon low poly brilliance.

This past Pride weekend in Vancouver, Silverstring Media’s own Claris Cyarron curated a collection of cutting-edge altgames by diverse creators. The bustling queer-themed showcase highlighted the groundbreaking artistic experimentation that defines the altgame genre.

As Claris says, "Creating new settings where event goers can be introduced to these games is an absolutely vital part of giving the altgames scene the longevity it deserves." The arcade was part of an ongoing series of alt-game meetups and events organized by Heart Projector, a local collective of developers and digital artists with a mission to showcase experimental and personal games.

There is a characteristic honesty in altgames which derives from their makers’ intentional rebellion against capitalist marketing and game-making traditions. The freedom of this new genre has been capturing the hearts of an ever-expanding audience on the west coast.

Titles selected include: Condor by Connor Sherlock, Upsolom by Granada, Rain House Eternity by Kitty Horrorshow, This World is Not My Home by Brenda Neotenomie and Porpentine Charity Heartscape, LIM by Merritt Kopas, Strawberry Cubes by Loren Schmidt, V r 1 by Pippin Barr, Curtain by Llaura Dreamfeel, Frank Nora and Rations, A Cosmic Forest by Titouan Millet, Proteus by Ed Key and David Kanaga, Gardenarium by Paloma Dawkins, Kyler Kelly and Ylang Ylang, Off Peak by Cosmo D and Archie Pelago, and by popular demand of the other organizers, Tectr by Silverstring Media.

This event was just one example of our Silverstring crew’s ongoing leadership in innovative art and games. The conversation will continue with Claris’s upcoming talk on October 22nd at the Vancouver-based Full Indie Summit. Claris will be speaking about the altgames “every developer should know,” covering themes of architecture and symbolism, the relationship of altgames to the modern art world, and how queerness is experienced against the backdrop to “normal” everyday life.

“Because of their foundational rejection of normative ideas, all altgames are in some way in conversation with queerness,” Cyarron wrote of the theme of the arcade. “Furthermore, many altgames creators identify as queer; thanks to the democratization of game-making tools, games are seeing an influx of diverse voices. Altgames are a new part of the long legacy of queer artworks.”

We are absolutely thrilled to have such an exciting, talented, and energetic group as Heart Projector organizing events specifically catering to outsider game art. For Claris, it was a pleasure and privilege to be their first guest curator. Thanks to Heart Projector for this amazing opportunity! We look forward to collaborating more with them in the future.

Grab tickets for the Full Indie Summit now at http://www.fullindiesummit.com/

Check out Heart Projector and sign up for their newsletter at http://heartprojector.com/

And of course check out our own altgames and other projects at http://silverstringmedia.com/studio/