While debate persists over the merit of video games an art form, the medium has reached an undeniable milestone: the emergence of an active counter-culture.
Enter Babycastles—an independent video game collective, housed within a lively exhibition space on the border between Brooklyn and Queens. When the collective hosted an exhibition in Manhattan last October, we covered its first round of games. Founded by game developers Kunal Gupta and Syed Salahuddin, Babycastles operates in intentional opposition to the standards and practices of the commercial games' industry: no focus-testing, no expansive developmental budgets, no home entertainment suites and no isolation among players. The games showcased at the collective are rough, strange, and—most importantly—meant to be played with a group.
One frequent visitor to the space described the atmosphere of Babycastles as follows:
"A lot of new games are about immersion. That's because of the disappearance of the arcade. A lot of people play games in their living room or in their bedroom by themselves....[here] you're surrounded by people. Maybe there's music. Maybe there's some other kind of art exhibition going on....it's really about the experience you're having with the game and other people in the same room."
B.U.T.T.O.N is a game in which a group of players are kept in suspense, guessing at an objective—will the winner be the first to press a button on the Xbox controller? The fifth? When the goal flicks across the screen, the players rush at one another and the controller bank, wildly reinventing the nature of the experience each round.
While millions are poured into highly-detailed—and admittedly, highly-polished—video game products by the mainstream industry machinery, Gupta and Salahuddin are demonstrating (in an indie, raucous sort of way) that there are still fresh avenues in the medium for fun.
Motherboard TV: Babycastles, the DIY Arcade [Motherboard] (Thanks, Joshua!)