Game Lab at the Smithsonian American Art Museum 2016

Gaming Grabs Spotlight at Indie Arcade in Washington, DC

Getting a master’s degree in a cultural hotbed such as Washington, DC, has its perks, including many opportunities to take schoolwork into unexpected places. For American University’s MA in Game Design students, one of the most unique and hands-on events of the year is the annual Indie Arcade, hosted by the AU Game Lab and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM).

Much like other art media, video games have become more broadly accepted as art, not just code. Games represent the convergence of technology; interaction; and, quite simply, fun. The 2016 event had an audience of 11,755 visitors. Beyond simply showcasing cool games, this event seeks to give games their place among famous artworks by presenting them both as engaging and expressive.

“Indie Arcade is one of the largest events of its type in the country, providing students exposure to other game makers, a diverse set of players from all over the country, and a sense of community which is aligned to one of the greatest art museums in the country,” said AU Game Lab Director Lindsay Grace. The Game Lab helped create the event and hosts a booth highlighting recent projects developed by faculty and students.

People playing a game at the Indie Arcade event.

This year’s event is Aug. 5-6 at the museum’s main building, where a variety of arcade cabinets and consoles will be set up and displaying a wide variety of new games. Professors and students from the Game Lab help put on the Indie Arcade, from judging more than 150 indie game submissions to helping with promotion and staffing.

Robert Hone, a game design professional and professor at AU, said the Indie Arcade provides an invaluable opportunity for students to see how different people react to their work.

“These experiences help expose the students to the myriad ways people interact with the user interfaces of game designs and the level of engagement their designs produce,” Hone said.

The Indie Arcade and similar events also introduce abundant networking opportunities, which help students plan for the future and improve their game design skills.

“An event like Indie Arcade provides a ‘closed loop’ of demo and feedback that is crucial to iterative game design and development,” Hone said.

Learn More About the Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian

Find out more about the upcoming Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian: americanart.si.edu/calendar/saam-arcade/

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