Submit your work for SAAM Arcade 2018: Game on!

SAAM Arcade attendees playing video games in the Kogod Courtyard. (Daniel Schwartz Photography, 2017)

It’s that time again! The Smithsonian American Art Museum is inviting all independent video game developers to submit their work to the museum's fourth annual SAAM Arcade. This program is part of the museum's ongoing commitment to the study and interpretation of video games as part of the national visual culture. We believe video games inspire interaction between players and creators and offer a compelling performance space, activated by artists and players alike. Our groundbreaking exhibition, The Art of Video Games (2012), was one of the first to explore the evolution of video games as an artistic medium.

This year, we’re asking for independent developers to submit games that align with a special theme: GAME SPACES. This theme was devised by Christopher W. Totten, game designer and author of An Architectural Approach to Level Design, who will also lead the panel of judges in determining which submissions will be invited to exhibit at SAAM Arcade. Below, hear from Chris directly about his take on the idea of “Game Spaces” and what this theme will mean for submissions:

“Interactive media engages audiences with an array of spaces—artistic, public, and social—that capture the imagination and bring us together. This summer, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will focus on “game spaces” as a connecting idea that links video games to art, architecture, and the museum as a space for discovery and engagement. Games entered should have a topic, design, or features that fit into one [or more] of these areas:

  1. Games that make interesting use of space, board, or level design or which use these types of design as a standout feature of the game itself;
  2. Games that transform the real-world spaces in which they are played;
  3. Games that are inspired by or that inspire a strong community or social space.”
Gamers taking part in SAAM Arcade 2017

A developer, at right, helps a visitor play his indie game at SAAM Arcade. (Daniel Schwartz Photography, 2017)

This year, we’ll be bringing back coding workshops, arcade cabinets and console games that highlight the history of video gaming, and other great opportunities to explore unique games throughout the museum. Plus, we’re hosting the Arcade on Sunday, July 22, 2018, in celebration of what would have been media artist Nam June Paik's 86th birthday (July 20, 1932). Paik’s groundbreaking works also challenge notions of what art can be—and how technology and art can intersect to transform the museum into a space of wonder, sensory experience and interactivity.

Students and professionals alike are encouraged to apply. To submit your game, fill out this form by April 16, 2018. The form will ask you to provide a playable demo of your game along with screenshots, a short description, and any exhibition requirements. For questions about the submission process or about SAAM Arcade, contact

Selected developers will be notified by May 31. Last year, nearly 40 independent developers were featured at SAAM Arcade, but this year the judging will be more competitive with fewer finalists selected. A small stipend will be offered to developers that are asked to attend SAAM Arcade. Games will be juried by a panel chosen by DC's IGDA chapter along with the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

We look forward to receiving your submission!

Lauren Kolodkin, coordinator of SAAM Arcade 2018, is external affairs assistant at SAAM.