SAAM Arcade: Game Changers

Celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment by highlighting women’s narratives and contributions to the video games industry

Playing video games at SAAM Arcade.

Gamers at SAAM Arcade; photo by Bruce Guthrie, 2015

Staying home during the pandemic, though fraught with uncertainty, has also been an opportunity for me to catch up on lots of different types of media. I know not everyone has been as lucky. For me, the last few months have been filled with reading books and articles, watching the newest television series, listening to music and podcasts, and playing lots of video games, which I consider part of my job.

Every summer, we host a celebration of video games as art. This year, SAAM Arcade is going digital August 1-2 when will share a selection of indie games, films about video game development, and other fun, family-friendly content on our website. SAAM Arcade 2020 will celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment by highlighting women’s narratives and contributions to the video games industry—often underrepresented as both creators and consumers in the field, we wanted to highlight women developers, digital artists, protagonists, and players. As a female gamer myself, I love playing games that highlight stories like my own and allow me to see women represented both in gameplay and the credits.

At SAAM, we love video games—we think that they are an incredible medium for interactive storytelling, and we’re proud to have video games in our time-based media art collection. Games create a direct bridge between creator and consumer—a video game is only a complete piece of media when it is played, and can evoke a huge range of emotional responses that are only prompted by that necessary interaction. In tough times, I find games to be a source of joy—they can make me laugh and give me a sense of achievement—but they are also a space for developers to tell deep, complex stories and engage the player’s sense of empathy and understanding. Stepping into the shoes of a protagonist who doesn’t look or sound like me can open me up to a greater sense of compassion; creating a player-character who shares my features can make me feel seen and heard.

As we gear up for the Arcade, I wanted to share some of what my colleagues and I have been playing at home. Below are some of our favorites from the last few months:

Animal Crossing: New Horizons – It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s the closest I’m going to get to a tropical vacation in 2020! Animal Crossing is probably 2020’s cutest video game, and as both a gamer and a museum-lover, digging up fossils and discovering cool bugs and fish on my island has been a real treat.

Half-Life: Alyx – Released just this spring, Half Life: Alyx tells the story of Alyx Vance, a scientist tasked with researching an evil alien and fighting to rescue her father. If you’ve got a VR set-up at home and you’d like to invite a little sci-fi horror action into your routine, check this title out!

Monument Valley 2 – An oldie but a goodie, as they say! Monument Valley 2 tells the story of a mother and her child as they adventure through M.C. Escher-inspired levels. The sweet, moving visuals and beautiful music are elements I go back to again and again— and there aren’t many mobile games that can match the satisfaction of helping the protagonist, Ro, solve a challenging and complicated puzzle.

What Remains of Edith Finch – This classic indie point-and-click is something friends have recommended to me over the years, but I never had time to dig into it! This spooky, beautiful game is easy to play—if you’re a fan of The Haunting of Hill House or American Horror Story, you’ll probably like this game.

During the two-day virtual SAAM Arcade 2020, enjoy exclusive limited-time access to play games featured in our Indie Developer Showcase, register for special screenings of the feature-length documentaries Indie Game: The Movie and Not for Resale, and let your creativity shine with step-by-step instructions for video game–inspired crafting at home.