SAAM Arcade

The back of a child's head with a video game in front of them.

Photo by Darren Milligan. 

Online, Saturday August 1 – Sunday August 2, 2020

We have moved our annual SAAM Arcade activities online! During this two-day virtual program, explore how video games act as a medium for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories. Enjoy exclusive limited-time access to play games featured in our Indie Developer Showcase. Sign up for a special screening of the feature-length documentaries Indie Game: The Movie and Not for Resale. Let your creativity shine with step-by-step instructions for video game–inspired crafting at home.

SAAM Arcade is made possible in part by generous support from the Director’s Circle. Media sponsorship provided by Washington City Paper.

Indie Developer Showcase: Game Changers

The 2020 SAAM Arcade Indie Developer Showcase honors the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage. Each of our featured games explores the role of women in affecting major change in society, the political sphere, and the gaming industry.

The struggle to change the status quo has always been present in video games. Many of the most notable relationships in game narratives are centered on the underestimated individual, striving against the dominant force. The most iconic game characters—Mario, Lara Croft, Ms. Pac-Man—face ongoing struggles that can only be overcome by a combination of resourcefulness, skill, and tireless dedication. The American mythos shares this legacy with video games. Our nation’s greatest heroes go against the grain, fighting to create a better world for themselves, their friends, families, and the American people.

The fight for women’s suffrage was not the first fight for American rights, nor was it the last. To this day, we look to great reformers and activists as American heroes and celebrate individuals who stand up against tyranny and injustice and work toward a better future for themselves and their descendants.

The games featured in our Indie Developer Showcase are either made by women, feature women’s narratives, or memorialize women’s history in America. Check out each of these game-changing developers and the stories they share through their work.

Each game featured in the Indie Developer Showcase is appropriate for all ages.

A screen capture of a video game

When Rivers Were Trails

Developers: Elizabeth LaPensee, Nichlas Emmons, and Weshoyot Alvitre

When Rivers Were Trails is a 2D point-and-click adventure game that reveals the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities in the 1890s. Developed with the collaboration of two Indigenous women, Elizabeth LaPensee and Weshoyot Alvitre, this game features gameplay focusing on strong women and two-spirit Indigenous characters. Over thirty Indigenous writers contributed to character scenarios, each speaking to the importance of recognizing Indigenous voices in video games.

A photograph of a table top game

Starsmith

Developers: Catherine Croft, Keegan Herschel, Gabriel Lewis, Elizabeth Cherry, Lisa Harrison, Eeshan Joshi, Xander Schaaf, and Oliver Steenman

Starsmith is a dice-rolling battle game where players act as popular constellations from the night’s sky to capture elements from the galaxy to build their own stars. Players take on the role of constellations with female and male namesakes who duel each other through dice rolling and card drafting. Embedded within the game are concepts of chemistry and STEM, which allow players to learn without realizing it throughout the game. Created by a female neuroscientist and game designer with a passion for board games, this creative, non-violent battle game represents gender equality, with equal distributions of roles despite the overwhelming dominance of male-attributed constellations present in the night sky. Play Starsmith online or print-and-play with a ten-sided die.

An image of a person looking at themselves

Half

Developer: Emma Kidwell

Half is a text-based game that touches on the struggle of identity growing up mixed-race, where players walk through the experiences of a mixed-race woman. Half examines the nuances and complexities that come with being on the fringe of two identities through personal anecdotes. Developed using the open-source tool Twine, this text-based game emphasizes plot and storytelling as a vehicle for progress gameplay. This model allows the developer’s story to take precedence over aggressive gameplay mechanics and visuals.

A screen capture of a video game

The Girl With The Gray Hair Awakens

Developers: Heiden

The Girl With The Gray Hair Awakens is a game of perseverance and resilience. Play as a girl who wakes up in a room with no memory, forced to investigate her surroundings to piece together what previously transpired. Inevitably during gameplay, the player will encounter a death scene, forcing them back to the main menu. When the player starts again, the character and surroundings shift slightly. Only by playing through multiple times and persevering through multiple failures will the girl, and the player, finally reach the true ending to accomplish great things.

A photograph of two people holding hands.

AVA

Developers: Tabea Iseli, Dominik Wolfinger, Dragica Kahlina, Stjepan Lukac, and Lauren Moses 

AVA is a tarot card game that features puzzles hidden within a picture, which must be solved. There is an emphasis on aesthetics, story, and music while the game mechanics are kept simple. The game’s fairy-tale narrative explores issues of gender, discrimination, prejudice, and mental health. Players will be able to engage with topics and subjects raised by the game in a passive and safe environment and use online social systems to invoke discussion and debate among players. AVA shows that games can be poetic, nonviolent, and tell a wholesome, touching story that promotes empathy and understanding. Available for download in the IOS and Android app store.

Film Screening

A post of a film

Film Screening — Indie Game: The Movie 

August 1, 7:00 PM ET 

Have you thought of developing your own game? Join us for a screening of Indie Game: The Movie, the first feature documentary film about making video games. Follow the stories of four indie game developers, who sacrifice money, health, and sanity to realize their lifelong dream of expressing themselves through video games and share their creative vision with the world. Directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot; Not Rated (86 minutes; 2019) 

A film poster

Film Screening — Not for Resale 

August 2, 7:00 PM ET

Are you playing more video games these days? How are you buying your games? Join us for a special screening of Not for Resale. This feature-length documentary examines how the decline of physical media and the rise of digital distribution has affected the gaming industry and presented a new set of challenges for everyone, from retail stores to independent game developers. Directed by Kevin J. James; Not Rated (94 minutes; 2019)

Crafting at Home

Do you love video games? Do you have some extra cardboard boxes lying around the house? Bring the world of video games to life with these simple crafts. Depending on how large of a creation you want to make, this craft should take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

Since we can’t admire your creativity in person, please share a picture of your completed creations by using #AtSAAM on social media.

Create Your Own Pixel Artwork

A heart craft

Supplies needed: 

  • Scissors
  • Cardboard Box
  • Glue
  • Markers/Crayons/Colored Pencils

On a piece of paper, plan out the pixel design you want to make.

Cut out two pieces of cardboard and draw a grid onto both pieces.

Once you have drawn the grid on each sheet of cardboard, cut out the individual squares on the first sheet of cardboard. On the second sheet, mark where each pixel will be placed.

Glue pixels to your carboard sheet.

Color in each pixel.

Create Your Own Shield

A craft shield

Supplies needed:

  • Scissors
  • Cardboard Box
  • Glue Markers/Crayons/Colored Pencils

Print out the shield template.

Cut out the shield template.

Paint the shield.

On the Blog

Eye Level, July 28, 2020, "SAAM Arcade: Game Changers"
Eye Level, July 31, 2020, "SAAM Arcade: Focus on Women in the Video Games Industry"

SAAM Arcade 2019

Last year's theme, “breaking barriers,” showcased projects that recognize and relish the diversity of gaming audiences, allowing a wide-array of players to see themselves and their interests reflected on screen.

At SAAM, we believe that video games are a medium that has a great capacity for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories. We also believe that this potential will only be fully realized when game makers, players, characters, companies and cultures are diverse and when all participants receive equitable and respectful treatment within these communities. SAAM Arcade strives to highlight traditionally underrepresented segments within the gaming world by celebrating diversity within this artistic medium.

2019 Keynote Talk

Tanya DePass: Barriers Are Meant to be Destroyed, Not Just Broken

2019 Blog Posts

Eye Level, June 27, 2019, "SAAM Arcade: Breaking Barriers"
Eye Level, July 11, 2019, “SAAM Arcade: Empathy in Gaming
Eye Level, July 30, 2019, “SAAM Arcade 2019: Representation Matters
Eye Level, August 15, 2019, “Game Over: Images from SAAM Arcade 2019

Contact Us

For more information, email us at SAAMArcade@si.edu

This is the logo for SAAM Arcade in blue.