SAAM Arcade 2024

The logo for SAAM Arcade at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

SAAM Arcade 2024 – Adventure Awaits

Come see the world with SAAM Arcade 2024! This year, SAAM Arcade showcases games which allow us to travel to and explore new places. As many of us seek new and exciting experiences, video games provide us with the opportunity to see both real and imagined places from new perspectives. The theme of travel and exploration focuses on the ways games make travel an exciting possibility and engages us with new experiences—all through the work of coding and design.  

SAAM Arcade will feature classic arcade games and a selection of games from independent developers that provide us an escape from everyday life, allow us to travel to new and possibly uncharted worlds, and give us the experience of a lifetime, all from a comfortable chair.  

Join us in the Kogod Courtyard on Saturday, July 27, 2024, for SAAM Arcade to see, play, and explore. 

Learn More on SAAM Stories

Media - 2013.70 - SAAM-2013.70_1 - 91035

Jenova Chen, Kellee Santiago, Flower, 2007, video game for SONY PS3, color, sound, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of thatgamecompany, 2013.70, © 2008 Sony Computer Entertainment American LLC. Flower is a registered trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment America LLC. Developed by thatgamecompany.

Read more about past SAAM Arcade programs, explore the themes, and and learn more about what makes a game jam.

Past SAAM Arcade Events

SAAM Arcade 2023

Saturday, July 22, 2023 from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Turn the volume up for SAAM Arcade 2023! Music and sound design are essential elements in the gaming experience. A soaring soundtrack engages players and draws them into the game narrative; a charming 8-bit tune reminds players of hours spent with friends and family, overcoming challenging puzzles and defeating extraordinary opponents. Music can act as a building block for game worlds and a mechanic for navigating those worlds through rhythm and repetition. In 2023 the Indie Showcase highlighted games that use music and sound design in engaging, experimental, and inventive ways, from classic rhythm games to musical puzzles to groundbreaking soundtracks.

SAAM Arcade 2023 was presented in celebration of the exhibition Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies. The exhibition explored the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music. The works from the exhibition use musical tools to explore the American experience, including lyrics, scoring, improvisation, and cultural references. Like the works of video art highlighted in the galleries, games employ the same toolkit to evoke emotional responses and communicate the game’s story, values, and goals.

SAAM Arcade 2023 was made possible with generous support from the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation and the Julie Walters and Sam Rose Endowment.

SAAM Arcade Schedule
Quiet Hours (reduced sound in the space)
11:30 am‑1:30 pm
Performance by Triforce Quartet
2:30 pm‑4:30 pm
DJ Dark Prime and DJ Plynk
5:45 pm‑6:45 pm
Ongoing Activities including:
Classic Games from MAGFest
Side Quest
Art Quest throughout the building
Independent Developer Showcase
11:30 am‑7:00 pm

SAAM Arcade 2022

Saturday, July 30, 2022 at 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

SAAM Arcade returned in person to the Kogod Courtyard in 2022. SAAM Arcade is a beloved annual celebration of creativity and innovation in games. 2022 welcomed visitors back to the museum, featuring the Indie Developer Showcase and a curated selection of eight indie games presented by their developers. Visitors enjoyed a day full of new games, classic arcade and console games from MAGFest, as well as a special scavenger hunt that connected video games and SAAM’s collections.

For video game lovers who can’t make it in person, the museum hosted the 2nd annual SAAM Arcade Game Jam.

Centered around the theme of  Color, Line and Form,  SAAM Arcade 2022 explored the essential elements of visual expression. Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky said “abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.” When we break something down into its most basic features, innovation and creativity emerge in new and unexpected ways. Game developers use these same essential elements to create an interactive experience for players, relying on color, line and form to tell complex narratives and engage broad audiences.

SAAM Arcade has always questioned the boundaries of art and 2022 is no different. If  Color, Line and Form are the essential elements of visual expression, what are the essential elements of a game? Is it the code or the control? What about the rules or rewards? SAAM is proud to display independent games that reimagine how color, line, and form can be used to create unique experiences for developers, players, and observers.  

SAAM Arcade 2022 was made possible by the generous support of Events DC. 

What is an Indie Game?

At SAAM, we define an indie game as a game that has not been produced with support from or published by a major games publisher. However, we like to keep our definition broad and invite a variety of developers—from single individuals who create in their spare time to game development teams or studios with existing ties to the industry—so everyone can participate in and enjoy SAAM Arcade’s Indie Developer Showcase. At past SAAM Arcade events, we’ve hosted games from university game labs, developers who are still in high school, professional game developers, and artists who create interactive experiences. 

SAAM Arcade 2020

Online, Saturday August 1 – Sunday August 2, 2020

In 2020 SAAM moved its annual SAAM Arcade activities online. During this two-day virtual program, participants were able to explore how video games act as a medium for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories. We offered exclusive limited-time access to play the latest independent games featured in our Indie Developer Showcase. Additionally a special screening of the feature-length documentaries Indie Game: The Movie and Not for Resale premiered online. Finally, families were encouraged to let their creativity shine with step-by-step instructions for video game–inspired crafting at home.

SAAM Arcade 2019

Kogod Courtyard, Saturday, August 3 – Sunday, August 4, 2019

The SAAM Arcade 2019 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.

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