SAAM Arcade 2023

The logo for SAAM Arcade at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

SAAM Arcade 2023 – Thinking Musically

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. This year’s Indie Showcase will highlight games that use music and sound design in engaging, experimental, and inventive ways, from classic rhythm games to musical puzzles to groundbreaking soundtracks.

This year’s Arcade is presented in celebration of the exhibition Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies. The exhibition explores the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music. The works on view 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 will take place in person on July 22, 2023 from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Visitors can enjoy classic console and arcade games, chat with indie game developers, and listen to video game music!

SAAM Arcade is 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

Learn More on the Blog

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 the current and past SAAM Arcade programs, explore the themes, and and learn more about what makes a game jam on the Eye Level blog

Read About Previous SAAM Arcade Events

SAAM Arcade 2022

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

SAAM Arcade returns to the Kogod Courtyard this year! Join SAAM for our beloved annual celebration of creativity and innovation in games. This year, we’re welcoming visitors back to the museum, featuring the 2022 Indie Developer Showcase and a curated selection of eight indie games presented by their developers! Visit the museum for a day full of new games as well as classic arcade and console games from MAGFest. A special scavenger hunt that connects video games and SAAM’s collections will be available at the information table.

For video game lovers who can’t make it in person, we’re also excited to announce our 2nd annual SAAM Arcade Game Jam!

Centered around the theme of  Color, Line and Form,  SAAM Arcade 2022 explores 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 centered around questioning 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 is 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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