One of my primary critiques of the New Arcade movement (and indeed of the contemporary art world in general in the last while), is a general lack of criticality. The rise of the "art party", a socialized form of institutional engagement, spilled out the institutions doors and in some ways became the primary mode of engagement for the New Arcade. This is something I most definitely implicate myself in as well. However, as time has gone on, I've been thinking about ways in which the casual, social atmosphere of the New Arcade could be integrated with a more critical mode of engagement. This was the primary rationale behind Salon Ludique. Co-Organized with a team of graduate students interested in learning event planning and curatorial practice, from the Technoculture, Art and Gaming Lab at Concordia University. Salon Ludique added a critical element to other New Arcade events: The Artist's Talk.
The idea was to create an event using all of the usual signifiers of the New Arcade: multiplayer or socially engaged works, social activity and networking.. but the caveat was that any artist participating had to give a 15-30 minute talk about the work they were showing. In addition to this, the events were programmed to show a smaller number of works, curated around a specific theme, rather than the broader concept of "indie games!" that marks many new arcade events. Thanks to funding from the TAG lab, we were able to bring artists from other locales in North America to show case their works. All three editions of Salon Ludique took place at Espace Fibre, an independent gallery / studio space in Montreal's Sud Ouest.
Salon Ludique 1: Soundscapes. More than simply highlighting the role of sound as a supporting media element in videogames, the works featured in this edition highlighted sound production as a integral part of the play experience. Salon Ludique 1 featured works and talks about Phosfiend (The 3D synthesizer game FRACT), Alice Effekt (A mod of the Indie Game Proteus, called Purgateus), and Foci+Loci (a live performance using Little Big Planet as digital electro-acoustic sound stages.
Salon Ludique 2: Frequencies. Drawing inspiration from critic Anita Sarkeesian's video program (Feminist Frequencies), and given the gendered backlash against her work, feminism and other gender issues within games from a hate group called Gamer Gate, we felt that it was necessary to address these issues by supporting the work of women who had been creating works that deal with issues of gender and sexuality. Salon Ludique 2 featured Tweed Couch Games (a game about touching and consent called In Tune), Nina Freeman (A game about youth and sexuality called How do you do it?), Rachel Weil aka Partytime Hexcellent (Homebrew NES games and hacks based on 80s 'pinkwashing'), and Corset Lore aka Tamara Yadao (Live Chipmusic Performance).
Salon Ludique 3: Dreams. This edition featured games by Montreal game makers who have been dealing with the theme of dreams, the absurd, and the surreal. Featured works (and talks) by: Paloma Dawkins (A surreal exploration game called Dream Warrior), KOOP Mode (VR surreal game about driving a truck in space, Please Don't Space Dog), Team Mouffe (A day dream simulator played inside a tent, called MOUFFE), and Ylang Ylang (live musical (ambient /drone performance)