SCREENSHAKE 2017: gaming is for everyone

CategoriesArt, Life
Tagsfestival, gaming
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As far as gaming goes, I’m a total noob (am I even using this word right?). My favourite games include Tetris, Geochallenge (please Facebook, bring it back!) and of course The Sims.

So, I didn’t know what to expect from Screenshake. What does indie gaming even mean? I went and figured it out. After this amazing weekend, I would almost go as far as saying I am changed forever. At least my vision of gaming will never be the same again. Let me tell you all about it. Or just check out our after movie.

Screenshake is an arts festival that showcases the medium of video games, the only one of its kind in Belgium, with the main focus on indie games. Video gaming is, according to the people at Screenshake, the 21st century’s most revolutionary medium. And I’m inclined to believe them. The festival offers the perfect opportunity to get a glimpse of what this medium has to offer. So even if you’re not a game developer or already part of the indie game community, this festival has a lot to offer.

The indie game community

If you’re like me, you’ll have no clue what to image when people talk about ‘indie games’. But I found just that out for you. Indie games is short for independent games. They are often smaller games, but with a more personal touch and more innovative.

Bram Michielsen, one of the founders of Screenshake, likes to compare it to arthouse cinema. Rather than focusing on a mass market audience indie games are developed for a small niche market. But this ‘niche market’ is a real community which is very welcoming and open to everyone. The organisational team of Screenshake is passionate about diversity and they try to convey that in their program. And this is only one of many reasons why we now love Screenshake.

“The people at Screenshake make an effort to encourage people of different sexualities, different nationalities, people who are more diverse than the usual games industry get together, to participate. But they don’t make a big show out of it,” dixit Kate Gray, gaming journalist for The Guardian and a speaker at Screenshake.

Other speakers also had nothing but kind words for Screenshake, like Heather Kelley, a game designer and professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “It’s pretty amazing, I don’t know how many generic happy phrases I can use to describe Screenshake. I’m really impressed by the programming, it’s a very interesting change of pace from what you might expect from the usual games conference”.

How I learned to love gaming

One of the events at Screenshake is a game expo. In a custom build arcade hall, you can play over twenty different games and see for yourself what the world of indie gaming is all about. If you think gaming isn’t for you, just go ahead and try a few games here. You’ll changed your mind quickly.

There’s also a Belgian game expo, which showcases different games every day with one thing in common: games developed by Belgians. Because there’s always a little room for Belgian pride, no?

One of the Belgian games we loved was Losing Control, by Lisa Janssens. In this game the importance of negative emotions is highlighted. Lisa created this game as a reminder that feeling bad isn’t necessarily a bad thing, those feelings can have importance and most of all aren’t permanent.

This is just one example of an indie game, because this title covers a wide spectrum of different games. There is only one way to understand all that is covered by this title: go to Screenshake 2018.

Self-care is important

During Screenshake you can also catch a few talks. Think Ted talks about gaming. I was curious and had a listen. I learned that a lot of games don’t have a goal, like many of the games I knew before (which aren’t that many) do have. You have to save a princess, collect money or get your blocks nicely lined up.

Some gamers don’t particularly like all that pressure and the adrenaline that comes with it. That’s why games are being developed that help you to take some time off, enjoy the experience and help you take care of yourself. “Self-care is important,” as Kate Gray said during her talk, “and I hope games can continue to help us do that”. I only recently learned about these types of games, but I couldn’t agree with Kate more.

Lieve Oma is a game like that. Developed by Florian Veltman as a tribute to his grandmother. In this game, you have a walk with your grandmother in the forest, you pick mushrooms and talk about your day. There’s no end goal, there’s no winning, you just walk and talk with your grandmother and that’s more than enough.

In another talk, I learned that games can teach a lot about other cultures and can show the world in ways you haven’t thought about. A beautiful example of this, was a game about the 2014 Gaza war that was demonstrated during the talk. Instead of the typical games about war, where you win by shooting every character you encounter, you are the one being shot at. The only goal: survive. Never could we have expected that a talk about gaming would get a room this quiet. Or as Rami Ismael put it in his talk: “games can make you empathise with people. Yet we’ve only used the medium to tell very specific cultural stories”.

If you haven’t noticed yet in this post, I fell in love with Screenshake. I learned so much and loved all the games we tried. Screenshake 2017 was already the 5th edition, but I hope there are many more to follow. I would recommend you to already buy a ticket for next year’s edition. Or you can just give them a like on Facebook, so you’ll be kept in the loop about next year’s event. All that is required to enjoy this festival is an open mind and a cultural interest.


Text by Hanne Van Looveren

Pics by Manu Van der Perre (Tide Collective)



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