A free browser tool has created pixelated universes from games to zines – and a Pittsburgh gallery is celebrating with a show you can visit from your browser.
It’s the perfect zen for self isolation – take the WASD keys of your keyboard, and roam through a simulated art gallery and poetic and sometimes tragically beautiful game inventions. LIKELIKE is normally a physical space in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, devoted to game as art – “strictly non-commercial, artist-run … without nostalgia and commodification of play.”
I’ll forgive you a bit of nostalgia. either for early arcade media or, as you enter this virtual gallery with a virtual dog in the backyard, for the days of yore when we could be in the same room with other humans. The virtual opening was on Friday, but maybe some CDMers will meet in this space in the next hours; there’s some chat capability. I’ll leave that window open on my machine.
In any event, you don’t want to miss the titles they’ve curated – or the world of possibilities this free game engine has opened up, generally.
You can find more of these creations at itch.io – an free, artist-friendly game platform for distributing (and earning money from) independent games:
You also may want to check out Bitsy itself. Built in HTML5 by developer Adam Le Deoux, it’s a 2D game world editor made for interactive fiction and role playing. Since it runs in-browser and since the 2D adventure style supports text, that makes it open both to interacting with other users and to distributing words in non-linear narratives.
You can “remix” this into your own online spaces – way better than Zoom, and you don’t have to figure out where to put the webcam. All the code is open source:
Or edit on Glitch:
And that makes it one of a number of counterpoints to the kind of platforms we’ve seen lately. These weeks are at first dominated by the kind of tech that has algae-bloomed all over the Internet – venture-backed corporate mega-platforms with little privacy concerns and a lot of vulnerability to hackers and bad actors. (So yeah, we’ve got the harassment and privacy disaster that is Zoom, and the re-emergence of the harassment and privacy disaster we’ve already been living with that is Facebook.)
Well, Bitsy sure isn’t that – it’s weird, quirky, free, indie, HTML5-dressed-up graphics that throw back to early Atari pixel art. But in that cosy little neighborhood, you find wonderful things. And it’s just as ready-made for quick interaction and construction.
Anyway, I say – THE MACHINE IS GOOD! TRUST IN THE MACHINE!
(A ton of additional games are available from Sophie Houldon, too.)
LIKELIKE for its part is the creation of Paolo Pedercini, Tenley Schmida, and Heather Kelley – Heather I even got to collaborate with at one point on the GAMMA experimental game project she was part of. This whole scene is a rabbit hole of great thinkers.
Cover image: World of Bitsy by Mark Wonnacott.
Hat tip – Adi Robertson at The Verge.