ALTcade 4/20: One-Night-Only Indie Games

Before advanced consoles brought mainstream video gaming into the home, gamers gathered at arcades for the most dynamic experiences. While XBox and Playstation have made countless games more accessible, they have also made gaming less social. 

For one evening only, Matt Bethancourt aims to rekindle the spirit of the arcade experience by showcasing a collection of homespun games that employ controllers you won’t find elsewhere. Bethancourt, who is director of the ATLAS Institute’s Technology, Arts and Media program, is working with students in his Game Design class to host the event, ALTcade, on April 20, in the ATLAS Black Box. The event will feature more than a dozen games designed by students that incorporate a variety of unusual controllers.

Take, for example, ATLAS graduate student Danny Rankin’s game, “First Day,” in which the player is a temp employee experiencing their first day at a new company. Their assignment is to navigate a room full of office workers and hand out as many memos as possible. The controller for the game is a manilla envelope equipped with a variety of sensors.

Instead of scoring points, some games focus on collaboratively creating artful imagery. Bethancourt’s game, Linez, involves two players guiding snakes around the screen. As you navigate the game, you create colorful geometric patterns. The game ends by having the snakes cross paths, at which point the game prints the image the players ‘drew.’

Another game Bethancourt is building relies on first-generation, push-button phones as the controller.

The qualities that make these games unique, also make them less commercially viable, but ALTcade will give them an opportunity to shine anyway. These in-development games combine art and technology for the purpose of having fun with the community. Bethancourt says that we can’t really think of it as traditional gaming: “I am looking at games as art or social interaction… as an experience,” he says. “ALTCade is about games only existing in certain spaces. We’re hoping to get people out of their homes to play some unique digital games in public with friends… and soon-to-be friends.”

While most of the games at ALTcade aren’t aiming to be commercially viable, that’s not true for all: a Kickstarter campaign is in the works to launch one into the indie game market. ALTcade is your chance to play before anyone else! Are you game?


ALTcade will be held in the Black Box Experimental Studio from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm.