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Art Gallery of Ontario hosts video games made by Toronto developers in recent exhibit

- January 5th, 2014

If video games are shown off in an art gallery, does that finally put an end to the question are video games art?

It was certainly one of the reasons Dames Making Games (DMG), a local developers group and educational center, decided to team up with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to put some of their works on display.

“It’s important that games can be recognized as a medium of art, and that women are makers of art,” Kara Stone, a DMG volunteer and game developer, said.

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Instagram/Kara Stone

The arcade was part of the AGO’s Long Winter and First Thursday’s project. On the first Thursday of each month, the gallery hosts a variety of interactive and traditional artists, displaying their work and putting on demonstrations for those who want to delve into the various mediums.

Stone helped curate the official DMG arcade, picking some of the games made by both seasoned developers and recently discovered talents. She said part of what’s great about the games they brought to the arcade were the unintimidating demeanor they carried for an audience that weren’t necessarily into gaming or its culture.

“People really liked simple and nice stories in the games. There were no shooters or violence but instead games where you hug people or plant seeds on planets. They definitely enjoyed the kinds of games we showcased,” Stone said.

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Instagram/Kara Stone

It’s a common goal within the organization. Cecily Carver, co-founder of DMG, said having “non-gamer” spaces to demonstrate their work is hugely important to expanding the culture surrounding the video game realm.

“Showing games in a non-traditional context like Long Winter or AGO First Thursdays both brings the work of our members to a wider audience, and challenges conventional ideas of who makes/plays games, what a game “should” look like, and how they should be played,” Carver said.

Stone isn’t a stranger when it comes to creating non-traditional games. Stone co-developed Cyborg Goddess, a point-and-click adventure game that allows players to choose between a cyborg and a goddess, and explore a cost-benefit analysis of fantasy stereotypes available for women.

The game was created with a female, or those that identify as female, demographic in mind. Stone said with half of the game playing population consisting of women, creating games targeted towards women was just as important as women taking an active role in the development process.

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Instagram/Kara Stone

For Carver, having a group of women demonstrate their games at the AGO not only expands their organization’s reach, but also challenges the ideas of what a typical video game is through introducing and integrating contemporary styles of games being created today.

“Part of what DMG aims to do is dismantle some of the traditional ideas and assumptions surrounding games and game culture. As part of this, we love to have work by our members shown in “non-gamer” spaces.”

Building a foundation for women to create games has always been one of the main goals for the non-profit organization. From monthly game jams (building and executing a game over an extremely short period of time) to monthly speaker socials from various women inside the industry, DMG has cultivated one of the largest gaming collectives in Toronto.

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Instagram/Kara Stone

Stone said public exhibits like the recent one at the AGO help to draw in groups of people who have always had an interest in creating a game, but never knew where to begin, or even who to talk to about the development process.

“Video games are fun and bring a certain kind of energy to exhibitions. It’d be exciting to see them become a regular feature at the gallery.”

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