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Fancy Video Game Party invades the AGO

- February 20th, 2014

Toronto’s video game community is about to get a whole lot fancier.

On Feb. 21, the entire community will come together at the Art Gallery of Ontario to celebrate the five-year anniversary of its landmark development organization, the Hand Eye Society, with a Fancy Videogame Party.

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Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario

The Hand Eye Society, a non-profit group that brings together developers, journalists, and publishers, helps to raise support for various gaming artists located in the city.

“Toronto is a hive for games groups and events, like Dames Making Games, Bento Miso, IGDA Toronto, Site3, and various annual game jams – so the Hand Eye tries its best to mesh the community together, while fulfilling a mandate to encourage the wider public to take more interest in the fascinating world of video games,” Alex Hayter, event organizer for the Hand Eye Society said.

With the fifth anniversary quickly approaching, Hayter said he and his team wanted to throw a massive ball, one that represented everything they’ve achieved over the past half decade.

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Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario

It was a trip to the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC) in L.A. last year that cemented the idea in Hayter’s head.

“I attended the Wild Rumpus party at GDC last March and was so impressed, as this was exactly the sort of relaxed, but exciting, event that we were looking to host here,” Hayter said.

“Jim (Munroe, co-founder of the Hand Eye Society) and I got in touch with The Wild Rumpus’ Marie Foulston (who moved to Toronto last summer), and both our organizations worked together with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to put together the Fancy Videogame Party.”

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Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario

In Hayter’s opinion, the AGO was the perfect stomping ground for the party as it encapsulated every aspect of arts and culture they try to achieve daily.

“The AGO is very much the epicentre of the Canadian arts establishment, and the audience they tap into – largely outside of the Hand Eye Society’s regular events and programming – represented a pretty awesome opportunity to reach those members of the arts-appreciating public that aren’t necessarily aware of the incredible stuff happening in the indie games scene,” he said.

Reaching a community outside the traditional indie gaming scene is pivotal to the party. It is one of the main reasons the event included so many indie titles for attendees to roam around and play. With the succession of indie games rapidly moving past the AAA forum and garnering the largest audience they’ve ever had, Hayter and the team at Hand Eye Society thought a massive party with non-gamers would be one of the best ways to demonstrate the independent talent.

Award-winning Canadian-developed games, including The Yahwg, Towerfall, and Tether, will be joined by international sensations, such as Joust, Nidhogg, and Pole Riders.

“Everything was picked with both the physical space in mind as well as what games would complement one another. So we’ve picked everything from super-competitive sportsy titles, to wacky, creative adventure games, to a sticker-printing selfie booth,” Hayter explained.

On top of providing attendees with multiple games to discover, or rediscover with hundreds of friends, the Fancy Videogame Party has also brought out some of the best DJs making music both in the scene and out of it.

Award-winning Ryan Roth, local DJ Ryan Henwood, and Coins will be taking centre stage, combining their eclectic electronic sounds ranging from chip tune to “happy dancey space music” for an ambient backdrop.

With the indie development scene continuously expanding across the country, Hayter said he’s proud to be a part of an organization that helps developers create and market their games.

“…I think the spirit of creative collaboration is mostly to blame for the rampant success of the Canadian indie scene. I think that groups like the Hand Eye Society have helped this legacy of working together to take a well-deserved grasp of our games community across the country, and especially in Toronto.”

The Fancy Videogame Party starts at 8 p.m. on Feb. 21.

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