Adam Robezolli doesn't see video games the same way that most people do. To him, instead of an escape or simple entertainment, games are a medium with infinite potential. And now he's trying to build a space in Los Angeles to celebrate and explore that notion.
The LA Game Space (see their Kickstarter) will be a communal place for game developers and players to learn, create and gather. Artists and developers will collaborate on unique new experiences. Studios big and small will send their best talent to host live talks that will stream online. Months-long exhibits will present the best the industry has to offer. Benefit concerts will expose listeners young and old to the beauty and nostalgia of chiptunes. Members will play games on every system from every decade since Pong, contributing to future research projects as they rack up headshots. And that's just a fraction of what Robezzoli has planned.
Robezzoli is no stranger to ambitious projects; he formed Attract Mode, a gaming collective, blog and shop with indie ideals and a cross-disciplinary staff, in 2009. That's about when he began formulating the idea for LA Game Space, and now he's working on it with co-director Daniel Rehn, whom he met during a west coast chiptunes concert tour called Data Beez.
"Because it's going to be a space devoted to this, we want to have as many things happening - like, not just one event a week, but we want to fill up every night with events," he said during a phone conversation. LA Game Space is not a quick little project; its Kickstarter goal of $250,000 will hopefully fund a full year of programming. "We know it's a huge undertaking and it's really ambitious, so we've taken our time to build up a network of people that are supporting us," Robezzoli said.
Within that "network" are the 30 game developers - including the high-profile indie devs behind games like Hotline Miami, QWOP, and Unfinished Swan - who've pledged to create 30 brand new games exclusively for LA Game Space's Kickstarter donors. These games include a 2D pixel-art multiplayer sport called L.A. Death Disk; a game, Inputting, about navigating a ball while constantly battling your own keyboard; and Wake Up, an illustrated horror game about dreams-within-dreams - to name just a few. Even Pendleton Ward, the creator of the popular cartoon Adventure Time, is involved with one of the games. They're a huge incentive for potential donors, with a mere $15 earning all 30 titles.
Those won't be the only games to come out of the project, though; the plan for LA Game Space revolves in part around game creation residencies that will see seasoned and fledgling developers collaborating with architects, artists, and all variety of creators on months-long game development projects. Robezzoli doesn't know what these collaborations will result in, but he's excited to find out. "That's why we're bringing in people from different fields," he said. "It's easy to get protective of the video game medium and, like, not wanting outside people to be a part of it, but what we're really trying to do with this space is make it as inclusive as possible."
The aim is not to create commercial games - many won't even be completed, Robezolli predicts. Most collaborations will result in games that will be classified as prototypes or experiments. But Robezzoli is determined to find out "what happens when you have this diverse group of people who respect each other and have, you know, six months to work hard to make something new. What comes out of that?" he asked. "You get people together, and they make new things that change the world."
"That's the power of the interdisciplinary residency," he added.
Robezzoli is confident that the Kickstarter will pick up and reach its goal, and once that money is used up he plans to turn to benefit concerts, membership fees and external funding from a variety of institutions, including - gasp - mainstream game developers and publishers. "I know a lot of people are saying that this is, like, an indie game space, but it's not an indie game space. It's a video game space," he explained. "I think mainstream studios and developers will play just as big a role as the indie developers." And though he doesn't want it to turn into yet another glorified launch party venue, he said that triple-A developers will be more than welcome to host talks, workshops and events there - as long as they've got something worthwhile to share.
Beyond the exhibitions and daily programming at LA Game Space, gamers will be able to show up and simply play games, contributing to what Robezzoli calls the "video game experience archive." Co-director Rehn prototyped this type of research lab at UC San Diego, Robezzoli told me, and he's bringing his expertise to the Game Space. The lab will feature game consoles from every generation, modded to track everything from players' pulse rates to their eye movements. What for? Robezzoli explained it thus:
"Because video games are an interactive medium, just physically keeping track of the video games isn't enough. We need to record how people interact with them," he said. All the data collected in the video game experience archive will be available for free online. "This information doesn't exist anywhere, and once it does exist, researchers could do a ton of interesting things with it," Robezzoli said. "It's extremely valuable, and we don't need to have the application for it because other researchers will apply it wherever it's interesting to them."
That's all well and good, but the majority of donors and fans are likely looking forward most to seeing what types of games are created by LA Game Space's interdisciplinary residencies. Luckily, the creators of said games will retain all rights to them, meaning they can distribute them however they choose once the residency is up. Robezzoli isn't worried about making money off them. "The commercial side of games, I feel like we don't have to worry about that much. It will continue to adapt and be inspired by whatever people create. So the good things that come out of the residencies, if they can be adapted in that way, then the commercial world will pick up on it," he said, emphasizing that LA Game Space is not a game studio.
"Games are amazing because they're games, not because of the money they make," he said. "So that's what we're pursuing."
If you'd like to know more about the LA Game Space, visit their Kickstarter page.