First Fridays are a chance for everyone to go out into the city and see the new works at the forefront of the art world. Usually, viewers see traditional mediums such as paintings and digital art on display, and occasionally a sculpture. November’s offering brought something different to the table – an independent game developer night.
Colorspace Labs in Kensington, Philadelphia, normally a photo/video studio and coworking office, hosted the Indie Arcade on Friday the 3rd. From 6 to 11 p.m., hundreds of excited patrons browsed the showcase of games by developers from the Philly Game Mechanics and lined up for free beer and snacks while next-door neighbors Do It Now T-shirts were showing off their screenprinting setup, DJ Phonographiq provided the tunes and a projector displayed abstract clips on the wall outside.
Independent developers showcased their games The Come Up, Hastilude, Vive Pong, Sole, Disco Ships and Why Are We Running?, ranging in genre from virtual reality adventures to beat-’em-ups and rhythm-based action, each set up at a different station in the room. In addition, various game-related prints were hung on the wall.
The game Disco Ships features frenzied multiplayer mayhem in space, wherein players choose their weapons and fly around the screen trying to shoot and trap others in environmental hazards. The work is reminiscent of Gradius but gameplay remains on the same screen rather than side-scrolling. Creator Brian Palladino worked on the game in his free time, but finished it up for a school project at Philadelphia University before he graduated in 2015.
“I’ve always been a fan of couch multiplayer games, so that influenced my direction a lot on Disco Ships,” Palladino wrote in an email interview. “Otherwise, it all started from wanting to create and actually finish a game. I’d worked on a few scratch projects to get the feel for programming, and working in Unity and settled on something smaller to keep my scope down.” Palladino first discovered Philly Game Mechanics from his university professor, who invited the students to visit. Nearly two years later, he came back with his own game to show off and he’s been attending ever since.
Philly Game Mechanics meet up twice a month to do a “game jam” that starts on the first Thursday and ends on the third to develop new games. They also run Philly Game Jam and Global Game Jam events that run for 24 or 48 hours, in addition to tournaments and non-competitive game nights. They’ve hosted for almost six years now, but this event was their largest one yet.
Stephen Pettit of Get Warmer Games is responsible for bringing the developers together for First Friday. He met Colorspace owner Charles Cerrone in college. “We lived across the hall from each other in freshman year and we really bonded over bikes and being goofballs and stuff,” Pettit said. “I started helping out around the local indie game scene, and Shan (Charles) has been running these First Friday gallery events out of this space for a couple months, and I was like, I have all these people who need an audience!”
As a Philly native, Pettit says the city’s game scene is close to his heart. “Everyone here has trouble selling their games,” he said. “They very much wanna just give you them – we have this running problem where like, our events our free, and our games are free, and we just want you to like us. But that’s bad business. So this is trying to have a free event so that you can see our games for free, like us for free, and maybe think about giving us money to keep doing what we’re doing.”
No experience is needed to come to Philly Game Mechanics events. “You don’t even have to play games,” Pettit said. “We have members from all art forms and disciplines. Personally I don’t think anyone is an aspiring game developer, people start making games as children so everyone is already more than qualified.”
Colorspace owner and JUMP Philly photo editor Charles Cerrone has worked with co-owner Mike Colosimo since 2010. They began as a photo and video production company, moved into their first studio in 2014, and expanded to their current location in the summer of 2016.
“We’re not up here to sell, to make money off of this, we’re here because we want to let our resources be a cost-effective way for young artists, independent artists, different kinds of artists, to be able to tell their story, do their art, make their work happen,” Cerrone said. “And that’s so that’s why we curated this space together, to be somewhere that people can come to work. But every First Friday we bring together this community of people, and it’s always something different, sometimes it’s photography, sometimes it’s graphic design, sometimes it’s screenprinting. Tonight it’s video games, it’s 3D art, it’s all these amazing things that you might not think are going on in Philly, but they are, and we want these people to have a platform.”
Red Bull sponsored the event by providing monitors to run the games off of, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, Faber vodka and Funky Fresh kombucha provided the open bar.
The next PGM event is the Iron Chef Jam 3, 7 – 10 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16. It will be held at Indy Hall, 399 Market St., Suite 360. Instead of video games, developers have to make analog games that can be created out of provided materials.
The Philly Game Mechanics are a 501c3 non-profit with help from Philadelphia Culture Trust. They are always looking for sponsors and donors. For more information, visit www.phillygamemechanics.com, or donate at www.patreon.com/phillygamemechanics.
For next month’s First Friday on Dec. 1st, Colorspace will feature the works of Philadelphia designer Nick Cassway. The details are currently unrevealed, but they will turn the entire gallery into a blacklight room. In the future, they hope to host another indie arcade in the springtime. Find out more info about the venue at www.colorspacelabs.com.