A Space for Indie Gamers in LA

LOS ANGELES — An 11,000 square foot warehouse in the heart of LA’s Arts District, large-scale exhibitions, exciting speakers, and interactive workshops. Residencies for some of the world’s most talented game designers. And a research lab designed to support game researchers around the world. This is the vision of Daniel Rehn, a longtime game researcher and maker, and Adam Robezzoli, a gamer and events producer.

Rehn and Robezzoli have engaged in “three years of thoughtful planning” to develop the space and a broad international network to support it.  The Space, set to launch in late 2013 after securing the warehouse, is now raising the capital to make it happen.

Visualizations of the Game Space’s internal set up and uses.

“When I met Adam,” noted Rehn in an interview with Hyperallergic, “we got the idea pretty shortly afterward.” The two had been noticing that many gaming events brought people together for exciting projects but the energy dispersed quickly. “That’s obviously not the end of interaction you want to have with pushing games forward,” he said.

Indeed, the Game Space is designed for longer engagements. Websites are always important hubs for creativity, but physical spaces ensure a solid community. The idea of a gaming residency transforms the space from not just an events space or making lab but a home. “Just taking the history of the region with art and modern art,” said Rehn. “It’s kind of frontier like. It’s away from a lot of institutions in Europe and New York. People can work more freely.”

A big city with a number of creatives but far from traditional tech hubs (including Silicon Valley), Los Angeles offers unique opportunities for the Space to carve out a niche within the international gaming community. And even within Los Angeles, being situated in the Arts District gives it access to the creative talent passing through the area without the trappings of a more traditional gaming locale in Santa Monica, home to giants like Electronic Arts and Activision.

A promotional poster designed by a Game Space fan, Dom2D, reflects the gaming community’s positive aspirations for the Game Space.

And beyond. As the site notes, the Space aims to offer livestreaming (with promised moderation to include out-of-town viewers) and recorded videos to make its events available to anyone anywhere. I’m generally skeptical of how interactive livestreaming can be, especially given time zone differences. But the ability to asynchronously access recorded material and gaming research gives greater opportunities for the space to scale internationally, much as the New York Arts Tech Meetup and the Long Beach-based TED have done with their online communities.

Gamers worldwide have shown their support by offering some of their work to support the space. According to Rehn, every gamer he spoke with immediately agreed to support the Kickstarter drive, a real indication of a desire to have an open, dedicated space. “The internet is a wonderful thing,” he said, noting that he hadn’t met many of them before but had enjoyed longstanding conversations.

“My contribution to LA Game Space is wholly independent of geography,” said Bryan Ma in an email interview. Ma, a prolific game designer who contributed a game to the Kickstarter push, has shuttled between Shanghai, Sydney, and New York (and not Los Angeles) in the past few years. “After talking with Daniel, he asked me to contribute a project, and that was it. It sounded amazing and something that I would be honored to be involved with in the slightest way, so of course I agreed.”

The group’s Kickstarter is a treasure trove of games, with a pack of 30 from makers like Pen Ward and Bennett Foddy, Nicolas Nova, Santa Ragione and others. One generous $5,000 backer will have their 3D visage embedded as an Easter Egg in Gaijin Games‘ Runner2, and $300 backers get a pixel portrait. Underlining the importance of community, even $25 backers can have their names on the wall. Other rewards include t-shirts, zines, and posters — typical Kickstarter fare but made all the more fun with cool designs.

Hopes are high. Ma pointed out a number of “really fantastic grassroots movements in the game/arts/theory world — Babycastles, Kokoromi, Copenhagen Games Collective, and others” that precede LA Game Space, suggesting that the Space itself has emerged from “these movements starting to reach some kind of a critical mass or turning point.”

He continued, “I hope this is something that can reach a broader engagement with the larger community outside of game development and game enthusiast subculture, and become a hub and nexus for some real dialogue and critical thought.”

And on the ground, Rehn and Robezzli are drumming up support amongst Angelinos. With a burgeoning Arts District and emerging tech community, the city just needs the right spaces and events to harness that energy. LA Game Space could be one of them. “As soon as we get the funds we’re gonna be in the space,” said Rehn. “Everyone’s volunteering.”

LA Game Space’s Kickstarter finishes up on Friday, December 7, and it has already exceeded its fundraising goal.

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