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No Show 2012 - Jim Munroe - Starting a Videogame Arts Organization


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“The Hand Eye Society both initiated and have consistently innovated in making videogames an integral and respectable part of our broader cultural fabric. Peerless community organizers, they set the stage for what I believe is one of the most important new movements in global games culture: showcasing achievements on a hyper-local level, making games part of civic pride, and helping independent and personally-driven development become a sustainable and flourishing business. All of us, everywhere else in the world, are still simply following the trails they’ve blazed.” — Brandon Boyer, IGF Chairman

Since starting in 2009, the Hand Eye Society has positioned itself as having a cultural focus similar to other organizations that serve the film, animation, or literary arts. We are an incorporated not-for-profit.
Our Socials are modelled after art openings or rock shows than industry networking events.
We started the Torontron project, which went on to inspire the Winnitron arcade network, with the intent of providing a “mobile gallery” with a curatorial eye.
The Difference Engine Initiative, a partnership with the Toronto International Film Fest, was started to address the lack of diversity (gender and otherwise) in our community.
Half of the presentation will be discussing what we have done, and half will be discussing what we’ve learned, hopefully of use for people looking to start (or refocus their meetup groups into) videogame arts organizations.

Published in: Entertainment & Humor, Design
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No Show 2012 - Jim Munroe - Starting a Videogame Arts Organization

  1. 1. We are a videogame artsorganization. Our mission is:● to help people create games;● to connect gamemakers with each other andwith an audience;● to foster diversity in game creation and thepublic perception of games.
  2. 2. What Weve Done: SocialsProgrammed game culture events with theenergy of a book launch, art gallery opening orrock show as opposed to a networking event.
  3. 3. What Weve Done: Torontrons We retrofitted classic arcade cabinets to play modern games by local developers and put them in public spaces as curated "galleries" of videogame arts. The idea inspired an international indie arcade network.
  4. 4. What Weve Done: Initiatives TIFF Nexus has allowed us to experiment with and publicise different models of gamemaking, increasing diversity and strengthening cross-sector collaboration.
  5. 5. The Hand Eye Society set the stage for what Ibelieve is one of the most important newmovements in global games culture... All ofus, everywhere else in the world, are stillsimply following the trails theyve blazed. —Brandon Boyer, IGF Chairman, Austin TX
  6. 6. Why We Started An Arts Organization● because its more fun to work together● just saying the words "videogame arts organization" together surprises the general public: its a kind of cultural activism● we found the business focus of a lot of existing meetups to be kind of boring● we wanted to celebrate interesting game culture regardless of indie/corporate divide
  7. 7. How We Started● we got together and figured out something we needed, ourselves● we divided up the work (avoid burnout, keeps it fresh)● we stuck a flag in the ground and invited people to participate● we made membership available for anyone who pledged 10 hrs to a videogame community project, expanding what projects we could take on
  8. 8. Volunteer Power● did you know that people LOVE videogames?● by offering volunteer opportunities we give people an outlet to express this love● its a volatile but clean burning way to power your projects: solar power● where it gets tricky is when some people get paid and some dont: we started to pay people who put in more than their 10 hrs at $25/hr (arts admin wage)● give people small things to do, then bigger
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  10. 10. Case Study: Arcadian Renaissance (2010) ● our first Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) partnership ● Nuit Blanche is an all-night art thing ● Nidhogg was fascinating even to non- gamers, something we playtested in a Social: how games are presented is still totally open and exciting ● sponsorship from individual indies, most who kept their cabinets ● cabinets are very heavy
  11. 11. Incorporation● to qualify for the TIFF Nexus funding, we incorporated as a not-for-profit● dont do it til theres money on the table as its either costly or boring and stressful● adds $3K/year to pay for accountant/ins.● we chose not-for-profit to distinguish from a business approach but this has additional onerous requirements● it does open up possible funding, but its still not easy to get: weve never had operational
  12. 12. Funding● since 2009 weve received three $2K arts council grants and about a total of $60K for the four initiatives we did with TIFF Nexus● we were able to carve out about $6K for HES operations, but it was a fight● we strive to never be dependent on a single funding stream● we never want to be one of those orgs that primarily exists to continue existing
  13. 13. Partnerships● find small ways to work together first● with similarly sized orgs● with larger orgs: more money, more paperwork, cultural differences● with smaller orgs: commit to consensus, be conscious of the power difference
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  15. 15. Case Study: Difference Engine (2011)● one of our most impactful initiatives and one of the most problematic● there were a few conflicts, mostly where we made decisions without consulting the participants● all-women/homogeneity? all under-repped group will be sensitive to power dynamics -- key thing for future DEI iterations
  16. 16. Now We are All-Powerful...● the growing pain is that to get initiatives like that funded, we have to read as large and credible, which means that we read as large and credible to people in the community too: this distances us from our original base● increasing transparency: board members online, meeting minutes● increasing member agency: AGMs and bylaws● bylaws are basically the rules of the game, so you can think of it as system design
  17. 17. Dont be ashamed of starting really reallysmall. I think in many cases people get thesegreat ideas and shoot for the moon beforethey figured out how the cannon works. Theirgusto is amazing and inspiring, and franklytheres nothing wrong with it, but you canburn yourself out if you bite off more then youcan chew too early. -- Derek Ledoux, Dirty Rectangles (Ottawa)
  18. 18. Teaming up with a local school (DePaulUniversity) gave us both a venue and limitedsponsorship (e.g. for chips and soda). Andhaving one of the cofounders be an instructorat the school meant we always had a key toget in. --Erin Robinson, Indie City Games (Chicago)
  19. 19. Making connections with artist-run centres andother orgs that arent explicitly game-affiliated has been invaluable to us... Morediversity and more cross-pollination with non-games folks means more weird, interestingstuff happening. --Stephen Ascher, Mount Royal Game Society (Montreal)