Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another (Baby)Castle

I've been aware of Babycastles for a little while now - ever since rockstar game journo Leigh Alexander started talking about them about six or so months ago. First mention might've come on twitter, but eventually she wrote a piece for the LA Times about the space. It's a great bit of writing that gives a solid sense of the place - I recommend checking it out.

The short version is that Babycastles is a NY-based, wholly independent creative space/arcade for game designers and indie game fans. It lives in Queens beneath Silent Barn (an indie music hub) and is more or less a basement arcade - sort of a combination of Seattle's Jigsaw, an old-school video arcade and a hipster-ish rock club. Lots of really creative people bringing in games and leaving them for people to play, all with a sort of anything-goes punk vibe.

Impromptu shows from all manner of Brooklyn musicians go down upstairs while the basement is filled with games by folks like Cactus and Messhof, as well as a game by Babycastles co-founder Kunal Gupta called "Meowtron." Which is about "the inner life of a cat." Basically, it sounds like a trip.

It's a creative space that centers around freely made independent games, a place that gives people the room to experiment with what videogames are capable of, as well as to get instant feedback. So much of game design takes place behind closed doors that the idea of a wide-open space for indie designers to take out their work... it seems like something we need more of.

Leigh sent out the word yesterday that Babycastles is in need - they're raising money via Kickstarter and haven't yet met their goal. As those who are familiar with Kickstarter know, they won't get any money from their pledge drive if they don't hit their goal.

Rather than spreading the gospel from any sort of professional or journalistic place, Leigh made it clear that in researching her LA Times article she discovered that she really liked what they were doing there and wanted to do whatever she could to help them continue. Although I haven't been to the place myself, that says a lot - I know that feeling, the feeling of discovering something that you dearly want to exist and wishing you could do something to help it continue to do so.

I gave them some money, and I hope you will, too. $25 will get you a pretty sweet Babycastles T-Shirt, which seems about right in terms of bang-for-buck. And hell, if they work out a way to make the idea financially viable, maybe we can set up something like it here in SF! I know Jigsaw already has a sister space here, and while it'd be tricky to find a venue that can be both a music club and a creative gaming zone, it's not out of the question. We've got enough musicians, and enough geeks.

So, should you so desire, please support Babycastles! Not only are they doing something different, they've made a space that allows differentness to thrive. For that, they've certainly got my support. Next time I make it out to NY, I hope they'll still be there for me to visit, because I plan to.

Mainly to play "Meowtron," because it it's anything like this, it might just wind up being my favorite game ever.
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