Monday, November 4, 2019


Before I attended A MAZE (2016 / 2018 / 2019), I had never met any game developers from Africa. I had attended so many GDCs, but it didn't matter. Imagine an entire continent, more or less shut out of an entire industry! The game industry often pretends it is "democratizing" the means of game development, but the obvious truth is that the "global" game industry still concentrates much of its money and prestige on North America / Western Europe / Japan. (China is a big market, but there is still no major prestigious international video game trade show held there yet.)

That's why community institutions like A MAZE are so vital. While A MAZE runs a flagship festival in Berlin, they also regularly host pop-up events outside of the typical video game industry hemispheres. In the past, they have run events in Croatia, Romania, Palestine, Russia, South Africa, Kosovo, Cuba, and Ukraine. For 2020, they are aiming to run an event in Nairobi. Do you think GDC gives a shit about Nairobi?

When GDC rolls around every year, so many people lament that there isn't an alternative event -- something to pull people and power away from GDC, away from the institutional inequality plaguing games -- well, today is your lucky day, maybe you'll get to do something about it. A MAZE is one of those alternatives that seeks to pull influence away from GDC -- to provide a noncommercial platform to support game developers and marginalized artists from around the world -- and it needs your help.

Back in September, the city of Berlin denied funding to A MAZE. While A MAZE still retains other public funding sources, this particular setback threatens a lot of their plans. They need to crowdfund the rest of the money to secure the future of the festival, and the future of an alternative away from the overwhelming commercial focus of GDC. This isn't to say that commercial games / AAA are necessarily bad, but it is clear that everyone else in games need their own support systems too. A healthy artform needs a healthy diverse ecosystem of many different motives and tendencies; a monoculture will doom us all.

So for 2020, A MAZE is running a Kickstarter. (Note: Kickstarter corporate is currently in the middle of an anti-union intimidation campaign. But so far, workers have not called for a boycott. As we continue to use KS, we should also use the opportunity to pressure their leadership to cease its anti-worker interference.)

If you have money to spare this year, please consider supporting A MAZE. If you don't have the money, OK, but at least consider writing about them or posting about what A MAZE means to you and others.