Smithsonian American Art Museum Hosts Its First Game Jam as Part of “SAAM Arcade 2021”

Free Week-Long Virtual Event Celebrates Community and Individuality in Gaming
July 9, 2021
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SAAM Arcade

The Smithsonian American Art Museum will present its annual “SAAM Arcade” online this year and, for the first time, in a game jam format. The SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Jam is a free weeklong virtual event that takes place beginning Monday, Aug. 2, at 11:30 a.m. ET and ends Saturday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. ET, followed by SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Day Sunday, Aug. 8, when the games created during the jam are available to the public to play. Both events are hosted on, a virtual open marketplace for independent digital creators focused on playing, building and sharing independent games.      

“SAAM Arcade” explores how video games act as a medium for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories. The theme for the 2021 Arcade is “Building Community, Embracing Individuality.” The games created during the SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Jam will explore how games and art can embody interactions that are both individual and opportunities for communication and connection. As with artworks, games can be solitary experiences that require a player to be focused and in touch with themselves in a very profound way. Games can also be spaces for fun and excitement, with communities popping up in support of popular franchises, extraordinary players and multi-player games. Any form of art can encourage conversation and contemplation, both individually and communally. That balance between community and individuality is the spirit of the 2021 theme and is what the museum hopes will guide creators during the game jam.

The SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Jam is an open online jam where anyone of any skill set can join. Participants may work alone or in groups. There is no size restriction for groups. Participants do not need to preregister and are able to join the jam by simply creating an account and uploading their game to the SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Jam page. This jam is focused on experimentation, creativity and exploration of the theme. Participants are encouraged to try something new and discover unexpected connections between art and gaming. Rules, guidelines and frequently asked questions about the jam are available on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s page and the museum’s website. The game jam takes place from Monday, Aug. 2, to Saturday, Aug. 7, when aspiring developers and artists create brand-new video and tabletop games centered around the theme of community and individuality. On Sunday, Aug. 8, all games submitted to the SAAM Arcade 2021 Game Jam will be available for the public to discover and play free of charge, indefinitely.

The museum is partnering with IGDA DC to host and moderate a dedicated Discord server throughout the run of the jam. Discord is one of the most popular ways for gamers to communicate online. It allows friends, teammates, colleagues and individuals to connect with other SAAM Arcade participants directly via voice, video or text. As the local Washington, D.C., chapter of the Independent Game Developers Association, IGDA DC will offer technical assistance to participants and help the long-standing SAAM Arcade community come together virtually to develop new and innovative games.

Additional information about SAAM Arcade 2021 and the game jam format can be found on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website, and the museum’s blog, Eye Level.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is a leader in exploring the impact and artistry of video games and was one of the first art museums in the United States to acquire video games as part of its permanent collection in 2013. Video games create compelling participatory and social spaces imagined by artists and designers and activated by players whose individual interactions are uniquely required to complete the experience. SAAM Arcade, now in its seventh year, emphasizes this aspect of video game appreciation by encouraging engagement among independent developers, gamers and new audiences.   


SAAM Arcade is made possible in part by support from the Director’s Circle. Media sponsorship provided by Washington City Paper.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the most significant and inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station, and is open 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. and is open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday Admission is free. Timed-entry passes are required to visit both locations. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

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