Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Annual Video Game Festival “SAAM Arcade” Launches Online

Free Two-Day Virtual Program Highlights Women’s Narratives and Contributions to the Video Games Industry
July 29, 2020
News Release

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Two women and a girl with video game controllers

Photo by Bruce Guthrie

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has moved its annual “SAAM Arcade” online. This free two-day program takes place virtually Saturday, Aug. 1, and Sunday, Aug. 2, and features selected games by independent developers, film screenings and craft activities to do at home.

“SAAM Arcade” explores how video games act as a medium for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories. The theme of the 2020 Arcade and the Indie Developer Showcase is “Game Changers,” honoring the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting women suffrage. Each of the five featured games, submitted by independent developers and selected by museum staff, are either made by women, feature women’s narratives or memorialize women’s history in America.

Games in the Indie Developer Showcase are available to play free of charge throughout the weekend. One-time screenings of the feature-length documentaries Indie Game: The Movie and Not for Resale air at 7 p.m. ET, Saturday, Aug. 1, and Sunday, Aug. 2, respectively. Step-by-step instructions for video game-inspired crafts encourage creativity while staying at home. All activities are available through the museum’s website at

The five playable games in the Indie Developer Showcase are “Ava,” a tarot card game that explores issues of gender, discrimination, prejudice and mental health and shows that games can be poetic and tell a wholesome story that promotes empathy and understanding. “Half” is a text-based game examines the nuances and complexities of being mixed-race and living on the fringe of two identities. “Starsmith,” a dice-rolling battle game created by a female neuroscientist and game designer, is non-violent, represents gender equality and incorporates concepts of chemistry and STEM, which allow players to learn without realizing it throughout the game. “The Girl with the Gray Hair Awakens” is a game of perseverance and resilience that pushes both characters and players to accomplish great things. “When Rivers Were Trails,” developed with the collaboration of two Indigenous women, features gameplay focusing on strong women and two-spirit Indigenous characters recognizing the importance of Indigenous voices in video games.

Indie Game: The Movie is the first feature-documentary film about making video games. Directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, the film follows the stories of four indie game developers who sacrifice money, health and sanity to realize their lifelong dream of expressing themselves through video games and share their creative vision with the world. It will be screened Saturday, Aug. 1, at 7 p.m. ET. Registration is required.

Not for Resale is a feature-length documentary examining how the decline of physical media and the rise of digital distribution has affected the gaming industry and presented a new set of challenges for everyone from retail stores to independent game developers. Directed by Kevin J. James, it will screen Sunday, Aug. 2, at 7 p.m. ET. Registration is required.

For updates, the public can join the Facebook Event. Additional content about the event is published on 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 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 generous 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 the 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 F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Admission is free. Follow the museum on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website:

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