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Tokens similar to those found in the game Sorry sit next to a turntable. Marvin Cespedes

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Bit Bash 2017, a celebration of Chicago’s indie game scene

Digital and tabletop, inside and out, Bit Bash had it all this year

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Bit Bash, the interactive arts festival hosted by members of Chicago’s indie game scene, was back this year for its fourth annual soiree. Last month, it filled the Revel Fulton Market with dozens of games and hundreds of locals, all focused on a curated selection of eclectic experiences.

This year, the Bit Bash theme was “summer camp.” Attendees took a short quiz before being assigned to one of four teams based on their personality and interests. They then received a small booklet, which invited them to try out a selection of games and collect merit badges.

Games tended to fall into one of four categories. There were local multiplayer games like Wibble Wobble, high-concept games like Four Last Things, unique tabletop games like RainboDisko (pictured above) and physical games like Hermitug.

After everyone had their fill of games, guests were treated to dance music and chiptunes from local artists like VenoSci and Benedict Fritz. Bit Bash also featured the music of Joel Corelitz, the composer for The Unfinished Swan and Tumbleseed, as well as music from producer HarmonicSapien.

Players gather around a turntable, taking turns placing colored pawns.
RainboDisko is played with a turntable. Players take turns gently placing colored pawns on the rotating disk. The arm moves in, restricting the field of play over time.
Marvin Cespedes
Two players sit in front of a hand-made wooden table with what can best be described as a ludicrous amount of buttons on it.
1000 Button Project by Amanda Throws Rocks.
Marvin Cespedes
Two people play the Nintendo Switch console inside a nylon tent.
Several tents were set up throughout the venue, the perfect place for a pick-up game or just to take a break from the crowds.
Marvin Cespedes
A monitor displays the start screen for The Cat In The Hijab.
The Cat In The Hijab by Andrew C. Wang is about a cat who wears a traditional head covering every day on the subway. Every game at Bit Bash was attended by a guide, and included a placard listing the artist and describing the game.
Marvin Cespedes
Charlie Hall and his daughter Evelynne sit down to a game of Muddledash in a cozy nook.
Muddledash by Niall Tessier-Lavigne and Kieryn King-Lloyd. Many of the games on display were local multiplayer, and some were cooperative.
Marvin Cespedes
A group of players surrounded by yellow cones fiddle with some uncooked spaghetti.
This year, Bit Bash included physical, non-digital games as well. That includes Spaghetti Standoff, where six to eight players form a chain with uncooked spaghetti. The last one left holding an unbroken noodle wins.
Marvin Cespedes
Two players are connected by a lighted tube. In their hand is a simple button. They’re competing to bounce the a light back and forth, trying to sneak a shot past the other player’s goal.
Light Pong, by Chris "Patchy" Hall and Aaquib Usman, is a game of Pong played using custom, flexible controllers.
Marvin Cespedes
A player tries on the augmented reality headset, Microsoft HoloLens.
FoolVille, by John Groot, Murray Campbell, Edgar Camargo, Trevor Siegler and Josh Delson, is an augmented reality game using Microsoft’s HoloLens. The game has the player overlook a village while maintaining the power of the sun. As the player’s head moves closer to the village, the suns rays become more intense and dangerous.
Marvin Cespedes
A young boy plays Night in the Woods on a big screen TV.
One of the highlights of every Bit Bash is the Family Hour, where kids of all ages are invited in to join the fun. Overall, it’s a fairly kid-friendly atmosphere start to finish. Of course, some of the games are for adults and as the night goes on and the musicians filter in it develops more of a club vibe.
Marvin Cespedes
One of the organizers of Bit Bash converses with the staff running the art table.
Jamie Sanchez, one of the Bit Bash organizers, chats with a team from the VGA Gallery, a non-profit video game art gallery in Chicago.
Marvin Cespedes
A young man looks very excited to be on camera, while his virtual hands flailing on the wall behind him hold a series of letters.
Morning Post by Happy Snake and Zak Alkek. Many of the game were projected onto the gallery’s white walls while others were played on traditional LCD TVs and monitors.
Marvin Cespedes