Noticing that experimental videogame parties were being held overseas, Peter Cardwell-Gardner and Richard Pieterse (both full-time game developers) were curious what the local response to something similar might be. At the beginning of last year they found out, hosting the first ever Super Friendship Arcade in Cape Town and, needless to say, it was a tremendous success. “Besides wanting to bring that awesome creative energy home, we really just wanted an event where we could hang out with awesome people doing the thing we love most,” Peter explains. Taking a page from video game development practices, the inaugural event was dubbed The Prototype. Soon after launching Ben Rausch joined the team and the trio have just held the recent edition, Super Friendship Arcade: Beta at The Manilla Bar on May 16.
Each arcade showcases a collection of interesting alternative games ranging from frantic button mashers to games using foot pedals or custom built controllers. “Digital playground games like Johann Sebastian Joust are firm crowd favourites, where you interact directly with other people instead of staring at a screen”, says Peter. “There are also quite a few games exploring sexual themes and intimacy, because taboos break down in the face of fun.” One of the most exciting things about the arcade is the amount of locally made games in the line-up. “Most people are completely unaware that there is a vibrant game development scene in South Africa. The biggest problem is simply our distance from the rest of the world, which means we have to create our own opportunities.” The local scene may be small, but the calibre of what’s being produced is fantastic and this is precisely what the Super Friendship Arcade draws attention to.
Peter, Richard and Ben will have you know that their events are not geared purely towards people who identify as avid or long-time gamers. “Decades of targeted marketing has given people a very specific idea of who video games are for, but we’ve tapped into a vibrant and diverse community bursting at the seams with creativity. The games they’re making, and the type of games we enjoy, are radically different from anything people are used to. Watching apprehension get replaced with massive grins once people start realising how much fun they’re having is incredibly rewarding for us.”
Since launching the team has been exploring other formats and in March they switched things up to host a Super Interdisciplinary Jam, inviting creatives to bring their current projects with them and work alongside other creatives in a collaborative environment. “It’s quite well established that often, the most inspired ideas happen when you connect to previously unconnected ideas. What better way to stimulate that by hanging out and collaborating with people you’d never otherwise work with? It’s also a way for us to bring people into the fold, because when people think video games they think they need to be a programming genius to contribute. We want to show people that’s never been less true,” Peter says.
Riding high on the success of their last event the team is eager to find a way to bring the fun and games to Johannesburg soon. Besides that, they plan to keep experimenting with more jams, documentary screenings and perhaps even a gallery show for more contemplative games – anything that allows them to celebrate and share the culture they love being a part of. To stay up to date with all things Super Friendship Arcade related, follow them on Facebook or Twitter.