I’m watching two people play Beads of Orange Glass when Loren Schmidt, the game’s creator, exclaims, “Oh, that’s a glitch. I’ve never seen that before; it’s great!” This joy in the unexpected exemplifies the ethos of the sixth No Quarter Exhibition, the NYU Game Center’s debut of that year’s commissioned games.
This year’s exhibition landed in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn on Friday, October 9th. The four games shown this year varied wildly in form, content, and states of completion, but they all had an enthusiasm to try something new and see where it went.
Leah Gilliam’s Lesberation: Trouble in Paradise was a tabletop game about solving problems on a lesbian-separatist commune. Gilliam took difficult issues in queer communities and used them as a platform for creative solutions and playful discussions.
Nina Freeman, with Emmett Butler, Diego Garcia, and Maxo, unveiled Bum Rush, an eight-player game about beating your college roommates home for some private time with your date. Using Nintendo controllers, players stole each other’s parking spaces, knocked each other’s dates out of cars, and careened around corners to cut each other off.
Ramsey Nasser and Tims Gardner’s Al-maw’oud (“The Promised”) was, as Tims described it, an effort to use the mechanics of games like Nuclear Throne and Helldivers to imagine what it might be like to live in the current political climate of the Middle East. At its core, the game is a 2v2 shooter where players can call assistance from global powers, but with terrible costs.
And Loren Schmidt’s previously mentioned Beads of Orange Glass was a colorful, dreamy exploration of a co-created world in which one player guides a pixelated deer through a landscape that shifts and morphs through the actions of the second player.
The sense of each of these games as a work, diligently created by people and open to change, permeated the reactions of players and creators. Though called an exhibition, No Quarter felt participatory more than anything – a community coming together to celebrate the effort and passion that went into the games’ creation as much as the games themselves.
No Quarter seeks, in the words of curator Robert Yang, “to recognize voices and give them space.” Past years’ games, such as Naomi Clark’s Consentacle, have gone on to be IndieCade Award finalists. Kevin Cancienne’s 2014 game Dog Park just successfully achieved Kickstarter funding in its new iteration, Home Free.
NYU’s willingness to commission these games and, perhaps most importantly, to tangibly back these artists provides a vital opportunity for game creators to make new work in sustainable ways.
Robert wrote of the event, “The ability to make a game is not enough to guarantee a livelihood, a job, or even recognition — to achieve any degree of ‘success,’ you also need support.”
This support showed itself through the positivity of players, the accessibility of creators, and the pride and resources of the institutions involved. Though the showcase itself was only one night, No Quarter felt less like a retrospective and more like an unveiling.