The Retro Was Strong at the Smithsonian’s SAAM Arcade 2017 in D.C.

Last weekend my family and I attended the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s SAAM Arcade event in Washington D.C. SAAM Arcade is an annual event, free to the public, featuring a wide variety of video games both modern, spotlighting indie developers, and retro. In addition to a huge number of hands-on gaming opportunities there are various workshops and music performances scheduled throughout the day.

This year the event featured games from 150 independent developers as well as a huge number of retro game consoles, arcade cabinets, and even an assortment of 1980s home computers running various games. The event was centered in the museum’s enclosed Kogod Courtyard, with sessions and arcade machines spread throughout the museum. The event website provides more details of what took place. Nearly 20,000 people attended this year’s event.

As a huge retro gaming enthusiast, I quite enjoyed seeing so many people both young and old enjoying the vintage consoles and cabinets. My daughter was partial to Galaga ’90 on a TurboGrafx-16 console, and we even played a game of Pong (well, a clone) on a Coleco Telstar from 1976.

Despite living in neighboring Alexandria, VA I had been unaware of this local, annual event that began in 2014. I was tipped off by my friends Johan Gjestland and Marco Peschiera who came in from Norway to demonstrate their upcoming meditative bird flying game, Fugl, which I’ve been play-testing (and loving!) on various devices for a couple of years now. Their setup was demonstrating Fugl running in VR on the Oculus Rift headset, which was breathtaking.

Now that I’ve discovered SAAM Arcade, I certainly won’t be missing another. In the meantime, I plan to attend the nearby, annual Magfest (who were a sponsor of this year’s SAAM Arcade) event, which next takes place January 4th-7th, 2018 at National Harbor, MD.

(Back in 2012 I wrote a bit about my trip with my daughter to The Art of Video Games exhibit, also held here at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

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