2017 Call for Participation

Hello once again, fellow game design explorers! The time has come to open submissions for the 2016 GDC Experimental Gameplay session! This year's submission deadline will be Sunday, January 8, 2017 at 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time. 

Just in case you are new to the process (or need a refresher) the CFP below lists what kinds of games and prototypes we're looking for. You can also check out the workshop's inspiration and philosophy, history and organizers.

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What is Experimental Gameplay?

Experimental games take interesting approaches to interactivity that haven't been tried before. Since this definition is unavoidably vague, here are some examples to clarify.

This IS Experimental Gameplay:

  • Creating unexpected play experiences or promoting unique feelings within players through mechanics (GravitationPassageThe Marraige).
  • Generative games, where the gameplay or world changes based on choices the player makes (SpelunkyflOw).
  • Emergent gameplay, where the game systems interact to provide suprising situations (ROM CHECK FAILPortal).
  • Interactive storytelling, where the plot or dialog changes in a fine-grained manner, as opposed to discrete "branching points" (Facade).
  • Innovative user interfaces - natural language processing, image recognition, gestural control, new hardware devices (Guitar HeroRENGA)
  • Novel multiplayer interactions (Journey)

This is NOT Experimental Gameplay:

  • Novel content, narrative, settings, character designs, artwork, audio or plots - unless they affect the core gameplay in a major way.
  • New hybrids of already-existing genres - unless the resulting gameplay is unexpectedly more than the sum of its parts.
  • Purely technical innovation, experimental business models or distribution mechanisms, or games for under-served audiences - unless the game itself is experimental as outlined above.

What kinds of prototypes are accepted?

Only playable prototypes are accepted.  They can be in any stage of development, so long as the experimental part of the gameplay is playable. The submission doesn't need to be fun, but the experimental idea behind it has to be interesting and clear.

This is because we favor the process of experimentation over the success of results.  We look for work that demonstrates a deep exploration, as opposed to the shallow implementation of an interesting idea. Note: More than one prototype can be submitted by the same person - and we encourage this when a body of work  reflects a series of related or ongoing experiments.

How do I submit?

To submit your experimental prototype for consideration, please fill out THIS FORM HERE. Of the 100+ submissions we get each year, we typically accept 15-20 prototypes. These are shown at our session on the Friday, March 18th (traditionally at 2pm), and speakers who can attend to demo in person will receive a free Speaker's pass to the entire GDC conference.

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If you have questions about your submission or need clarification about the process, please email us here. We look forward to hearing from you - and hope to see you at GDC!

2015 RECAP

Once again we had a fantastic Experimental Gameplay session thanks to the amazing work of so many fearless game design explorers. 

Games featured in this year's session included Thumper, Parable of the Polygons, Earth Primer... as well as a series of novel controller games including Line WobblerSoundSelf and Curiouser and Curiouser. After the demonstrations, we actually kept the hall open for 2 more hours, so that people could hang out and play the experimental prototypes for themselves. A wonderful time was had by all. Not to mention - delicious donuts!

But by far, the highlight of this year's session (and arguably one of the most touching moments in our entire 13-year history) was the amazing, moving and deeply inspiring presentation by the team behind That Dragon Cancer - who have begun screening a film about their work Thank You For Playing in theaters across the U.S.  A very difficult game to make, talk about and process, this amazing post-mortem on its design process left the crowd in tears... and culminated in a thunderous standing ovation. 

But don't just take our word for it: watch it on the GDC Vault right now! Thanks to GDC for continually supporting Experiental Games, giving us the biggest best room at the show for our presentations, and of course the amazing audio and visual staff at Moscone who every year surprise us with how amazing our games can sound, look and feel. 

EGW 2014 - Another Success!

Thanks to all the amazing developers who participated in this year's EGW - we had a stellar session with amazingly high marks, and many wonderful games!!! Check out this lovely writeup which lists the games and links to them as well!

We'd like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who submitted and participated, and offer our congrats to those who also picked up noms and awards at this year's IGF!

Finally - a huge shout-out goes to the great AV staff at GDC who worked pretty tirelessly with the devs and organizers to make sure we had all the tech we needed to bring you these amazing games. We look forward to seeing you all at next year's session!

2014 CFP Opens January 1, 2014

Hello game design explorers! Just a quick note to let you know that we will begin accepting submissions for this year's Experimental Gameplay Workshop session starting on January 1, 2014. Submissions will close on February 1, 2014 at midnight. We will post the official CFP on New Year's Day - but you can refer to last year's CFP in the meantime.

The session will be held on the Friday of GDC 2014 (March 21st) - from 2:30-4:30 pm. As always, we look forward to your submissions and to a packed and exciting session!

GDC 2012: Hardware-tastic!

This year's write-up must start with a tremendous thank-you to the amazing audio/visual staff at GDC 2012. Because we had so many different types of games being demonstrated, and several were focused on alternative audio/visual mechanics, We had *several* evening sessions in the conference hall, setting up and testing the various games.    We simply could not have done it without your help.

The tireless folks over at Gamasutra wrote up a nice piece comparing us to a high fashion show (nice!!) and listing the prototypes in all their glory. My favorite photo from the event is definitely this shot of all of us on stage together - what a sight! Not sure that we can commit another insanity like the show that was our 2012 lineup - but you never know, do you?

See you in 2013!

IndieCade 2011

This year's  IndieCade Festival of Independent Games featured a special Experimental Gameplay session. Our annual GDC session typically focuses on rapid-fire demonstrations of digital games. In contrast, the IndieCade session is designed to give creators an opportunity for a more involved discussion about the processes and inspiration behind experimental work. This particular gathering brought together several experimental duos, to discuss their work and how it is influenced by the act of collaboration.

Eric Zimmerman and Nathalie Pozzi talked about their collaboration Starry Heavens, in the context of several projects they have been working on for festivals and museums. In addition, the panel discussed how  Nathalie's background in architecture both compliments and challenges Eric's sense of game design & design process.

Auriea Harvey and Michael Samyn who comprise Tale of Tales (participating in the session over Skype) introduced their in-progress work CnCnTrC.  Because this experiment explores intellectual and physical intimacy, Auriea and Michael each created half of it individually, and then combined the parts later.

Heather Kelley and Damien DiFede explored their long-standing relationship as collaborators - first   as part of the Kokoromi collective, and later on Body Heat (now OhMiBod app) project that allows users to use an iPod touch to control the OMiBod vibrator.Heather reflected upon her experiences as a travelling designer, touching on more recent museum installations, as well as her work with DareDroid.  In closing, Damien was then joined by his most recent collaborator Matt Piersall, to demonstrate Noddables - their protoype of an iPad jam-session/DJ toy (now Cosmic DJ).

Overall, the session touched on several deep and meaningful themes related to collaboration - including authorship, communication, critique and the joy of mutual discovery. We look forward to further sessions exploring how the work of experimental game designers can be discussed/demonstrated in new ways.