After the totally digital experience of A Maze 2020, the festival for playful media and interactive art partly got back on the real stage this year. The main program with lectures, workshops and panels continued to be streamed online. But some events were broadcasted live from the festival’s traditional venue in Berlin, and they set up a co-working space for public online viewing on site.
Unfortunately, the main digital platform of the festival with the AMaze Space, the digital exposition and the hub for all demo games and flamingo avatar meetings was not accessible during the festival days due to technical problems with servers and registration procedures. The core element of the show, so successfully launched in quick improvisation last year, got lost in the digital space…
The remaining tracks of streamable content still presented an interesting range of topics at the artistic sidelines of the now booming interactive media industry. The festival streams highlighted cultural inputs from South East Asian mythologies and African game makers. YouTube panels reflected on subversive gaming culture in the age of digital surveillance and hybrid interaction models for performative audience participation. Zoom workshops introduced funding details and discussed production and marketing experiences for Indies and media artists.
In these interesting times of an ever expanding gaming culture, the festival still managed to point out innovative experiments and original media cross-overs. Live-action gaming events were in the focus, connecting music performances with often political game play scenarios, up to interactive cooking shows where quantification provided a common ground for recipe inspiration, game play mechanics and art evaluation on the same level.
The works in XR also had a penchant for performance and music. Evening sessions offered visits to ambient music concerts in a spacey virtual mushroom environment in VRChat. A mixed reality performance of a pandemic reinterpretation of Greek mythology could be seen as a video teaser for the real experience. Audiovisual synthesizer platform PatchXR became a regular part of the program with their annual workshop presenting virtual and mixed reality compositions. A gorgeous VR game made excellent use of hand tracking and redirection techniques for a puzzling ice cream fabrication with penguin avatars.
Although AMaze Space did not make it into our spacetime, AMaze 2021 could inspire even with its fragmented formats of hybrid leftovers. This makes longing for a comeback in every dimension. Situated at the cutting edge of media experimentation, this fragmentation also hints to upcoming coordination challenges in our now beginning era of hybrid events.