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Experimental arcade LIKELIKE takes its show online with a curated Bitsy crisis

I really miss going to games shows, y’all. Fortunately, I’m not alone. With their usual Pittsburgh location shuttered during the Covid-19 crisis, experimental arcade-slash-arts gallery LIKELIKE have taken their show online with An Itsy Bitsy Crisis – a digital exhibition of works created in Adam LeDoux’s lo-fi game-making tool Bitsy, hosted in an online museum as pixellated as the works on show.

As written, LIKELIKE Online offers a fantasy world in this era of social isolation, one where you can “hang out with pixelated friends, stand awkwardly in the corner of a loud gallery, play obscure games together… just like before the pandemic!”

Given this week should’ve been the break between coming back from EGX Rezzed and heading off to A Maze Berlin, that stings. Damn.

A curated Bitsy museum actually helps solve one of my personal frustrations with the movement, in that the Bitsy-making scene blew up so goddamn fast that I completely lost track of it. I made several of my own wee games with the tool early on, and tried keeping up with the semi-official Bitsy discord, but folk were quickly pushing out thousands of intimate works, grand collaborative projects, and experimental hacks that took the tool far beyond its roots.

LIKELIKE’s themed exhibitions provide a starting point for diving back in. While this month’s collection contains games from various community jams, they’ve all been brought together under the theme of “crises and rebirths”. The creators plan with update the exhibition each month, with a new show and “new spaces” debuting on Friday, May 1st.

The current collection includes, among others, Pol Clarissou’s ode to peat in moss as texture as space folding onto itself; cephalopodunk’s gothic time-travelling retrospective The Last Human Touch; and Cecile Richard’s strikingly minimal house-burner Continental Drift. There are six games in all, and they’re all highly worth checking out.

Each game is a fine work on their own merit – and once you’ve had a shot at the featured piece, nothing’s stopping you diving into the rest of the artist’s catalogue. But in the context of LIKELIKE’s museum, they’re given greater context – a space to explore how these decisively different experiences play off against each other. Clicking an exhibit will immediately open a new tab to play the game in, but you can hop back in at any time to discuss the work with fellow visitors.

Failing that, you can do as I do at actual games shows – stand anxiously, awkwardly in the corner and watch everyone else hold interesting conversations. At least there’s a dog out in the back garden.

Following what looks to have been a packed launch party last night, LIKELIKE Online is quiet right now, with only a few visitors popping in. No admission is necessary to head on over through your web browser here.

Disclosure: Former RPS columnist Porpentine is featured in the current exhibition with the elegantly-named Almanac of girlswampwar territory & the _girls who swim as fertilizer through the warm soil cloaking the roots of the glorious tree of eugenics (giving birth to a black hole in a walmart parking lot at 1am), pictured above.

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Natalie Clayton

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Writes news when everyone else is asleep, sometimes

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