Joburg’s indie gaming festival boots up

In its sixth year, A MAZE again brings together African and international independent game developers, artists, forward thinkers, designers and digital activists

11 September 2017 - 12:52 By Scott Peter Smith
Two boys play games at Trackside Creative in Soweto. The 2016 A MAZE festival had a pop-up in the township for one night last year.
Two boys play games at Trackside Creative in Soweto. The 2016 A MAZE festival had a pop-up in the township for one night last year.
Image: Scott Peter Smith

Every now and then you have the privilege to be a part of something from the start. You can look back to five years ago and know you were there, involved and interested. Now, in what many see as a minor digital miracle in itself, the local iteration of the A MAZE indie gaming festival is back in Johannesburg and it's better than ever.

You could be excused for thinking there couldn’t possibly be enough independent game developers in South Africa to fill up a festival. You would, in turn, be excused for being surprised that there are.

Local indie game developers are not only making internationally competitive games but building their businesses too.

A MAZE attendees at the Tshimologong Precinct watch and play one of the featured games at the festival last year.
A MAZE attendees at the Tshimologong Precinct watch and play one of the featured games at the festival last year.
Image: Scott Peter Smith
Video games are not just about a game or a product, it is a lifestyle.
Thorsten Wiedemann

Enter the sixth A MAZE international indie game fest booting up this Wednesday at the Tshimologong Precinct in Johannesburg until Saturday.

A MAZE has been an essential event on the local games calendar for six years, bringing together the best and the most prolific game developers locally and from abroad for a three-day festival of learning, workshops and interactivity.

Berlin-based founder, director and CEO Thorsten S Wiedemann says: “For the sixth year A MAZE is welcoming African and international independent game developers, artists, forward thinkers, VR [virtual reality] designers and digital activists in Johannesburg to exchange tools, skills and ideas in the fields of independent games and playful media.”

The festival is an essential gathering for those who just love games as a medium for telling stories, enhancing experiences and connecting with other people.

Sithe Ncube from Zambia plays one of the featured games on display at the A MAZE festival last year.
Sithe Ncube from Zambia plays one of the featured games on display at the A MAZE festival last year.
Image: Scott Peter Smith

While not a game developer himself, Wiedemann says: “Looking back at the history of games, I want my name to appear somewhere that I helped. That we are reflecting on the medium ... to make a better world.

“Video games are not just about a game or a product. It is a lifestyle. There is a distinct move away from mainstream gaming with new forms of presentations and platforms for a new generation of players emerging. It’s a growing community and it feels amazing to be back in Johannesburg to see the same movement growing here year after year.” 

A MAZE provides an intensive, three-day programme with talks, workshops, panels, hypertalks, screenings, artistic games, VR experiences, playful installations, concerts, AV (audio-visual) performances and, of course, a party.

Still not sure what A MAZE is all about? Check out this video wrap from the last Johannesburg event. 

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