Feb 22, 2024 - Culture

Say hello to Richmond's first queer video game exhibit

Illustrated collage of pixelated hearts and characters around a giant Game Boy Color, a "TamaGirl" and a close up of a video game box.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Simran Parwani/Axios

Axios Visual Journalist Simran here, reflecting on a visit to FREEPLAY!, an art exhibition at Iridian Gallery inside Diversity Richmond.

What's happening: FREEPLAY! is Richmond's first queer video game exhibit.

  • From a giant hot pink "Gayme Boy Color" to a "Tama Girl" tamagotchi, the showcase features nine playable games with custom arcade cabinets.

Behind the scenes: The exhibition aims to subvert the conventional exhibit submission process, curator MeeNa Ko tells Axios.

  • Through the cost of submitting work and expectations around an artist's formal background, the gallery submission process can be rooted in racist and classist ways of thinking.
  • By funding many initial costs of sharing one's work and inviting people from a range of skill backgrounds, the organizers made FREE PLAY! more approachable to artists.

My thought bubble: My heart fluttered at the exhibit's playful expressions of queerness. My friends and I felt seen in the games' narratives about first crushes, growing up and navigating identities.

  • Spaces that center artists from historically excluded communities matter.
  • (I would also like a hot pink "Gayme Boy Color.")

What's next: The (free!) show has been extended until March 8.

  • The team will also design and share a zine about the exhibit and the artists.
  • Ko says, "There's definitely plans to have FREEPLAY! again next year."

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note the exhibition is at Diversity Richmond, not Diversity Thrift.

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