“Are video games art?” is a question that has haunted the genre more or less since its inception. Surely no one would argue that the many pieces that make up the creation of a game—character design, electronic music, storytelling—aren’t art, but something about the combination of those elements as a salable work seems to make purists uncomfortable. Games have been an active part of multiple museums, with prominent placement at the Museum of the Moving Image and the Museum of Modern Art, but there’s been no art space devoted exclusively to video games in NYC until the founding of Babycastles.
For the past eight years, this cutting-edge not-for-profit has placed itself at the forefront of video game culture by staging gallery shows, hosting open-house arcades and design showings, booking electronic music concerts, and serving as a general hub for the indie game community. Though it is notorious for its impromptu pop-ups across the city, Babycastles has recently relocated to a new permanent home in Chelsea, packed with a constantly rotating collection of interactive exhibitions and curiosities.
In addition to its regular Monday night open house, Babycastles has several upcoming scheduled events to plan a visit around. On February 28, it will hold a meeting of its Game of the Month Club, where players can play and discuss the “visual novel” PC game Doki Doki Literature Club. Later, on March 30, it will stage a concert with a selection of nerdcore rappers, including Mega Ran and Sammus, who spit rhymes over chiptune DJ beats that draw musical inspiration from classic 8- and 16-bit games.
Why You Should Go: Babycastles offers an exploration of the wilder side of video game development, gameplay, and graphics as fine art. Whether you’re a longtime computer geek or haven’t touched a joystick since Frogger, you’ll find something to spark your imagination.
Downstairs at 145 West 14th Street (between Sixth and Seventh Avenues), Chelsea
Open weekly every Monday, 6–10 p.m., and irregularly for exhibitions and events