Published: Sept. 14, 2019

Whaaat!? Festival Logo

The 2019 Whaaat!? festival is almost here, and like last year's inaugural event, it promises something for every game aficionado: weird new games, old dusty games, overlooked gems, games with bizarre controllers, games that live in art museums and even games that may start arguments over what the game actually is. The event will also feature the ever-popular, all-you-can-eat cereal bar.

The Oct. 5 festival includes the Whaaat!? arcade, where you can sample all of the above, and a conference for serious game developers.

Conference-goers will learn about the art form of game design during panel discussions, workshops and from this year's keynote speakers, including well-known game designers Colleen Macklin and Jason Rohrer.

Jason Rohrer and Colleen Macklin

Rohrer's work comprised the first full-scale museum show devoted to videogames of a single artist at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College in 2016; his 2007 game Passage is included in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Macklin is an associate professor of media design at Parsons The New School for Design and founder and co-director of PETLab, which focuses on games for experimental learning and social engagement. Her work has been shown with Come Out & Play, Creative Time and the Whitney Museum, and she’s co-authored two books: "Games, Design and Play" and "Iterate: Ten Lessons in Design and Failure."

The arcade, a free event which runs from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., features specially curated tabletop and digital games to play "until your fingers are numb and your brain is inspired."​

Whaaat's up!?

Overall the event is geared towards games that don't fit in traditional boxes and highlights experiences that make you say "Whaaat!?

That's not "What?," but "Whaaat!?," defined in urban slang dictionaries as an expression of amazement and disbelief, combined with delight. Conference organizers Matt Bethancourt, director of the Technology, Arts and Media (TAM) program and the ATLAS Whaaat!? Lab, which specializes in experimental game development, and Danny Rankin, ATLAS instructor and recent graduate of the institute’s Creative, Technology and Design (CTD) program, created the festival, to leave people “surprised, maybe confused and hopefully delighted.”

Registration for the Whaaat!? conference is now open; attendance is limited to 175, and the price is $30.

Whaaat!? is sponsored by the ATLAS Institute and CU Boulder's Engineering Excellence Fund. 

If you go

Who: Expert gamers to aspiring developers to those who know little about games. 

What: 2019 Whaaat!? Festival, a one-day festival for games and experimental interactions. Conference track includes talks, a curated arcade of experimental games, workshops, panels and more!

When: Oct. 5, 2019, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Where: Roser ATLAS Center, ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, 1125 18th St, Boulder, CO

Cost: The $30 conference price includes access to panel discussions, workshops and keynote speaker presentations, as well as full access to the Whaaat!? Arcade. The arcade track is free, but registration is required.

Conference track registration

Whaaat!? festival website

Sign up for updates