Published: Sept. 22, 2020

ATLAS Institute’s third annual Whaaat!? Festival kicked off remotely on Sept. 23 with an experimental gameplay session led by Paolo Pedercini from independent game developer Molleindustria.  

Now the festival organizers have added another event, an Oct. 28 talk with John Sharp, author of "Works of Game," and an associate professor of games and learning in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design. Everyone is welcome to the free, virtual event, but they must register.

In place of the in-person, all-day annual event, the Whaaat!? Festival has switched to remote programming that will last throughout the academic year.  Game scholars, critics, researchers, developers, designers and enthusiasts will come together online for a wide variety of events, including “amazing guests, secret game clubs, virtual pop-up arcades, a book club, surprise swag by mail and more throughout the year,” says Matt Bethancourt, an ATLAS senior instructor who coordinates the annual conference with his partner, Lisa Bethancourt, and ATLAS Instructor Danny Rankin.

“We're a scrappy group that has fun throwing things together and seeing what happens,” Bethancourt says. “This year will be no different. We've got lots of things in the works. Some may be amazing, some may be flops, but whatever the case may be, we're always glad we have people coming along for the ride.”

"The goal of the festival is to feature creative and original games that break the rules, inspiring delight by forging new ways to live, interact and play," says Bethancourt. "The kind of experience that makes you say, 'Whaaat!?' "  

Creatively adapting to the circumstances, this year festival-goers have two ways to participate: a free festival ticket that offers access to all of the festival’s online events, including talks, livestreams, virtual arcades and game jams; or a limited number of $13 Whaaat!? Experience subscriptions, which includes priority registration to all the festival’s online content, plus exclusive programming delivered through physical mailings and by phone, and other secret experiences that the organizers have in store. The year-long festival is coordinated by Bethancourt and Rankin, who co-direct the ATLAS Whaaat!? Lab for Games and Experimental Interactions. The event receives additional funding from CU Boulder’s Engineering Excellence Fund.