Arts / Digital access / Events / Gaming

How Philly Game Mechanics found new audiences with the Fringe Festival

The local group of videogame makers connected with the Philly art festival to curate the Digital Fringe, an art exhibit that lives online. Here's how it went.

The Digital Fringe Showcase, at Harrisburg University's Philadelphia Campus. (Courtesy photo)

This series of articles is underwritten by FringeArts. Reported stories were not reviewed by FringeArts prior to publication. Learn more about our advertising options here.

It was artist Jenny Kessler, a former FringeArts intern, who first drew a line between two Philly institutions that actually make a good match: the 22-year-old performance art festival and a group of local videogame makers known as the Philly Game Mechanics.

The connection proved fruitful when the two organizations partnered to bring to life Digital Fringe, the online side of FringeArts’ yearly festival, which this year takes place Sept. 6–23.

The Game Mechanics — a group born from the old Philly Dev Night meetup — with its grasp on the local community of digital creators, curated a lineup of 26 interactive experiences, digital shortsvideogames and experimental graphic arts that event “goers” could experience from anywhere in the world.

“Artists are exploring the possibilities of our constantly changing digital technology, but creators and artistic institutions alike are unsure how to promote, market, and support this work,” Kessler wrote in a piece for, succinctly describing where the opportunity lies for something like Digital Fringe.

As the festival wraps up this weekend, we asked Philly Game Mechanics (and Flyclops Games founder) Jake O’Brien what the partnership meant to the group of online artisans.

“Working with Fringe meant we could reach new audiences,” O’Brien said. “You get the perspective of the different partners you work with and you get to provide opportunities for our members while stimulating our creative community.”

Raina Searles, marketing manager for FringeArts, said the partnership was a chance to rethink what it meant to have a digital iteration of the festival.

“What we want is to be a platform for the art that lives within Philly,” Searles said. “We’re really excited to be offering something to people no matter what their background is. Also, people don’t need a tech backgrounds to experience all of this: People already live on their phones so this is a way to take Fringe with you wherever you go.”

For game developer Daniel Shumway — the mind behind time traveling puzzle game Reset Hard — Digital Fringe was a chance to add outside input to the creative process.

“When you’re developing a game you’re very close to it,” said Shumway, 25, who demo’d his game at the Festival’s showcase on Sept. 12. “Your perspective will shift. You won’t be able to tell if something is easy or hard. It’s so valuable to see how people respond.”

(Give Reset Hard a whirl here.)

As for R&J, the mobile adventure where you are paired up with a stranger to experience Romeo and Juliet in a different way, creator Jessica Creane gave us a promising update the day after our piece on the project went live:

“We just had our first players finish up the game [on Sept. 10], which ended with both players ‘breaking’ the rules to meet up in person and one of the players writing to us to say that they may have just found true love! Pretty exciting,” Creane said.

Companies: FringeArts

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