As part of the Berlin gamesweek, this year’s A MAZE festival opened its doors from April 10 to 13 to present talks, workshops and exhibitions from the field of art and culture and playful media. Being the Gamescom’s little artsy-fartsy sister, inclined visitors had the chance to experience mind-blowing VR installations, crazy indie games and other media that go way beyond mainstream gaming. Main topics were inclusion, politics, playfulness, and experimental visuals – all of it with a great and wide international focus.

This year, one of the festival’s main pillars was on the African gaming scene lead by Enter Africa, an inspiring project supported by the Goethe Institut to encourage young game developers from Sub-Sahara Africa to develop ideas on everyday challenges in their countries using la mix of location-based apps and physical board games. It would be great to see such a project develop in the Southeast Asian game scene too, as overcoming national boundaries is one of the most important challenges of today’s globalized world.

(c) A MAZE Festival

Speaking of the Southeast Asian game scene, one must admit that our favorite region was quite under-represented on the festival. Two events included game developers from the Philippines though. The first was a talk by Gwen Foster, indie developer and board member of IGDA Manila, on the history of the Filipino game scene and political games. Unfortunately, her talk had to canceled due to personal reasons. The good news: Gwen and the A AMAZE team are working on a video solution to make her talk available later on.

The second was the showcasing of Duloga during the festival’s open screens exhibition. During this three hours time slot, visitors had the chance to play a political game from the Philippines. Duloga can be described as a reverse Space Invaders game in which players take control of a crowd and avoid being shot by a vigilante cop. With its focus on choice, morality and public opinion, it is a commentary on the current political situation in the Philippines, mainly targeting the extrajudicial killings imposed on the country’s population under the cover of a so-called war on drugs.

For seven in-game nights, players have to meet a quota of “criminals” to be killed while at the same time trying to spare “innocents” and of course their own life. Duloga succeeds at showing that morality is not an easy choice by offering options to avoid the futility of this task. The maker of the game, Javi Almirante (better known as snack), obviously drew inspiration from games like Papers Please but it was until he was personally affected by the consequences of the country’s politics that anger made him develop Duloga.

The A MAZE festival was the perfect space for a political game like Duloga. It helped giving the Filipino game scene a stage and raising awareness for the political situation in the Philippines. As an extraordinary example for the importance of political topics in video games, Duloga can be downloaded for free on itch.io (tips for the developer can be given).

Visitors playing Duloga at the A MAZE festival
(c) Andreas Betsche

At Virtual SEA, we would like to see next year’s A MAZE festival showcasing more Southeast Asian contributions and encourage all Southeast Asian game developers to submit their games for the award and exhibition.

Disclaimer: The author of this article showcased Duloga during the exhibition, supporting visitors with playing the game and giving background information.

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