23 Dec What We Did In 2016: A Hand Eye megapost

There’s no shortage of indie videogame events to do in Toronto. Which is excellent! It means we have tons to mention in our monthly newsletter.

As the local game making and playing scene grows, we’ve been growing too. Now running for almost 56 dog years (or nearly eight years, by human standards), the Hand Eye Society continues to promote games as a form of creative expression in Toronto.

Still, we know your friends and family have been bugging you about us. “What’s does the Hand Eye Society even do?” they nag. “How much are they extorting from you?” they ask in hushed tones.

For your convenience, we’ve made a run-down of every program and event we held in 2016. Many were organized for the first time, brought on by popular demand and/or because they filled an existing gap in game literacy. Just a heads-up: you might want to fuel up before embarking on this read. It is a journey of Oregon Trail proportions.

Game Dialogues

Monthly microtalks came back! Local game developers hashed out concepts, shared experiences, and nudged fruits at Lab TO. Here are our 2016 GD speakers:

  1. Jim McGinley: Lessons from the TRS-80 (now in the GDC vault!)
  2. Derek Quenneville: Videogame History and Preservation
  3. Quench: A game by Axon Interactive
  4. Post-TOJam: Winging It, Douglas Gregory: Last One Standing (Vid gameplay!)
  5. Ryerson Gamemaker’s Union: Exploring Mechanics (Here’s a video snippet.)
  6. Ksenia Eic: Spatial Design in Architecture and Videogames (Livestream available!)
  7. Miguel Sternberg: Russian Subway Dogs
  8. Jason Bond: Poke-a-Mango and Augmented Reality


Comics vs Games

For the fifth year in a row, the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF) and Comics Vs Games united to take over the Toronto Reference Library. For more photos and some shining testimonials that we amazingly didn’t pay for, check out our recap post.

Game Curious

This year, Game Curious went cross-country! Our free game literacy program for people who are new to videogames took on the nom de plume “Curieux de Jeux” when it landed in Montreal, where our friends at the Mount Royal Game Society ran it for six weeks at Atwater Library.

The OG Game Curious still held down the fort in Toronto. This year, the Hand Eye Society ran Game Curious at Ryerson University for over 12 weeks of curated game discussion and game-making by first-time game makers.

Games in Dorset Park

With Games in Dorset Park, we made kids play in a park this summer. Which sounds like the easiest job in the world, but what’s unique was why and how: kids would meet with our mentors on weekends at Dorset Park in Scarborough, to plan and play through outdoor games that would be unique to the park’s environment. These kids were taking a crash course in game design, and for that, our sunburn was worth it! To play their games yourself and soak up leftover sunniness, you can read our recap post and see our photos of the devs in action.

Fairview Summer Camp

While we’ve done game-making workshops with kids in the past, this summer was the first time we ran a week-long intensive. Local kids ages 9 to 12 took part in our day camp at Fairview Public Library in North York.

For five days, kids spent every morning learning all about game development and coding basics. Their education was informed by playing curated games themed around aspects of design, and then developing their own Scratch games with help from mentors. After lunch, these young devs took a break from computer screens to take over a nearby park and develop outdoor games. All their hard work paid off in a Friday showcase for parents, with special speakers Matt Hammill from Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Edward Hulshof from Ubisoft. We salute the next generation!

The Society Ball

The Society Ball, our annual fancy videogame party, is almost always the biggest night for many in the community: Part swanky arcade, part geeky nightclub, and 100 per cent at the Masonic Temple. This year, 800 attendees descended onto 888 Yonge St. to play games made in Toronto and around the world (and join a cult or two). Want to relive the night? We’ve got a recap post, a Flickr album, and a highlight reel. Oh yeah, and the hashtag #HESBall16 was poppin.’

Extraordinary Mind Games

Much like our Game Curious program, this year we started Extraordinary Mind Games, a game-making incubator for creators and artists with mental health experience. In partnership with Workman Arts, our mentors helped several emerging game developers make games from start to finish, which many were doing for the first time. This finished off with an arcade of finished work at Game/Change, a full-day game forum that was part of the long-running mental health film festival Rendevous With Madness.

Wordplay London

We tried something new with our writerly game festival Wordplay this year, by whisking it to the British library in London, England. We hopped across the pond because of the extraordinary amount of writerly game makers based in those parts, several making in-person appearances. If you didn’t trek over, you can vicariously live through our livestream of Wordplay London, or read our recap post.


Behind the scenes, Amanda Wong and our volunteer team have been dedicated to building TOVGDB, a database of every single Toronto videogame ever made. We swear it’s the least sinister thing we’re doing. A couple pizza parties/data entry sessions and hundreds of games recorded, and we’re coming close to making it public! Keep your eyes peeled for what will be the biggest local game encyclopedia, which we hope y’all, journalists, researchers, and academics will be able to make ample use of.

One-off events

  • FebMoVid

In what was our first public event of 2016, we did a Full Motion Video (FMV) tribute night aptly called FebMovVid. Teaming up with Laser Blast Film Society, we marvelled and looked back on what was once heralded an exciting era of interactive cinema, and is now considered a relic of game history. Our honcho Sagan Yee pulled the FMV genrre out of the past with a special game made just for the event!

  • Videogames Unravelled

Talk knit, get hit with Videogames Unravelled, a chill arcade/knitting circle celebrating the intersections weaving games and knitting together. From a screaming sweater to wooly talks about moments knitting was in games (Kirby’s Epic Yarn, to name one), you can get wrapped up in YYZGameshow’s minidoc of the event.

  • Projections in the Park

It ain’t summer unless you’re gaming in Trinity-Bellwoods, guerilla-style. We threw up some white sheets over fences and trees, fired up the projector, and played videogames until the batteries died. And we jousted, but that’s a given in Trini-Bell.

  • Games! Games! Games!

“Games! Games! Games!” is both a succinct description of this entire post and the event we did by the Harbourfront Centre. During the Beats, Breaks and Culture Festival, we bombarded the public with outdoor games led by David Fono. Turtle Wushu and Beat the Heat saw players of all ages balancing reptiles and hurling wet sponges at each other, which is what all summer gameplay should aspire to be.

  • Game Furious

We did an anti-oppression pop-up arcade and quick workshop at punk vegan joint D-Beatstro! Featured games with representation of marginalized identities, and prioritized for participants unfamilar with indie game culture.

  • Toronto Public Library Workshops

This was a good year for us and the ol’ print palaces. We’ve (and by that, we mean mostly our intrepid tech lead Ken Cho) been running game literacy workshops with the Toronto Public Library branches, for kids, teens, and even librarians.

  • Random Game Development Workshops

One of the great things about Toronto’s indie game community is the spirit of sharing. Seasoned dev Douglas Gregory did a sold-out Unity shader workshop, and travelling Dutchman Stefan Dieters did a few Stencyl workshops for beginners. We plan to ramp up our workshops in 2017, if there’s one you’re itching to attend let us know!

So there you have it! Absolutely everything the Hand Eye Society has done in 2016, give or take a minor undead cybercrime against our lich hacker overlords or whatever. With almost eight years under our belt, it’s apparent how much our hard-working staff, volunteers, and friends have done to keep us going. If you’ve contributed to the local indie game community in any way this year, we thank you!

As you might have noticed, most of our programming is free. We’re able to do this thanks to our incredible volunteers and paying members, whose monthly dues keep our hands busy (finding unexpected games) and eyes wandering (to unexpected places). If you haven’t already, join this grand tradition and become a Hand Eye member!