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Experimental Game Workshop Returns, Here's How It's Different in 2023

One of the Game Developers Conference's most-popular events is back... with an upgrade. The Experimental Game Workshop has broadened its reach—and brought in some fresh faces—to help make this year's event bigger and better than ever.  

The Experimental Game Workshop returns to GDC 2023 for its 21st year, highlighting games that challenge the norm, break the mold, and change the industry. For 2023, the Experimental Game Workshop has expanded its focus beyond interactivity and mechanics alone. This time around, what it means to be an "experimental game" also includes gameplay, subject, storytelling, and representation of cultural perspectives and values. Even non-game presentations on community and culture.

"If I were to boil it down, it would be a matter of challenging what is expected based on what we traditionally see in the games space.” judge Carol Mertz told GDC in an interview. “Whether that is what we expected to see in a games community, what we expect to see through gameplay, or what we expect to see through aesthetic, these games or these ideas are challenging that in a really positive way that pushes the medium forward.”

In order to achieve this goal of broadening EGW, organizers Sebastián Gioseffi, Jacob Weidner, and Sebastián Blanco brought in some new judges (including Yiyi Zhang and GDC Main Stage host Liz Ryerson) and expanded their submissions reach—including sharing information in Discord chats, forums, and social media. It definitely had an impact: The workshop received over 120 submissions this year. 

"As the games industry has matured and developed, there are so many different spaces where it’s happening and so many different kinds of experimentation. We wanted to both increase the number of people on the team and spread out to different backgrounds, in terms of development and experiences and the voices who are contributing to that.” Jacob said. 

According to Liz, Carol, and judge Hesi Mendez, many of this year's submissions focused on collaboration, teamwork, and a sense of togetherness. There were also a lot of games about trauma. "Not surprising, given the pandemic," Liz noted.

Each year, top game developers from all over the world showcase their innovative, surprising, and intriguing prototypes in this fast-paced session. Some of the games that have been featured include: Portal, Journey, Untitled Goose Game, The Witness, Braid, Baba is You, What the Golf?, Card Shark, and more. Many of these games have gone on to become major successes, with some inspiring fundamental changes in how games are made and experienced. Above all, as Liz pointed out, the Experimental Game Workshop is a really great show! 

“As somebody who has juried IGF before—which I like doing a lot—you don’t always get to meet the people face to face and have a conversation with them. And we get to do that with developers. We get to talk to them. We get to be in the same room as them, and watch them present and actually talk about their work. So I’m super excited about that,” Liz said. “I hope it’s going to have a great positive energy—giving people something to really look forward to in terms of, ‘Wow, there’s all this stuff out there that I didn’t know about!’ And it can motivate them to go further with their game design ideas.” 

Join us at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this March 20-24, 2023 to celebrate experimental games and ideas, and the creators behind them. Register for GDC 2023 today!

GDC returns to San Francisco this March 20-24, 2023, and registration is now open! For more information, be sure to visit our website and follow the #GDC23 hashtag on social media.

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