EPIC-WE Cultural Game Jam unites youth and heritage in Aarhus 

Experience. Play. Imagine. Create. Young people making games with cultural heritage 

EPIC-WE Cultural Game Jam #1 brought together young minds in Aarhus, Denmark, igniting a creative fusion of cultural heritage and game-making. Over two intense days in February 2024, 25 diverse young people delved into the world of game-making as culture-making within the inspiring cultural heritage spaces and artworks of ARoS, Denmark’s renowned art museum.

At the heart of the event was the Expert Council and concluding EXPO, where the cultural game jam teams received invaluable guidance from industry experts. This collaboration charged cultural innovation, refining ideas into thought-provoking concepts for games through and for culture. The EXPO served as the culmination of the five teams’ cultural-creative journey as they shared their created games with the public at AroS. The event was a chance for the youth to share their creations with a wider audience and to get feedback on their work.

The EXPO clearly showed that their games were more than entertainment; they were vessels of cultural exploration and experimentation, inviting players to engage with European heritage in transformative ways. At the EXPO, the participating youth showcased five different games through and for culture that, in various ways, framed and contemplated the art collection of ARoS and the exhibited cultural heritage in exciting, innovative, transformative ways. The Cultural Game Jam provided young people with an opportunity to engage with art, culture, and European values. The games developed during the game jam were not only entertaining but also thought-provoking. They encouraged players to engage with cultural heritage and values in new and transformative ways.

All 5 Cultural Game Jam teams ended up with games made through cultural heritage as game-making material in quite different and innovative ways. All the young people’s games had something ‘at heart’ and something they wanted to achieve within the domain of ‘culture and games’.

Five games for culture created through culture

In “Create your Legacy”, you get to play as a war painter under the immediate stress of battle and to experience first-hand the circumstances under which the artists create cultural heritage, in effect transforming visitors understanding of the lived (historical) context of creating cultural heritage experienced in museums. The gameplay experience will give you a unique insight into what might have been going through the minds of war artists when they created the dramatic pieces that now hang quietly in the museum corridors of grand institutions. We want to shift the focus from the artist’s product to the artist themselves, to zoom in on the humanity hidden in the painting, and remind the player that the war artist was a living person.

Roomination” captured the weird, eerie, and psychological sensation emanating from the artworks of renowned Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøj and captured the unique ‘Hammershøj-style’ into a 3D first-person horror exploration game. This combines the words room and rumination and invites the player to explore eerily empty rooms, each with a different theme and atmosphere. Rumination is a psychological term that means the act of thinking carefully and for an extended period about something, often negatively or obsessively. Like Hammershøj’s artwork, the game explores how rumination can affect our emotions, perceptions and being in the world. 

Art Parable” used classic point-and-click interaction to create a 2D game with an unreliable narrator taking players through the cultural world of an artwork and its contemporary problems. The game allows the player to explore how landscape paintings from the Danish Golden Age of the 1800s idealised certain aspects of Danish history and recreated the aesthetic tools and artistic characteristics of the era´s painting style. The game revitalises old paintings and allows players to engage with art history through a new and interactive medium. It also lets the player peek into European history and how it has been portrayed through landscape paintings. 

Bliss” was a 2D simulation game where players got to interact within the world of the artwork using unique game mechanics inspired by the value of ‘Equality’ to create critical reflections about nature/sustainability through players’ active engagement with the mechanics in the cultural gameworld. The team describes the game as putting a voice to the youth’s view of the climate crisis, questioning the romanticised view of nature, which is not just influenced but is a direct product of our culture. 

Goose on the Loose” showed a distinct aesthetic feel originating from a painting by Johannes Larsen transformed into a 2D side scroller with embodied flight mechanics. The game transforms the still life of the original painting to give players the possibility of experiencing life as a goose, creating an emotional first-person experience of ‘moving freely inside’ the cultural heritage artwork displayed at the museum. By taking the storyworld and aesthetic feel of the painting the game lets you experience the painting free as a bird. 

Engaging cultural heritage through game-making 

Behind the scenes, Aarhus University, Filmby Aarhus, and ARoS collaborated with Funday Games and Coding Pirates, blending professional expertise with a creative maker spirit. 

The EPIC-WE Cultural Game Jam #1 was more than just an event; it was a testament to the power of fusing game-making and cultural heritage, where games transcend entertainment, becoming tools for cultural reflection and transformation. 

These games were culture in action. Whether fostering critical reflections on sustainability, making heritage interactive, or providing emotional journeys through history, each game left an indelible mark on players’ perceptions of art and culture – reminding us of the profound connections between creativity, heritage, and human experience. 

The games through and for culture created by the diverse teams of young people during the event demonstrate how diverse perspectives from culture, games, art, and design can converge to create something culturally inspiring and innovative. It’s a celebration of individual creativity, cross-sector collaboration, and how young people can meet across disciplines to engage the boundless potential of games to shape our cultural landscape. 

As we reflect on the EPIC-WE Cultural Game Jam #1, we’re reminded that the intersection of art and games isn’t just about innovation—it’s about transformation. It’s about reimagining our cultural heritage through the lens of game-making, turning culture into interactive experiences that inspire, challenge, and transform both the domain of culture and games. 

Looking to the future, we are excited to continue to explore the potential of game-making as a tool for young people’s cultural-creative participation and empowerment. The EPIC-WE Cultural Game Jam was more than just a game jam—it celebrated culture, creativity, and community. As we enthusiastically anticipate future iterations of the Cultural Game Jam format, one thing is sure: the future of young people’s empowered participation through cultural game-making is bright. 

The results from the first Cultural Game Jam in Aarhus can be found here: https://itch.io/jam/epic-we-game-jam-01-aarhus    

Back to Top