Top photo by Keram Malicki-Sanchez (© 2016)
The third annual Hand Eye Society Ball (colloquially known as The Fancy Video Game Party) took place on Saturday, September 24 at the Masonic Temple in Toronto, and as in previous years, the event was a rousing success. The Ball is the organization’s most lavish production of the year, and hundreds of game developers and game enthusiasts turned up dressed to the nines to drink, dance, and celebrate the game industry in the city.
If you skipped it, you missed one hell of a party. The Hand Eye Society is a Toronto non-profit that showcases video games as a form of creative expression, usually focusing on initiatives like Game Curious and Wordplay that place a greater emphasis on public outreach and education. The organization highlights the accomplishments of game developers and the artistic potential for the medium.
In that regard the gala was no exception. Local multiplayer games like Multibowl and Last One Standing lined the dance floor (Cuphead looks even more impressive when projected onto a screen worthy of a movie theatre), and guests were later invited to participate in a theatrical bit of cloak and dagger secrecy befitting the Masonic surroundings. Sitting around a massive wooden conference table in the Temple’s elaborate Red Room, we gathered to debate important issues and chart the future course of the Society. (For reference, we voted to replace the water of Niagara Falls with wine from the surrounding regions. We also concluded that owls are real.)
It sounds frivolous – our meeting oath was based on the Night’s Watch pledge from Game of Thrones – but that shouldn’t diminish the significance of an event like the Ball. Though stereotypes about anti-social gamers are grossly out of date, stereotypes about busy game developers are not. Many artists spend days at a time sitting in front of a computer creating digital worlds that will be consumed on digital screens, and it’s easy to get lost in that daily grind. When you’re facing a tight production deadline and become mired in another round of crunch, it becomes more difficult to sneak away to take some time for yourself.
The Hand Eye Society Ball is vital because it gives people a date to circle on the calendar. It’s the one day a year when everyone decides that they’ll drop whatever else they have going on and congregate for an evening of carousing. People show up to the Ball because they believe that the Hand Eye Society is worth supporting, and that kind of collective display matters because it reaffirms Toronto’s gaming community and the inclusive values that it stands for.
Every now and then, it’s nice to have an excuse to get dressed up and hang out with friends you haven’t seen in a while, and organizers in any community could learn from that example. The Fancy Video Game Party was a reminder of the shared love of video games that forged the Hand Eye Society in the first place, and I’m looking forward to many more years of amazing video games in Toronto.