Evva Karr was 19 years old and studying neuroscience at the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities when they had an important realization: despite starting with one goal in mind, they found themselves drawn to the world of game development. The only problem was, they weren’t quite sure how to get involved — a struggle they soon found many aspiring games industry hopefuls shared.
However, rather than finding that fact discouraging, Karr — alongside their partner, Nicolaas Vanmeerten — took action, applying for school grants, volunteering to host events and speakers, learning basic game design and development, and finding ways to get actively involved in the industry in any capacity possible. After years of education, contract work, consulting, and immersing themself in the games industry, Karr then figured out precisely what they both wanted and felt they needed to do within games: help those who were also struggling to find their place in an industry not always welcoming to those outside of it.
To help realize this dream, Karr and Vanmeerten established GLITCH, a “creator-led, cooperatively-owned movement backing bold new forms of play and the people who define them.” While the idea of a group existing solely to bolster up-and-coming game developers might seem too good to be true, that is exactly what GLITCH is doing, and is part of Karr’s push for a “revitalized games industry,” where diverse voices, ideas, and people are made to feel welcome.
“I truly believe that there’s a bigger, better, more inclusive, and also a completely revitalized games industry that’s possible. One that’s essentially sustainable, co-creative, and shaped by new types of player experiences,” Karr said. “Right now, if you’re looking at it — and there’s plenty of research out there about it — games is a hundred million dollar media giant. 49 percent of people who game are women, 50 percent of them are people of color. And the majority of the people who are playing games, don’t actually identify as ‘gamers’. But we continue to actually develop, fund, and create a lot of these games for ‘gamers.’”
Karr has a name for this phenomenon: the “gamer myth.” Despite research proving the average person who plays video games is not the young, white, cis male gamer we have been led to believe they are, many AAA studios — and society at large — keep perpetuating the idea that this is the case. According to Karr, this is precisely why we see so much redundancy in blockbuster games such as the first-person shooter series Call of Duty, which releases nearly annually and sticks fairly religiously to its tried and true formula. However, while this model does work, Karr said it’s their belief that plenty of other models work as well — they just haven’t had the chance to try. This is precisely where GLITCH and their Moonrise fund come in.
The Moonrise fund is the name given to the early-stage equity fund created by GLITCH that pools together various angel investors’ capital in order to back game studios creating something Karr refers to as “different modes of play.” As for what that entails, the possibilities are endless — which is part of what makes the fund both inclusive and exciting. While the fund is not inherently intended to fund marginalized creators, Karr said it just so happens many of the ideas that break the mold established by AAA gaming come from women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community, folks who have lived experiences not reflected in mainstream gaming. It just goes to show how the “gamer myth” has prevented so many from seeing both themselves and their desires in games.
“That’s what the fund and the DNA of the fund are set up to do: to look for and back people who are thinking bigger and thinking differently about play,” Karr said. “And a lot of them just so happen to be women, people of color, and queer folks because they have different experiences and they have different ways that they’re thinking about play, so that’s just been exciting to us. A lot of people of color, a lot of women, and a lot of queer folks have just some of the best fricking ideas and that’s really cool.”
When it comes to how Karr and the GLITCH team decide how to distribute the Moonrise fund, the company is fortunate to have a board of advisors with years of games industry experience that help GLITCH make the call. In addition, these advisors also help the studios that are inevitably backed by the fund, providing helpful insight on development, marketing, publishing, and more. Ultimately, however, Karr said the biggest thing that determines what teams they want to work with is a slightly unusual but revealing question: what do you believe is the future of play?
“With the Moonrise Fund, we ask people one big question that all of the successful teams have been able to answer with us, which is what do you believe is the future of play?” Karr said. “And the answer to that is very deeply personal. It’s shaped by individual experience and it also shows us a keen eye on their specific market that they might know quite a bit about. Like, do we, for example, know a lot about rhythm adventure games on mobile? No, but we’re actually very keen and excited to learn about them. We’d love to hear that team tell us what makes this different, what makes this unique, and why them.”
This ties into perhaps one of the most important aspects of GLITCH’s mission: backing people, not just products. Karr, GLITCH, and the company’s various advisors and investors first and foremost aim to support talented creatives with compelling visions and a solid grasp on why their work is needed. Earlier this month, we got a look at the first three teams the Moonrise fund is backing, and it’s clear to see just why GLITCH is so enthusiastic to work with them.
The first team GLITCH is working with is the co-op studio Future Club, which is known for its work on titles such as fighting game Skull Girls and RPG platformer Indivisible. The second studio receiving the Moonrise fund is Virtuoso Neomedia, which currently has three projects of varying genres in the works: Radmitton, Killer Auto, and Zodiac XX. Last but not least, GLITCH is also backing Perfect Garbage, the studio behind cyberpunk visual novel Love Shore. While Karr was not at the liberty to reveal any of the team’s currently unannounced projects, they did offer a small teaser on what’s to come at one of the studios.
“You know, I’ll say this,” Karr smiled. “It’s sci-fi, it’s a thriller, and there’s gonna be a lot of stuff about climate change.”
Luckily for us, GLITCH is just as eager to share what they can about their upcoming projects as we are to hear about them. Earlier this year, that desire manifested in the company’s first-ever digital conference: the Future of Play Direct.
Future of Play was born in the summer of 2021 when Karr and the rest of the team reached out to Summer Games Fest host Geoff Keighley with the mission of not only highlighting diverse creators and modes of play but doing so in a way that was both affordable and accessible. Whereas attending industry events such as PAX or E3 can cost studios thousands, creating a financial barrier in addition to the physical one inherent with in-person events, participating in a digital showcase offered Karr a free way to reach thousands of creators and players alike.
However, that’s not to say going digital doesn’t come with its own set of constraints and troubles — especially when you only have six weeks to prepare. According to Karr, that was all they and the team had when readying up for their Summer Games Fest showcase, yet that didn’t stop them from getting ambitious. Rather than presenting their games in a traditional way, GLITCH found themselves inspired by both Toonami and the recent VTuber craze, and elected to create a virtual avatar named Melios to host the event. With the help of Melios and all GLITCH’s various friends in game development, eager to show off all their creations, the team was able to assemble a twenty-minute showcase packed full of interesting indie titles in mere weeks. Even better is the fact that folks and outlets responded so well to it, another one — and subsequently even more fantastic games — is just around the corner.
“Since that was so awesome, since there were so many people who watched it, we had great coverage off of IGN and all these other outlets that were really pumped and excited about the show,” Karr said. “We’re doing another Future of Play Direct happening this year, in December, for the Game Awards. And luckily now, since we’ve had more than six weeks, we did offer an open call. It’s free to all developers. So expect some really fun things for that.”
You can catch the Game Awards (and GLITCH’s winter Future of Play Direct) when the event airs live from Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater on Dec. 9.