5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m. VIP Early Access
New this year, VIP ticket holders will receive early access to our rooftop reception and enjoy complimentary beer throughout the night. Only 60 tickets available—purchase VIP tickets here!
6:30 p.m.–8 p.m. Rooftop Libations
Start the party on 88Nine’s amazing rooftop while enjoying complimentary beer, wine and small plates from local restaurants.
8 p.m.–10 p.m. Karaoke for a Cause
Be witness to the best karaoke show of the year, as some of Milwaukee’s fun and brave community leaders step on stage to pursue their rockstar dreams as they “Karaoke for a Cause” to support Radio Milwaukee, backed by a live all-star band of Milwaukee musicians.
10 p.m.–12 a.m. Dueling DJ Dance Party
Be prepared to dance the night away with the 88Nine DJ crew as they face-off turntable vs. turntable to see whose jams will rule the dance floor.
All proceeds from the Fall Ball and Karaoke for a Cause directly benefit 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.
Events run from Wednesday, August 29 to Sunday, September 2.
Friday-Saturday 3 p.m. Milwaukee Motorcycle Film Festival – Oriental Theatre
Dates and times and more information is available on the Harley-Davidson website.
To force a video game reference as someone who had previously played a limited number of games: if the Milwaukee indie gaming scene was Pokémon and I were Ash, Joe Bunda would be Professor Oak. He organizes the Miltown Game Developers meetups and he’s the creator of a game called “Perigee.” He was my guide to the local scene.
He describes being a video game developer as the “Batman” to his “Bruce Wayne.” He created the Miltown Game Developers on Meetup.com to see how many other hobbyist or professional game developers he could find in Milwaukee. He ended up connecting with the original Local MKE Gamedev Showcasers and eventually took it over. Now, the combined group has over 700 members and about 50 people who are actually regulars to the events. Every month they get together for two types of meetups: the first focuses on more technical presentations and workshopping and the second is an open event to showcase and simply play the games.
Joe’s own game “Perigee” is a perfect example of how these meetups are important in the development process.
In his game, the great world-ship Perigee is powered through deep space by the different color matter its generating core collects. As captain of the utility ship’s compass needle, the player’s objective is to shoot the bubbles of matter onto the playing field with the aim of grouping the greatest number of like colors to create energy, score points and keep matter away from the center (where it could cause a chain reaction and destroy the ship). I think of it like a combination of “Candy Crush” and “Asteroids.”
When Joe originally debuted “Perigee” to the group, they all began to catch on to the game, except one player. After the group watched him play, they realized he was color blind. Now, Perigee has a colorblind mode for players who have one or more of the three forms of colorblindness. In a room full of developers, the workshopping can often get more technical than this, but it shows how important feedback is to the process for indie devs.
“The Moon Fields”
My nerdy boss Tarik and I visited one of the Miltown Developers meetups at 42 Ale House—a geeky pub in St. Francis—and Raphael Azcueta’s “Moon Fields” caught our attention right away—not only because we had heard of it before, but because of its graphics and custom controllers. The game is a multiplayer fantasy brawler game featuring different landscapes and characters with special melee weapons and spells.
Raphael considers himself a designer and artist first, before calling himself a coder. And though the pixel art and graphics are captivating, he means more than visual art.
“I like to work on the moment to moment gameplay evoking different kinds of emotions many times in a second,” Raphael says.
With that perspective, his game becomes more than a stylized “Super Smash Bros.” It makes it easy to see video games as their own art form—like an interactive, multimedia performance piece.
He says, “Generally indie games thrive around art, music and technology. The majority of the Midwest seems to treat those things separately, but I think if as we connect more with artists and musicians and galleries and venues and event organizers…we’ll grow.”
To him, growing a scene, developing games and getting exposure…it’s all about making connections.
“It’s really important for any creative to connect with other creatives—especially when they’ve got a different perspective,” Raphael says. “Also, hanging with people who understand your weird niche is always good feels.”
Even so, he says his biggest challenge is still promotion. “Midwesterners are generally very modest and we don’t exactly have a thriving video game industry or promotion industry here in Milwaukee for it.”
He has a good start though. “Moon Fields” has been shown at the Midwest Gaming Classic, Daisho Con in the Dells, Anime Milwaukee, Madison’s M+Dev regional gamedev conference and featured in an entire indie showcase at Chicago’s Anime Central that he curated.
“Bomb Sworders,” a multiplayer game filled with a series of parkour-like movement puzzles and strategic hits, is the product of this community created by the Miltown Game Devs. In 2016, Ross Klettke presented a prototype of a game called “Zcuffle” to a meetup. Dan Graves, creator of “Walk the Light” approached him about teaming up to create a full game out of it. “Bomb Sworders” was born out of that collaboration. But the team wasn’t complete until the two met Ray Toler (aka Releaux), a composer who created the soundtrack to drive the action of the neon graphics in the addicting game.
Ross Klettke talks about the collaboration: “It requires a whole bunch of fields to come together and each contains really interesting problems. But, in the end, everything has to fit together in a compelling way. So while the end product is a game, the actual process of making it is almost like a game too—some sort of alternately frustrating and rewarding puzzle where you have the freedom to carve the puzzle pieces into whatever shapes you want.”
One of the major pieces of the puzzle is music. That’s where Ray comes in. “It’s very similar to the process of writing for film—finding the right emotional tone, setting the mood, driving the action—but with its own unique challenges,” he says. “For Bomb Sworders, we wanted to create a soundtrack that was energetic, fun, frenetic and memorable—music that can be looped indefinitely, but that doesn’t get annoying after repeated listening.”
With Ray as an example, the title of game developer does not always mean programmer. Milwaukee’s devs are graphic designers, musicians, writers, builders and yes, there are also coders. But that’s what the meetups are all about—bringing people with a wide range of expertise and interests together to create.
And the scene in Milwaukee is growing. Ross says the indie game devs here are more active than most people are aware of.
“We’re regularly surprised to come across people we hadn’t met before,” he says. “And it’s been really helpful—for advice, feedback and inspiration.”
One of those surprise newcomers who showed up to the meetup I attended was Will Matthews. It’s his first time there, but he brought his game “Storm Knights” to showcase.
Will is a musician who makes games for himself and for his music.
“I make games simply because as a child, I dreamed of it,” he says. “I often made up characters for fun and wanted to see them in an actual game. Now, I actually start by making a song, then the backgrounds and then the levels.”
The music leads his vision for his games, but the rest of it lives up to the sound. And although he’s clearly got the skills, he says he doesn’t think he wants to be a professional game designer.
“Game design is such a personal thing to me,” Will says. “It’s so time consuming…Plus I wish to make a game for myself. If others like it, all the better. However, others are rarely in my mind.”
Because of that, he’s never collaborated on developing a game. And for the same reason he says he’ll probably only make one more game. After that, he says he’d rather focus on music. There he’s more open to collaboration.
“Music collabing is much more fun ’cause the time from inception to completion is much shorter. Making a soundtrack for others is an idea, but we’ll see if I go in that direction.”
Erica Scheelk fell into making games four years ago after being laid off and deciding to try something new. Now she owns Fuzzy Code Studio.
“I wanted to do something that was mine,” she says. “So, I started making games and found that some people actually liked playing them! That gave me a lot of encouragement to continue. I guess I keep making them because it seems like a chance at freedom. I get sense of purpose from it and it’s a nice reliable outlet for anxiety since there’s always work to do.”
Erica was inspired to make “Mage Fort” because some of her favorite gaming memories are centered around games you can play cooperatively with friends in the same room. The multiplayer game is set in a dark magical realm where mages defend themselves against zombies by building towers, using magic beams and shooting cat cannons—that’s right, cannons that shoot cats as ammo.
Though she also works solo, she’s not completely alone because of the local indie game community.
“I don’t really have any friends or family that really understand what I do. It’s a place where pretty much everyone understands the struggles and joys of game development. If things aren’t going well, (for example: maybe there’s a difficult bug I couldn’t figure out yet) that really kills my mood. After working on a project long enough it becomes a big part of me. I hear this from other developers too, so I don’t think I’m crazy…we get really emotionally invested in these games. It goes the other way too though, when things are going well it’s an amazing high.”
For the indie game scene in Milwaukee to continue growing, she’d like to see it stay inclusive and to make sure any leadership makes the community welcoming to all sorts of people and ideas.
So what’s next for Fuzzy Code Studio? Erica says she is currently working on her next game called “Miner Lou,” an RPG-style game centered on Lou’s journey to save the star babies. It’s hard to top a cat cannon, but that sounds pretty promising.
Mooncat Arcade is not a game, but many arcade games that Paul Zimmermann builds. He’s the one behind the No Controllers events. He’s an indie dev inspired by bar acades and game development conference parties.
“My Mooncat adventure really started with how much I appreciate a particular kind of environment for games,” Paul says. “If we go down that road then we get into fond memories of visiting places like Galloping Ghost in Illinois, Ground Kontrol in Portland or my time playing pinball around Milwaukee.”
He loves indie games and he loves arcades, so he wanted to connect them.
“Arcade bars are popping up all over the place and that’s awesome. The one gripe I was having with the whole situation is that they usually rely solely on that nostalgia factor. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than happy to be surrounded by old cabinets from the 80s and 90s, but I can only play “Galaga” so many times. I live in the world of indie games, so my little dream was to blend that world directly into the arcade. Take new indie games, put them in arcade boxes and put those in the hands of people where they’re already hanging out. Indie devs are making good stuff right now, there is so much room to break away from pure nostalgia.”
Paul started making pixel art at ten years old and has been in the indie game scene ever since. Through it, him and Raphael (from above) have known each other for some time. Paul started helping him show “The Moon Fields” at events and conventions. There Paul realized that two things: one, he liked making the hardware of arcade cabinets and two, game developers throw good parties.
After building more and more cabinets for other game devs and for conventions, he wanted to make use of them—and throw parties.
A bar filled with board games and nerd culture, Oak & Shield was a natural fit for his pilot run event. Some people showed up explicitly for the games. Others, who were there for some flavor of nerdom anyway, were excited to see a game showcase.
Art*Bar was the true test. Paul booked a number of Thursday evenings at Art*Bar, inheriting the time slot that used to be for Drunk Bingo nights.
“It confused a lot of people when Mooncat Arcade banners stood over the room instead,” he says. “But I loved seeing people look around the room in confusion while they process what’s happening, then quickly transitioning to a big smile when they realize what they’re looking at. I remember one of the first people that came through Art*Bar’s doors checked out the arrangement, looked at us puzzled and asked what was happening. When he heard it was an indie arcade popup, he blurted out a ‘Hell yeah. It’s about time.’ and walked off.”
To accompany her electronic witch-house sound, “Lost Letters (of Seraphina)” is an immersive scavenger hunt to find letters in Seraphina’s eerie post-internet world. You explore her bedroom and her hometown with each song on the album moving to a new room or “level” where you can click on new things to try to piece together Seraphina’s story.
For LUXI, creating computer or video games is just another way to help get her ideas or visions across.
“It’s definitely a more encompassing experience for the person participating with the artwork,” she says. “I see all the senses working together to develop the story or feeling of the piece, almost like when you dream. I definitely see releasing this first game experience as more of a new starting point for my own work in the next coming years than the end to a project.”
Her game also features artwork by Nicole Lilyquist, Shawn Stephany, Anna Rodriguez and Travis Egedy (aka. Pictureplane). Clicking on the artwork on the walls will show the title and artist of the piece with links at the end of the game. If you needed any more literal of a metaphor to show games as art, this is it. Seraphina’s town is a virtual art gallery inside LUXI’s own work of art.
The celebration kicks off at 12 p.m. and lasts ’till 8 p.m. There will be music from DJ Shawna and DJ Sour of True Skool, plus free grilled hot dogs. And Pete’s Pops will be offering 24 flavors organized by two categories – Creamy Pops and Fruity Pops.
Here is the menu:
they will also have a Vliet Street special – Horchata ($2).
Bird chargers in Milwaukee are the ones who kept the scooters flying all over the city. Kind of like Uber drivers, these residents earned money by charging batteries overnight for $5-$20 per scooter. Chargers received this text Monday morning, asking them to take any scooters to a storage unit on Layton Avenue.
In a joint effort, Milwaukee officials and Bird announced that the company is voluntarily pulling its scooters out of Milwaukee for now as they work together to set up a more regulated scooter sharing program that would launch once scooters are officially legal under state law.
The Wisconsin Legislature are the people who could do that, but the Assembly doesn’t reconvene until January.
Until then, it seems that the Bird scooters will be in hibernation.
The gaming industry is one of the fastest growing in the world. According to a report from market intelligence firm Newzoo, a base of 2.3 billion gamers worldwide will spend a total of $137.9 billion on games this year. Not only that, the industry pulls in more revenue than movies and music. This also means there are a lot of amazing careers young people can get into gaming.
The mission for the teen game jam was not only to get youth interested in programming, but also learning about all the components that go into making a game—from art to music to story writing. Game development is a perfect example of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education. What better way to get kids engaged than with something they already love to do? That’s what this game jam was about.
The game jam took place on July 27 and 28. On the first day of the game jam, the youth formed groups based off a shared interest which was the basis for their game. Then, they worked with the professional volunteers to turn their ideas into a functioning game. During the first day, the youth worked on creating assets for their games, like graphics, sound and music. In addition to working on their own games, the youth got a chance to learn more about some of the games that the professional volunteers from Miltown Game Developers have created.
On the second day, the youth worked with professional volunteers to take the assets they created on the first day and build interactivity with code. The volunteers showed them the basics of Unity3d, a popular game development tool.
At the end of the second day, there was a career panel featuring Colin Hayes from Bucks Gaming, who talked about the opportunities in eSports, one of the fastest growing segments in the gaming industry. Following the presentation, the youth finished up their games and presented them to their family and friends, where everyone got a chance to play with each of the four games that were created during the weekend workshop.
It was so inspiring to see the youth present their games to their family and friends. I hope some of them will continue to learn more about game development and a pursue a career as well.
Here are the games:
“Infinity War” – a fighting game like “Street Fighter,” featuring Sonic the Hedgehog and Thor. They used the Hoan Bridge as a background for their game.
“Ultimate Battles” – another fighting game, where the youth took photos of themselves on a green screen for the characters. They use the MECCA floor as the background for their game.
“Legends of the Demigods” – a “Zelda”-like game for two players. The goal of the game is to collect keys through a labyrinth.
Deceased – a 2D platform game where the character avoids chasing zombies.
Soon, the above descriptions will include a link for each game, where you can play each one of them.
Below, you can take a listen to some of the music composed and produced by Ray Toler, who of course had help from the young game developers.
Wakandacon is a three day conference and festival that brings together pop culture, gaming, tech, feminism and politics. Wakandacon will take place at the Hilton Downtown Chicago. The event is focused on three areas which are named after the various tribes in Wakanda – the River Tribe: Creativity, the Mining Tribe: Education, Panther Tribe: Technology, Border Tribe: Outreach, The Jabari: Afro-Futurism, Merchant Tribe: Prosperity and The Dora Milaje: Feminism.
The Wakandacon organizers wanted to create a place free and unshackled from the ravages of racism, of exploitation, of discrimination and of emotional, physical and sexual violence.
Wakandacon’s programming features a variety of panels, workshops, kid’s activities, gaming tournaments, networking events and more. Here’s just a taste of you can expect from this weekend’s event:
Aja McClanahan, Quilen Blackwell, Toni Husbands and 2-3 other panelists (TBD) of the Chicago EcoHouse talk about technological advances in the inner-city (Chicago’s south side community of Englewood) that focus on entrepreneurship through STEM initiatives and financial literacy.
This panel brings together experts in the social justice and gaming to discuss the impact gaming has on raising awareness, changing behavior, or other inequalities. How might gaming be a tool for social, political, and cultural change? Join the conversation with these panelists as they share their work and take questions from the audience.
The Shuri Project by the Henry Williams Love Foundation is a six-week summer technology mentoring program for girls ages 8-12 with the goals of keeping them safe while building self-esteem and increasing their tech aptitude. We will bring our instructors and some of the girls in our program to co-present a workshop and do a live demo of the websites they have built.
We’ll explore Afro-Futurism through poetry and the spark of creative writing. Billy Tuggle is a writer, performance poet, slam champion and HipHop culturalist. He has been published under such imprints as Puddinhead Press/Fractal Edge Press; Write Bloody Publishing; Freezeray Press; and Thoughtcrime Press. His book ‘The Way of the B-Boy’ is a collection of poems, meditations and a curriculum sketch of and for hip-hop culture.
A conversation about the impact of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression on blackness both stateside and abroad.
The objective of this panel is to inform and educate all POC (person(s) of color) and non-POC the struggles and triumphs of being a POC cosplayer. We aim to break the stigma of identification of being a race bended vs. original character cosplays.
A panel featuring concept artists from the film and game industry. These artists represent an ethnic minority in the game industry and have worked for companies like Marvel, Blizzard, Sony, Warner Bros, NetherRealms, Ensemble, Scientific Games, & Wizards of the Coast. Panelists include Anthony Jones, Thabiso Mhlaba, and costume designers from Black Panther Phillip Boutte Jr, and Marco Nelor.
You can check out the complete Wakandacon program via their website.
Passes for Wakandacon are only $35 and will cover full access to the event all weekend long.
At noon on Saturday Aug. 11, in the Associated Bank Amphitheater of the Wisconsin State Fair grounds, the cheese curd eaters will begin their impressive cheese intake. The event will last approximately six minutes ending in a total prize package of $4,000.
Among the competitors will be San José, California’s world champion Joey Chestnut, who has been a winner of Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest. He broke his own world record this Fourth of July, eating 74 hot dogs over the course of 10 minutes.
Darron Breeden from Virginia, Andrew Kogutkiewicz from Racine, Gideon Oji from Georgia and Matthew Raible from Illinois will also be some of the highly ranked competitors.
“Success will need to be earned at The Wisconsin State Fair Cheese Curd Eating Championship,” Major League Eating emcee Sam Barclay stated. “Hand speed will be key, capacity will be a challenge — and every eater’s ability to overcome their dairy tolerance will be put to the ultimate test.”
This is the first time a world record will be set in cheese curd eating.