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A Worthy Cause: Help Support Babycastles, NYC’s Indie Game Arcade

A Worthy Cause: Help Support Babycastles, NYC’s Indie Game Arcade (photo)

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Arcades don’t exist anymore. What’s worse: They’re kinda hard to even remember, for those of us who used to put quarters up. (I know that’s difficult to admit, so just let it sink in.)

But, more than the thrill of actually playing “Pac-Man,” “Street Fighter” or “Paperboy,” the thing that arcades fostered was a social experience around games. That’s gotten lost as the video games business transitioned to home consoles and personal computers.

But, the arcade experience is coming back in the unlikeliest way on an unassuming street in Ridgewood, Queens. In a rundown live/work space that doubles as the Silent Barn music venue, twentysomethings Kunal Gupta, Syed Salahuddin, and Arthur Ward founded Babycastles, a basement speakeasy that showcases new and experimental games by upstart indie developers. The venue usually showcases work by talent that aren’t quite well-known yet, but they’ve also played host to art game creator Mark Essen, aka Messhof and Independent Game Festival winner Jonatan Soderstrom, better known as Cactus.

When I went to Babycastles earlier this month, they were opening up an exhibit of Christian-themed games and I got to play “Super 3D Noah’s Ark,” a re-skinned version the classic “Wolfenstein 3D” set inside Noah’s Ark, where I had to lob fruit to feed hungry animals. Also on hand were “The You Testament,” an action role-playing game set in the time of Jesus that casts players as a lost disciple who must resist attempts to goad him into violence. Babycastles seethes with DIY-ness: the games where set up in handmade cabinet stations, festooned with handmade signage, and everything from the sound system to second-hand PCs the games ran on gets appropriated by way of salvage or donation. As weird and accidentally compelling as the games assembled were, I wouldn’t have been able to play them–and more importantly, discuss them–outside of Babycastles. Both the underground indie scene and the social element around games needs nuturing and the Babycastles team is trying its best.

Now, the indie-centric crew is getting ready to set up a pop-up arcade just a stone’s throw from Grand Central Station, set to open on October 8th. There’s a need for financial support, though, and they’ve started a Kickstarter page to drum up support. Though they’ve already met their funding goal, every extra dollar helps the new exhibit be that much more awesome. Your money will be well-spent, as the upcoming pop-up will house work from the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, the Independent Games Festival, Eric Zimmerman & Natalie Pozzi and Eddo Stern, just to name a few. Check out the Kickstarter page for the full rundown of cool-ass games and developers who’ll be contributing and then open up your wallet to help Babycastles out. And, if you’re in New York, stop by for a gameplay experience that you can’t get a couch or a desk.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.