Back in 2013, Mark Kleback was living in the back of Death By Audio, that wonderful, now-defunct DIY venue formerly located by the Williamsburg waterfront. There, he started tinkering with making indie arcade cabinets, collaborating with New York City-area game developers at the likes of NYU Game Center and beyond, who were making innovative video games. Eventually, this morphed into Death By Audio Arcade, a collective of local indie game developers looking to build unusual, creative games together.
But when Death By Audio's physical space shuttered in 2014, this growing collection of games and developers ceased to have a permanent home. For years, they showcased their cabinets through temporary residencies at the likes of Silent Barn (RIP) and Elsewhere. Now they finally have a scrappy place of their own in Brooklyn, dubbed Wonderville.
Located on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, Wonderville came about when the space's previous owners—who own the DIY venue Secret Project Robot and the nearby Flowers For All Occasions—approached Kleback and Stephanie Gross (his partner in life and business) about taking over the space. The two then launched a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year, shoring up over $100,000 to make Wonderville a reality. While Wonderville had its soft opening throughout May, they officially opened their doors on June 1st, kicking off a packed summer of programming that includes weekly tournaments, hacker workshops, and DJ nights.
It's easy to let a night slip by playing Wonderville's array of games. Some of them are solo player style, such as the psychedelic high-speed motorcycle game Black Emperor. Others, like Killer Queen, require 10 players—so you might walk out of there with some friends. There are also conceptual games, such as the mesmerizing Videofreak, which involves "manipulating live analog video feedback and audio effects that are built into the console."
I personally recommend VEC9. In it, you embody a cosmonaut embroiled in a mission to both win the Cold War as well as the Space Race in 1984—but it's the game's stunning design that transports you to the cosmos. Kleback told me that three former Lockheed Martin engineers built the game, and had it sitting around in a basement. Another fun one is DreamboxXx, a collaboration between Death By Audio Arcade and the Dreamhouse, the Ridgewood art venue; it features nine separate games, each of them made by a local queer designer. I tried out Dream Hard in that set, which is a two-player game that involves punching and defeating groups of fascists who threaten The Dreamhouse.
The owners are still figuring out how frequently they'll be rotating the wide variety of games inside the space. Kleback tells Gothamist that they've organized a curatorial team to review games people submit for consideration and that they'll also have test nights, where people can come out and demo a work in progress. "I really want to provide that avenue for people who are making really amazing things," Kleback says. "To be able to install them and showcase them to the public."
Wonderville is located at 1186 Broadway at Lafayette Avenue, in Brooklyn.