Okay, maybe Famicase is the only collaborative Famicom cartridge art exhibition but it’s nevertheless quite amazing! My Famicase Exhibition (わたしのファミカセ展), or Famicase for short, is an annual event organized by Satoshi Sakagami where artists and designers from around the world create labels and descriptions for their own original Famicom (basically the “Japanese NES”) games which are then printed out onto actual cartridges and displayed. If you’re a fan of retro games and unique art projects full of an equal mix Cool Japan and international flair, read on to learn more about this fascinating event. Press START let’s go!
What Exactly is Famicase?
The word itself is a combination of Famicom (itself short for Family Computer, Nintendo’s first proper video game console) and cassette (what game “cartridges” are commonly called in Japan) meaning it’s pronounced Fa-mi-ca-se (not Fami-case). As we said before, Famicase is a collaborative event where custom designs are submitted for original games that don’t actually exist (more on that later). These labels are then printed out, stuck onto actual cartridges, and displayed together at an art gallery in Tokyo!
Famicase has actually been going on since 2005 and has seen more and more entries and international involvement over time with 250 designs currently accepted each year. Given the amount of entries and variety of backgrounds (game developers, traditional artists, graphic designers, etc.) of the submitters, Famicase designs differ wildly; from purists trying to make their cartridge look as authentic as possible to obvious parody or meta-humor (such as submitting a photo of the wall behind the display that makes the label look like a hole through the cartridge) to minimalist modern ones that have grown to become something like a quintessential Famicase style. There’s always a bit of surprise when looking through each year’s entries which makes it all the more exciting!
The showcase takes place at METEOR, a boutique shop and art gallery in Tokyo focused on specialty items from artists generally focused on retro games and computers, anime/manga styles, and designer toys. My Famicase Exhibition lasts for one month, typically from late April to late May (2019 dates are 4/27 to 5/26) and is open and free of charge to the public.
Along with the gallery, each Famicase is documented and displayed digitally on a special chronicle website that lets you browse through the complete catalog of over 2000 entries which is really amazing! In 2018 METEOR also produced a book version which they sell at their shop which is probably the next-best option for enjoying Famicase outside of the main event. If you’re around Japan, you’ll also be able to find posters advertising the event at retro game bars and centers of nerd culture.
For those interested in submitting, Famicase has all of the information available on their website including a sample submission with blank label and logo image files you can drop your own designs into. While the directions are mostly only in Japanese it’s easy to understand. Each submission consists of a label design, a square, black and white logo for the “company” or artist, and a text document containing the information for the name of the software, your name and title/position, a short description of the software, and which color/type/condition cartridge you want your work to be displayed on.
One important thing to keep in mind is that official company logos and names cannot be used so if you want to include those you should create a parody variation! Submissions usually open up around 2 months before the event starts and are done via email.
Bonus Stage - A Game By Its Cover Jam
For extra coolness, there’s also a related (unofficial) event called A Game By Its Cover where game jammers set out to actually create games based on that year’s Famicase designs which really brings things full circle! The jam is hosted on itch.io and runs for about a month and a half from the end of July to mid-September. A Game By Its Cover is specifically meant to be as relaxed as possible. Like Famicase, there are no rankings as it’s meant purely to be for fun so it’s very beginner-friendly.
My Famicase Exhibition is one of the most unique collaborative art projects out there–and certainly one of the coolest–yet also quite accessible! We hope that you enjoyed learning about this event and enjoy looking at the many entries or perhaps working on your own! Let us know what you think in the comments section below and stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, retro games or otherwise!