Bar SK

BAR SK is a small bar/gallery space for new and playful media. We're taking the event-style model we've evolved over the last three years and solidifying it into a permanent venue in Melbourne; number 90 Smith St, Collingwood.

We exhibit weird and wonderful creations from a wide scope of play, and we create unique controllers and installations to make them as accessible and impactful as possible. It's not about being good or bad at anything, it's about playing and experiencing, reflecting, chatting and drinking.

Closed Mondays.
13:00 - 01:00 Tuesdays.
13:00 - 01:00 Wednesdays.
13:00 - 01:00 Thursdays.
13:00 - 01:00 Fridays.
13:00 - 01:00 Saturdays.
13:00 - 01:00 Sundays.

Nearest tram:
The 86 stops right outside (stop 15).
~10 min walk from either the 11 (stop 13)
or 12/109(stop 15).

Drink, play, love

At first glance, it looks like any other Collingwood bar: eclectic decor, indoor plants, craft beers.

But there's just one difference: at Bar SK you can sit and play hand-crafted digital '' art games"while you sip on that hand-crafted beer.

As far as owner Louie Roots knows, there's nothing quite like it in Australia - and possibly the world. '' I went travelling in 2015 - I went through Europe and South Africa and the States - and the closest place I found was a place called Babycastles in New York,'' he says.

That Manhattan gallery space is a volunteer-run not-for-profit , with the odd band night designed to draw in diverse crowds. Temporary exhibitions - such as Melbourne's Contours, currently hosting '' not quite games"in Docklands - come and go, but as far as a permanent, for-profit space goes, this may be it.

Roots avoids the phrase '' video games"when he talks about Bar SK. There are definitely no Super Mario Brothers characters painted on the door. That's because he wants people to walk in off the street and have their preconceptions challenged.

'' If people aren't 'gamers' - ugh,'' he shudders at the term and its sometimes negative connotations - '' then they will feel excluded [from the bar], and people who are 'gamers' will play the stuff that we have and be like, 'these aren't video games' .

'' I think we've opened a lot of eyes.''

The business has allowed him to combine his love for hand-crafted games with his love for handcrafted beer. Even the game controllers here are handmade. Roots knocks them up himself out of scrap wood, ensuring they're easy to use for punters who may not be familiar with the '' language"of video games. They look more like retro arcade game consoles than X-Box controllers - and are also easier to wash if people spill beer on them.

The concept shows a different side to Melbourne's thriving game developer community, with Creative Industries Minister Martin Foley this week again extolling the commercial benefits of Creative Victoria's investment in the local industry. Mr Foley launched the new premises of the Arcade coworking space, which has quadrupled in size as small companies flock to Melbourne from interstate to take advantage of the funding.

It's also the reason Roots - who has worked in the industry here and overseas - moved to Melbourne . But there's a thriving fringe more interested in games for their own sake than for profit .

'' You never see an article talking about [the local games community ] without quoting all the numbers,'' says Roots. '' A big fallacy of smaller, artistic games is that they're made by people who just want to work in a big games studio. That's usually not the case. A lot of people do it for themselves and I think that's where some of the most interesting things come from. They do it by themselves and for themselves - and then they put it out there and it resonates with a lot of people.''

For makers, exhibiting games in a physical space is akin to a musician playing a live gig, he says. And like so many of the music venues along Smith Street, Bar SK makes its money off sales at the bar. A year after opening, the business continues to grow, and there's no shortage of independent games makers wanting to exhibit.

Bar SK has held more than 20 exhibitions - ranging from group shows to solo restrospectives - and shown more than 100 works for local, interstate and international makers.

It has done satellite projects - exhibiting games as part of Now Play This in London - and swapped content with a South African collective called Super Friendship Arcade. Now a team in Antwerp in Belgium is plying Roots for advice

- they want to set up a similar business but sell coffee instead of beer.

Bar SK's 1st birthday celebrations, from August 31 to September 3, include an exhibition of beer-themed games.

Hannah Francis

❊ Notice ❊

Many locations have gone into lockdown as the state takes action to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).

Disclaimer: Check with the venue before making plans...

❊ Address & Contact ❊

Bar SK⊜ 90 Smith St, Collingwood | Map
90 Smith St, Collingwood

❊ Web Links ❊

Bar SK

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