Since 2010, the "Next Level - Festival for Games" has been exploring interactive and participatory models of digital games culture and shedding light on their potential and perspectives. The multi-day event organised by the NRW KULTURsekretariat has long since established itself as a unique nationwide resonance space for the focused examination of the art and culture of digital games. With a programme mix of art performances, games parcours, international guest acts and a top-class symposium on the cultural, artistic and social aspects of digital games, the festival invited visitors to its eleventh edition from 26 to 28 November for the second time at the Zeche Zollverein in Essen.
At the invitation of the International Visitors Programme, five festival directors, curators and academics from Brazil, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands travelled to NRW for the occasion. They visited the diverse events of the festival and took part in the pilot presentation and discussion of the international encounter platform "ToGather", which is being developed in a collaboration between the International Visitors Programme and the Dortmund Academy for Theatre and Digitality, as part of the symposium "Digital Culture" on 27 November. There, the group also met with Marcus Lobbes, director, and Michael Eickhoff, dramaturge and (international) networker from the Academy for Theatre and Digitality, as well as scholarship holders from the Academy. A discussion also took place at Zollverein with the curators of the 2021 Festival, Dr. Christian Esch (symposium) and Tobias Kopka (exhibition).
In addition, the guests had the opportunity to get to know cultural institutions and actors in North Rhine-Westphalia who deal with the aesthetics of games, media art and other forms of digital art. In Cologne, there was a meeting with Dr. Phillip Bojahr, Head of Research, Laura Frings, Programme and Conference Manager, and Jonas Zimmer, Research Assistant at the CGL - Cologne Game Lab, Institute for Game Design and Research at the TH Köln. At the Academy of Media Arts there, they met for a conversation with Žilvinas Lilas, Professor of Media Art/3D Animation, and Isabel Herguera, Professor of Media Art/Animation, as well as Tania de Léon Yong, Artist and Research Associate, Media Art/Animation.