Local indie video game studio brings artwork to life at Markham Public Library

Spanning over a decade-long history of local indie video game studio Freebird Games, the Markham Public Library (MPL) ’s Angus Glen branch is hosting an exhibition that brings to life over 60 pieces of artwork inspired by the studio’s games.

The interactive exhibition is designed for avid video game enjoyers and art lovers of all ages, which allows Markham residents and fans in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond to dive in and immerse themselves in the world of “To the Moon” with artwork, photos with life-sized character cut-outs, a scavenger hunt, and a comic book creator featuring characters from the games.

Founded in 2008 by Markham resident and Arts Unionville alumni Kan Gao, Freebird Games released their story-driven, adventure role-playing game “To the Moon” in 2011. Little did they know, what started as a passion project would go on to become a commercial success, selling over one million copies as well as receiving a number of nominations and GameSpot's 2011 Game of the Year award for “Best Story”.

“Everyone at Freebird Games worked hard to create something meaningful for the fans and fun for local residents,” said Gao, noting the show-up and support at the opening reception of the exhibition surprised him with fans even driving in from Montreal and New York to participate.

Gao appreciates that Markham provided a secure and welcoming environment for people like him to explore their interests. It was a lovely experience working with the city and MPL to put together the exhibit, he said. “It's been a full circle to be able to present this exhibit here.”

“As a city full of diverse founders, creators, and artists, interactive digital media such as video games are a perfect way to showcase the beauty and ingenuity of arts and technology intersecting,” comments Chris Rickett, director of economic growth, culture and entrepreneurship at the City of Markham.

Rickett emphasizes that as a city, Markham is committed to fostering an innovation ecosystem built on a foundation of creativity where the inspiration for stories and new ideas is limitless.

“We’re thrilled to showcase the work of local creative entrepreneur Kan Gao and Freebird Games,” said Catherine Bliss, the CEO of Markham Public Library. “We know their fabulous exhibit will inspire the community and spark interest in learning digital skills.”

As digital technologies change the way people communicate and tell stories, Bliss pointed out that Markham Public Library would continue to explore ways to ensure everyone in the community has opportunities to interact with this crucial form of literacy.

Freebird Games has also spawned two other games to complete its trilogy in addition to a number of 'minisodes', a repertoire of music, comic books, and a Kickstarter for a tabletop game that is expected to be released next year.

Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Economist & Sun