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Nathalie Lawhead

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Nathalie Lawhead
Known forindie games, net art
Notable workTetrageddon Games, Everything is Going to Be OK, A_DESKTOP_LOVE_STORY
AwardsIGF Nuovo Award 2015, A MAZE. Digital Moment Award 2016, Indiecade Interaction Award 2017

Nathalie Lawhead is an independent net artist and video game designer residing in Irvine, California.

Life and career[edit]

Lawhead's background is in net art. Their work often invokes the iconography of 1990s-era web design and computing, particularly moments of technical failure, including pixelated lo-fi imagery, glitches, pop-up ads, and error messages. Lawhead's Tetrageddon Games is a compilation of short experimental games that playfully subvert norms of taste in web and game aesthetics.[1][2] Their more recent project, Everything is Going to Be OK, was described by Lawhead as an "interactive zine," [3] and combines short poems, games, and animations to express personal experiences with trauma.[1]

Early work[edit]

Lawhead's career started as far back as the mid-to-late nineties, with various pieces of net-art and poetry, culminating in the release of Blue Suburbia in 1999, a project created in collaboration with their mother, Milena Lawhead.[4] Their work often existed in a middleground, adopting various elements from trends in circles that used Adobe Flash, whilst still retaining an HTML focus common with many net-artists, eventually having their work described colloquially as 'games' by critics online.[5] Lawhead's early work has since mostly been lost, due to the ongoing issues with inaccessibility and website death caused by changing technologies, imperfect archival materials, and the removal of support for certain programs such as Flash on the larger internet.[5] This history of ephemeral projects has continued to inspire their current body of work, which often adopts motifs of digital graveyards, anarchic technology, and the fleeting nature of artistic existence on the internet.[2][5]


Lawhead was subjected to online and offline abuse and harassment following their discussion of their game Everything is Going to Be OK at Double Fine's Day of the Devs event, which increased after they published an article, "YouTube Culture is Turning Kids Against Art Games", on Venture Beat, where they discussed experiences with harassment.[3][6][7] As a result, Lawhead further revised and expanded Everything is Going to Be OK to include these experiences and comment on how gaming culture, and culture in general, enables abusers.[6]

In 2019, Lawhead went public with rape allegations against video game composer Jeremy Soule.[8][9]

MoMA induction[edit]

Following the release of Everything is Going to Be OK, the title was included in the Museum of Modern Art's 2022 exhibition Never Alone: Video Games as Interactive Design, an exhibit that included a series of 35 different works spanning the development of video games as an art form, and exploring their validity as works of design art.[10] Lawhead's work was eventually inducted into the museum's permanent collection following the exhibition, making the MoMA the first major artistic institution to include Lawhead's game in their catalogue.[10][11]

Notable works[edit]

Year Title Notes
1999 Blue Suburbia An interactive website consisting of labyrinthine nested pages filled with works of poetry and visual arts, blending various artistic mediums into a single coherent webpage, made in conjunction with Milena Lawhead.[4]
2016 Tetrageddon Games Lawhead's collection of short, humorous, and experimental games which draw on the aesthetics of the early internet.
2017 Everything is Going to Be OK Lawhead's digital zine, which features a series of short interactive and animated vignettes confronting issues of struggle, power, and abuse with anarchic humor.[12]
2018 A_DESKTOP_LOVE_STORY A brief narrative told within a file system, where one file has a crush on another file, and the user is tasked with navigating directories and files in the operating system to facilitate their relationship.[13]
Electric File Monitor A satirical 'digital security system' that scans the user's hard drive and charges them with various "transgressions," about which the user can "interrogate" them.[14]
2019 RUNONCE (remember_me) An interactive digital pet that converses with the user, but can only live one lifetime on the user's computer, after which the program cannot be run again.[15]
2020 Mackerelmedia Fish ARG-like game with tie-ins to many of Lawhead's previous works.
2021 Electric Zine Maker Free open source zine making tool.[16]
2024 Blue Suburbia An ongoing re-imagining of their 1999 project, built in the Unreal engine, exploring concepts of despair and hopelessness through an interactive diary format, framed as a walking simulator.[17]



  1. ^ a b Penabella, Miguel (May 21, 2018). "Player Two: An Interview with Nathalie Lawhead". Invalid Memory. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Tetrageddon Games". Communication Arts. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Lawhead, Nathalie (November 22, 2017). "YouTube culture is turning kids against art games". Venture Beat. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "'Welcome to BlueSuburbia' - poetry from Get Underground Brandon Backhaus". Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "Artist Profile: Nathalie Lawhead". Rhizome. February 1, 2022. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Hayes, Spencer. "Everything is Going to be OK: A conversation with Nathalie Lawhead". itch.io. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  7. ^ Lawhead, Nathalie. "observations about my "Day of the Devs" article & thoughts after harassment over a post that's about harassment". itch.io. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
  8. ^ Brendan Sinclair (August 28, 2019). "Tetrageddon Games developer warns women about Skyrim composer". Games Industry.biz. Retrieved March 7, 2023.
  9. ^ Andrew Gumbel (February 21, 2023). "The Hollywood crisis #MeToo missed: 'Every female composer has been through it'". Guardian. Retrieved March 7, 2023.
  10. ^ a b Antonelli, Paola; Burckhardt, Anna; Galloway, Paul; Hall, Emily; The Museum of Modern Art, eds. (2022). Never alone: video games as interactive design. New York: The Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 978-1-63345-141-4.
  11. ^ "Everything is Going to be OK, 2017". Museum of Modern Art. 2023.
  12. ^ Joho, Jess (October 20, 2017). "Beautifully bizarre art game 'Everything is going to be OK' is about how not OK everything is". Mashable. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  13. ^ Tarason, Dominic (December 21, 2018). "Your files want to smooch in A Desktop Love Story". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  14. ^ Brinks, Melissa. "Protect Your Computer And Think About Ethics With 'ELECTRIC FILE MONITOR'". Forbes. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  15. ^ Sykes, Tom (March 4, 2019). "Free download RUNONCE gives you a digital pet to play with for one short lifespan". PC Gamer. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  16. ^ "'Electric Zine Maker' Thrives as a Creative Open Source DIY Tool". Observer. March 2, 2021. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  17. ^ Couture, Joel (May 31, 2023). "'BlueSuburbia' Stirs Up a Deep, Solitary Fear". Indie Games Plus. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  18. ^ "2015 Independent Games Festival Winners". IGF. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  19. ^ Chan, Stephanie (October 9, 2017). "Everything Is Going to be OK wins IndieCade's 2017 Interaction Award". Venture Beat. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  20. ^ "Congratulation to the winners of the 6th A MAZE. Awards!". A MAZE. Retrieved April 23, 2019.
  21. ^ a b "2018 Independent Games Festival Winners". IGF. Retrieved April 23, 2019.

External links[edit]