The heat wave that’s been blasting the LA scene finally broke sometime yesterday as the cool ocean breezes of the fall slowly drift through downtown Culver City. With only a week before the big event, IndieCade proves to be bigger than ever with over 80 games hitting this event. Even with all the articles I read about the games at there, there’s always something surprising awaiting me.
But more than just a weekend of playing games, talking to developers, and meeting the future of our industry; there’s an important reason for all of this. As I might have mentioned before, these events to me represent where were are now and where we’re going in gaming. Every game that makes it into the festival says something about what games can really do.
I picked out several games from the previous festivals to demonstrate what we can learn from IndieCade. So when you head out to Culver City on October 4th – 7th and wait for that amazing indie game, know that there’s also something here that you can learn about gaming and why events like IndieCade are so important.
Everyone starts at level 1. We work, sweat, starve, and sometimes come up with something good on our travels to meet our goals. On that journey, even the best can fall to the wayside, frustrated in languishing in the darkness. In a field where you need to fight for every inch of progress, a little recognition can seem like lightyears away - but not with IndieCade.
Cloud is a great example of a great game that got the recognition that it deserved. This wasn’t a team of former professionals, but students, just trying to make their way into the world. If you haven’t played cloud, you should stop reading this, go download it, and come back. Cloud lets players explore a world unlike anything else as you move clouds around an island to achieve your objectives.
IndieCade gives even students a chance to shine. In an industry so set in its ways, the support of young and upcoming developers is just what the industry and gamers need now more than ever. And those students who made Cloud, they happened to have formed a little company called thatgamecompany.
I try to keep on top of all the indie games so by the time the IndieCade announcements roll around, I usually already a couple of games in. 2010 brought us some great titles like VVVVVV, Limbo, Continuity, Miegakure, and BUTTON. But the one game that kept grabbing for my attention was Groping in the Dark. This text-based game puts you in the position of a kidnapped girl trying to understand what has just occurred. You grope around the darkness of the room and of your mind at you hang on to a precious sliver of consciousness.
What’s really remarkable about this game is that you’re focused on the words of your fleeting thoughts. The shapes and curves of the text become pictures and then those pictures change the meaning of your thoughts. It’s this wonderful blend of picture and text that blends beautifully as it switches in-between the two. But it comes with one problem; it’s all in Korean.
As someone who doesn’t read Korean or even search Korean sites, I would have never known that this game existed without some place like IndieCade to bring it to the forefront. While many of the games they feature come from the states or English speaking countries, you might have to dig a little deeper into some of their picks if you want to gain a little understanding behind the titles. It took me a month just to really get into Groping In The Dark, but in the end, the journey was well worth the effort.
Maybe it was two years ago when my friend Joel without knowing it got attacked by a zombie. I remember him being extra cautious that day. He wouldn’t talk to me while standing in doorway or near corners. Even when we did talk, he kept looking around every corner for someone or something. I wasn’t there when it happen, you know… the attack. Witnesses told me that the zombie couldn’t have been more than 10-years old. They were at the coffee shop and Joel waited in line for a cup. In only the comical form that one learns by watching too many Bugs Bunny cartoons, he crept up to my unsuspecting friend and tagged him.
And that was it. Joel was a zombie, one of the many that day lurking around Culver City looking for revenge or a victim.
IndieCade has this great way of bringing in games that have little or nothing to do with technology. I remember seeing Joust for the first time there during their night games as the multicolored balls of the PS3 wands illuminated the faces of the competitors. Someone broke out MetaGame where developers tried to argue the strengths of certain games in their hands. I learned that it’s not what you argue, but how you do it.
Before the graphics, everything you really needed came in a pack of playing cards or sometimes even less than that. While it might seem unusual to place a deck of cards against a video game, IndieCade reminds us that any game can be great.
It still makes me sad.
Daniel Benmergui actually works on many great and very cool games where it’s more about exploration rather than finding a right answer or solving a problem. I first really got into his work with Today I die. The game gives you a little story and shows a girl slowing being pulled under the water by a rock tied to her waist. As you explore, you get to change the story one word at a time until it takes on a completely different meaning. Sometimes when work gets to me or things are not going just right, I play Today I Die because I know that with a couple of small changes, things work out.
IndieCade has a way of bringing together not only great games, but experiences together for people to fall tumbling into like an emotional rabbit hole. You feel something when you play these games; hope, fear, success, or sometimes loss. Feelings have a way of sticking around long after you turn off the game. They change you in slight ways. It’s these games that will push the evolution of what we can do in the digital world, and it’s because of IndieCade that others can find them.