This year’s IndieCade East took place at the Museum of the Moving Image. The three-day event was a celebration of independent games and the community of gamers and developers that love them. Attendees enjoyed early access to upcoming independent video games for Nintendo Wii U, 3DS, Sony Playstation 4, Windows, iOS, and Android. They were also invited to sit in on talks, panels and workshops led by a diverse collection of artists, developers, educators, professionals and gamers.
1. Games Are Designed to Bring Us All Together
Inclusivity was a recurring theme across the conference’s many talks and discussion panels. The initiative taken up by the indie gaming community to increase diversity amongst gamers and developers was front and center at IndieCade.
Christian Howard and Christopher Moody of Hidden Level Games hosted a talk discussing their work with The National Society of Black Engineers, NYC Lab School, Reboot Stories, Black Girls Code and other organizations. Together, they are using the game creator Beta to promote interest in building and playing games among youths from underrepresented backgrounds in technology.
Mary Flanagan, founder of Tiltfactor games whose motto is “Game design for social change,” discussed her research in developing and testing games for diverse audiences. She shared her findings and scientifically-proven techniques for using counter-stereotypical themes to increase open-mindedness in players.
Her talk was capped with a heartfelt story told by Clara Fernandez-Vara, associate arts professor at the New York University Game Center. Earlier that day she saw a little girl being left out of a game by her father. As Fernandez-Vara shared her recollection of the interactions between the child and the father, she wept. She told the audience if her own father had excluded her from gameplay when she was a child she might not have been as successful as she is today. Through tears she pleaded with the audience, “Let the girls play!”
2. Games Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Among all the latest demos for the Oculus Rift was a 2.5D side scroller called Vistics. It was created by Scott Tongue, a student at Long Island University Post. This game perfectly exhibited the next generation of virtual reality gaming. The controls were responsive, the levels were fun yet challenging, and the VR experience was immersive. This was an excellent representation of the future of next gen gaming. However, it was much more simplistic games that garnered the most attention from the crowds.
One such title was N++, the highly-anticipated third instalment of the puzzle platformer N series by Metanet Software Inc, which was part of the ESports showcase. The game was projected on a massive wall and was played on the PS4. Up to four players controlled their own stick figure ninja as they carefully raced through a puzzle filled with dismembering obstacles.
Another crowd pleaser was Hot Mess, a cooperative four-person twister-like game. Hot Mess required players to maintain their balance as they stretched to make physical connections between one another and a series of numbered metal plates to form a complete circuit.
Both N++ and Hot Mess were surrounded by groups of laughing, cheering people eagerly awaiting their turn. These games were an excellent reminder that high-end graphics and cinematic cut scenes weren’t necessary to captivate an audience.
3. Commit To Be Learners, Not Experts
The conference was attended heavily by independent game developers interested in expanding their gaming industry acumen. The majority of developers were self-taught.
Dave Gilbert told SkilledUp he started out in the garment industry. He’d long tinkered with developing simple computer games on his own for fun. One day he chose to focus all his efforts on this hobby rather than continuing to participate in an industry he had diminishing interest in. In 2006, Gilbert founded Wadjet Eye Games and has since, with the help of his wife and a few freelancers, developed and/or published 14 games including their latest PC adventure title, Technobabylon.
James Petruzzi, of Discord Games, told SkilledUp he failed out of college and soon found himself stuck in an office job. His passion for gaming drove him to spend his nights learning to develop video games with his friends. They spent two years trying to create a playable game and failing. Just as they were ready to call it quits, they finally launched two small titles to XBox Live Indie Games. For their latest title, Chasm, they turned to KickStarter for support. Their successful campaign resulted in $191,897 in pledges. Discord games is now preparing to launch Chasm, a side scrolling RPG, on PS4 this August.
IndieCade East orchestrated an environment for people to learn what Gilbert and Petruzzi had to figure out on their own. Nintendo, Playstation and Facebook all held discussions aimed at helping indie devs publish to their platforms. Koh Kim, business development manager for Google Play Games, conducted a discussion on unlocking international markets with Google Play. Other discussion panels covered crowdfunding, PR strategies, prototyping, law and pitching games to journalists.
A Conference for Gamers of All Ages and Interests
IndieCade East will return next year, and you should attend if you’re: a student of the craft, an indie game enthusiast or a game developer with a project to peddle. The community built up around the conference is dedicated to eliminating toxic elements from the industry and creating games designed for a global audience. Regardless of why you decide to attend, chances are you’ll end up both inspired and entertained.