The IndieCade Report – Day 1

I have just returned from a fabulous three days of celebrating indie games by attending IndieCade! This is a festival dedicated not only to indie video/digital games, but also exploring what a game is, what it means and pushing the boundaries between games and not-games. Not to mention, expanding the space called ‘gamer’, and making a concerted effort to be inclusive and welcoming to gamers of all types. Because the festival was so full of content, I’ll be splitting these posts up into three separate entries, each one covering a different day.

First off, if you’re into indie games at all, I highly recommend picking up the current Humble Bundle. It’s a collection of games which were featured at the festival, and the proceeds go to benefit the foundation which puts on IndieCade every year. I’m happy to support them, and I encourage everyone who’s into indie games to do so as well!

So, onto the festival!

Day One – Friday

Confession: I have some minor social anxiety, which usually manifests as a feeling of dread as I prepare to go somewhere wherein I know I will have to interact with strangers. Once I get to the place, I’m usually fine. But the anticipation, somehow, is always awful. So Thursday night and Friday morning, I mostly spent in a state of minor freaked-out. However, I powered through, and arrived at the registration booth around 9:30 a.m., where I promptly made friends with the people I found myself waiting in line with. Anxiety dissipated!

I showed up just a tad bit too late to make the keynote address; so instead I wandered into a nearby Starbucks for some breakfast, where I ended up sharing a table with the developer of PaperCade and his friend (and got my picture in the game!). PaperCade is a nifty iOS game which allows people to put together small games, which you can then play with your friends – sort of like paper dolls for the Millennials. Definitely makes me wish I had an iDevice, but I’ve been assured an Android version is coming soon!

After my coffee and cheese breakfast, I attended a talk by Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time, and his friend David O’Reilly, of Mountain (among other things). This was less a structured panel and very much more just two friends taking questions from the audience about their work and what it means to them. I’ve never been a huge fan of Adventure Time (I always feel like I should be stoned to watch it, and I don’t smoke), but I did really enjoy watching two creative people banter back and forth.

A quick lunch break, and then I attended another panel, this time about the creation of communities around independent games. As someone who’s always been very community-oriented, I got a lot out of this panel discussion. The emphasis was on creating a space for your community, which I can definitely understand. They also touched on what I’ve found to be the greatest peril to many communities – the person who joins and seems wonderful at first, but slowly reveals themselves to be a toxic presence who undermines the ideals of the community. There is, unfortunately, never an easy answer when it comes to that; and the problem is only compounded when your goal is to make a welcoming and inclusive community. However, the panel wasn’t afraid to handle those thorny questions!

After that panel got out, I had intended to see the panel on historical influences, but instead I ended up at the Influences panel itself; where four festival attendees were asked the same question regarding their artistic influences. Each one of them answered the question differently (including an impromptu dance party to Balkan brass music led by Squinky), and I found it personally inspiring to see how each person approached creativity and inspiration. I really loved the talk by Robin of Funomena, who spoke about origami and how it inspired her studio’s new game, Luna (which looks AMAZING!). The presentation was rounded out by Ellaguro and a pair of architects who used building space as their inspiration. Overall, I’m glad for the mixup – definitely a panel I want to revisit next year!

After the panel was the Garden Party, which had a very festival atmosphere. I wandered among the various game booths. And my little gamer heart soared with joy and nostalgia when I beheld:

The old Sierra Games logo, printed on a banner and hung at the top of a white pavilion

Sierra Games at IndieCade

Yup. Sierra Games. As a gamer, I got my start not with Nintendo and Mario, but with Sierra and Origin (and I’ve been a PC gamer ever since). I can’t describe how happy I was not only when I heard about Sierra being revived, but also when I saw their IndieCade booth.

The gentlemen running the booth saw me taking this photo, and invited me to demo Sierra’s newest game. It’s called Geometry Wars, and is a rather surreal new-gen take on Space Invaders. I had a great time playing it, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys arcade-style shooters (also, just buy it so you can fund their development of a new King’s Quest game!)

Unfortunately, I started to feel a little overheated, and so decided to wrap up my first day at IndieCade.

Tomorrow, I talk about more awesome games, and how I managed to find the one larp running at the festival!