Last week was the inaugural (and hopefully first annual) Indiecade independent games festival in Culver City, California, bringing together game designers, games educators, and games journalists for what the LA Times called “the video games industry’s Sundance.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend, but it’s been the talk of the indie gaming community in the past week. Over at the (lamentably now shuttered) Offworld, Brandon Boyer encouraged readers to attend in a great, three-part preview of the festival: “Why I’m Going to Indiecade (and You Probably Should, Too),” part 1, part 2, and part 3.
One of the highlights was a fascinating talk between Robin Hunicke (Boom Blox), Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), and Jenova Chen (Flower) on wacky ways to reinvent first-person shooters. Ideas between these three designers and the audience participants ranged from simple changes in game mechanics (shrinking the player as he or she progressed), to new ways of including emotional experiences (beyond suspense), and genre-bending settings (such as “shooting” musical notes to an orchestra). As the world of indie gaming grows, it becomes clear that the industry needs more of these kinds of discussions and these kinds of festivals, while we, as games researchers, need to better understand the new possibilities for interactivity that are arising out of these indie gaming communities.
Looking back at Glenn’s recent post, when we think about the “interactivity” of games, we need to pay increasing attention to the things that indie games often do best that actually have little to do with technology per se — seeing games as interactive metaphor, games as systems to create emotional experiences, and games as toolboxes for play. These are issues that are increasingly gaining traction in indie game design, and are being reported on by some international media, as this appearance by Passage‘s Jason Rohrer and Chris Crawford on Game Design‘s Chris Crawford on the French/German television series Into the Night recently showed.
Preparing students to become “games professionals” doesn’t mean the same thing it did ten years ago, or even five years ago. Understanding how indie games requires us to reposition games as more than entertainment and start to see them for the evolving, interactive, communicative media that they are is the task ahead.