IndieCade East is hailed as the Sundance Festival for video games. This year’s IndieCade East served as a great example of what defines independent video games and gaming as a medium. Never have I ever seen a building full of people with ideas stretching farther the expanses of what I thought were possible alongside a group of some of the most down-to-Earth people I have ever met. IndieCade East represents a culmination of all of the talent in the East side of the country plus the rest of the world.
As I walked into the double doors of the Museum of the Moving Image, I was lost in its hallways. People were still setting up, and there were no crowds since the day’s events had just begun, so walked to the third floor of the museum. As IndieCade East is a games festival, the third floor was set up like an arcade of sorts. Not any ordinary arcade, but the most indie arcade layout you can ever think of. Some games had projector screens, one game had two arcade machines, some game monitors were wider than others, and one game didn’t even need a computer to play. I ended up playing Kentucky Route Zero for the first time and I was immersed in a creepy tale trying to find route zero. As I finished, I got up and proceeded to walk downstairs.
People started walking through the halls of the museum and IndieCade. Children, grown men, women, and a lot of hipsters filled the halls starting at 12pm. Sony and Oculus were showing off other big upcoming games. In the Show & Tell, where developers demo their games to press and gamers, I stumbled upon two games that really hit me, Sirtet and Slam of the Arcade Age. Playing Sirtet, first, I was engrossed with the puzzles of the game. Basically, take Tetris but make it so that you control where everything goes and you only have to create tetrominoes within the space. The game was addicting but then I looked a little to the back of the room and saw the game I came for.
Slam of the Arcade Age, out of all of the games I saw there, besides the crazy mechanical contraption that wasn’t set up by the time I came back a few hours later, was the craziest looking game there. There were a bunch of Styrofoam buttons with wires attached to a single board that served as the inputs for getting four squared from one side of the screen to the other. You had to press the button that matched the color of the square on the screen and mash like there was no tomorrow, until the color changed. Now, you had to move to another button while fighting off your opponents trying to get to their buttons and in the end, it was crazy fun.
IndieCade East isn’t just fun and games. A lot of the people who participate in the event are game developers, even if they are in college or a bunch of AAA developers trying to go leave their respective companies and go indie, networking and getting to know other developers looking for people was key at the event. There were workshops that Sunday, including a very interesting game design workshop which I attended, alongside a Festival Submission workshop for developers looking to submit their games at big game festivals and competitions. Developers were giving talks, post mortems, and retrospectives into video games, as well.
Upon leaving the festival, I was slightly famished and wanted a bite to eat. I walked into a Panera Bread and lo and behold, there was a board game meetup in the back of the restaurant. Funny story, as I talked with the people who organized the meetup, they did not know about IndieCade East, which was going on a mere block away.
IndieCade East, as a whole, isn’t just about independent video games. Yes, all the games shown were by small teams of people but as a whole, IndieCade serves as a celebration of creating art and communicating fun. Just encountering that Astoria Boardgame Meetup made me realize why festivals like IndieCade are so important: because games create dialogue. Games create expressions that no other media can provide. What other medium makes a group of 30 year olds cringe as they feel crushed by the sheer power of force that a only team of ten year olds can wield? Can people deceive each other through books or movies? Yes, you can do that in real life but can you do that through the use of an artistic medium? IndieCade East made me realize the beauty of games. From board games, card games, video games, and games played out on the street, it was a celebration of the idea of “play”.