Our first IndieCade experience

Two weeks ago, I went to IndieCade for the first time and fell head over heels for it. It couldn’t have been more enjoyable (except for one thing, but I’ll get to that).

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First, thanks to the hundreds of people who came to IndieCade and peeled themselves away from the tsunami of video games long enough to give our cyber-futurismo board game a shot.

Second, a big warm thanks to Celia Pearce for her game design skills and for prodding me to submit a game to IndieCade.

Hands-on collaborative prototyping

The festival started with workshops, on subjects like starting a company, grant writing, and making table-top games. It felt like a bespoke conference tailored exclusively to my needs.

During the table-top games workshop, I met wonderful developers and designers. One such designer was John Kane, with whom I helped design a cooperative version of UNO, I’ll lovingly call Deton-ocho, written Deton8.

In a span of 20 minutes, we deconstructed UNO and reconstructed it into our new game. We even balanced it. It was a reminder of how delightful it is to prototype tabletop games, an aspect of Blinks I look forward to others experiencing.

(Fracture, the game we submitted to IndieCade, also originated out of a session like this, where the original concept from Celia Pearce and Mechanics of Mike Lazer-Walker came together)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

I hit the ground running with my friend Mike Lazer-Walker, a talented game designer. The first day of the festival only allowed 2 hours for playing Fracture, but I ended up going 4 hours and packing up only when the staff kindly told us to scram. The events of the day nearly convinced me to ignore our commitment to frugality and buy a ticket for Nick to fly out. The bean-counter in me prevailed, to the relief of our wallets.

The stuff of dreams

So the first day of Fracture demos was fantastic, and it only got better from there. One player exclaimed he’d dreamt about playing Fracture the night after playing it, and he came back the next day to see if he could reign as champion (he did).

Some players approached the game with heavy analysis and complicated defensive maneuvering. (Note the player threatening another with a prop gun in the following image)

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Others worked collaboratively to achieve a Super Win, a rule invented by Celia Pearce to encourage more cooperative play. If every tile is put in a happy state, everyone wins (are there any other games that can be totally cooperative or competitive depending on the trajectory through its state space?)

Developers wanted

Another delightful aspect of IndieCade is many attendees aren’t just game players, they’re makers. A good thing for us, because as we’ve mentioned, we’re looking for collaborators and developers to help bring our new platform to fruition.

One USC student couldn’t stop raving about how much fun she had playing, and the new possibilities for play the system creates. There were a lot of comments like that and it meant a lot to hear them.

And that one moment I mentioned that wasn’t happy happy joy joy.

IndieCade colors don’t run

Without getting into the weeds, I did want to address the fact that there was a kerfuffle amongst IndieCade visitors in my space, and I decided to pipe up and stop the shenanigans. One of the reasons I love games is that they often provide a safe-space or a “magic circle” in which people can become temporary enemies or besties. When that safe-space is broken for anyone involved, it is no longer fun or tolerable and in this case, IndieCade was quick to act . So let this be a shout-out to IndieCade, as their staff managed to follow up on the situation to enforce their strict inclusivity policy.

Going the distance

All in all, the trip to Los Angeles, my hometown of 26 years, was wonderful. The hour and half commute each way from the valley felt like nothing when every morning I was greeted with eager play testers and the chance to share a vision for a different type of tactile play.

The IndieCade community made the trip for me. It was flattering that Fracture was a finalist, and put me in company I felt lucky to be associated with. The awards ceremony put the entire diverse crowd inside of a single room and some truly meaningful works of passion won well deserved awards. In the words of Rami Ismail

A Dutch-Egyptian developer handed out the Grand Prize of a major games event to an Iranian-Canadian developer, for the creation of a game about the history of a Middle-Eastern country. – source

And ultimately it feels great to be at an event where that happens.

Nick and I both decided that these kinds of events are worth attending, so feel free to let us know which festivals you think we should attend in the comments.

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