The fourth ever IGDA-sponsored 'Demo Night' took place August 23rd 2006, in New York City. Established by members from both the New York City and New Jersey chapters of the IGDA (the Independent Game Developers Association) as an outlet for local game creators to show off recent projects, as well as a chance to meet and greet their peers, the events have taken place every couple of months or so, and in a little over a year and a half, they have become quite the big deal.
Why so? Simply because it's a chance to strut one's stuff in front of (and hopefully make a splash among) the colorful cast that makes up the New York game development scene. It's an odd, yet even mix of big name; established folks like gameLab's Eric Zimmerman and Manifesto Games' Greg Costikiyan, both of whom have become poster children of sorts of the game scene and its ways, others who are just getting into the game of making games, some of whom are minty fresh with a pocketful of VC money (and others who are looking for some), students from assorted colleges in the area who are all working on the next big Alternative Reality Game, along with a few members of the faculty, and everyone in between.
They're all packed into a small space, with some beer and some chips, to check out what's new and what's coming down the pipe. The event is just like the people: unpredictable, underground, independent... though like many scenes, certain trends and facets are becoming starting to become more and more easily identifiable, almost expected, each year, for better or worse.
But this past Demo Night was a bit different. First off, its become so big that a change in venue was finally in order (the first three Demo Nights all took place in the offices of Large Animal Games, one of the largest game companies operating in Manhattan today, which by west coast standards might seem a bit paltry), so New York University lent one of their many buildings throughout the island as a meeting space. There was also a changing of the guards to kick things off; both Eric Zimmerman and Greg Costikyan, who have both been in charge of the NY chapter of the IGDA for years now, both stepped down from their posts and welcomed the new head, Wade Tinney, who not only runs Large Animal Games, the place where previous Demo Nights took place, but was a key figure in their inception and execution.
Tinney reiterated what Demo Night was all about: building a community for game creators who may be working on their own, but are all sharing the same experiences, and to be act as a forum so they can seek help and learn from each other. And after all was said and done, there were the games. Five in all, and again, given the flavor of the NYC scene, some of what was shown was somewhat expected. And some was not.
The clear hit game of the evening came from completely out of left field. It wasn't from some up and coming company that's just gotten in-flux of venture capitalist funding due to it tapping into what's hot right now, nor does it utilize some cutting edge technology to break untested gameplay waters. The game in question was The Shivah, from Dave Gilbert, an unknown in the New York circles (until that evening that is). The game in questions is simply a graphic adventure, in the tradition of Monkey Island and Gabriel Knight, with the twist being that it deals heavily with the Jewish faith.
When Dave first went up front to address the audience, he asked "Are there any Jews in the audience?" which got some chuckles, and a show of some hands. Dave went over a brief explanation of the game, then a film-like trailer was shown. After the gruesome murder which ended the clip, Dave responded with "Yeah, the Jews get that". Again, more laughs.
The Shivah stars Rabbi Russell Stone, who receives a large sum of money from a former member of his congregation who had passed away. Instead of putting the funds towards his synagogue which on the verge of closing down, Stone decides to investigate the circumstance relating to his death, which takes him all across Manhattan to uncover the truth, which reveals a conspiracy that shakes the foundation of the Jewish church.