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Changing the face of games - the diversity of indies Exclusive
Changing the face of games - the diversity of indies
October 12, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield

October 12, 2012 | By Brandon Sheffield
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

The schedule handed out at the beginning of Indiecade was wrong. You had to go to the registration booth and look at a sign any time you wanted to know what talk was going on or when and where a special event was starting.

The main conference talks were often more of a conversational nature than an instructive one, and were scattered across three buildings and tents in three square blocks of downtown Culver City, with games shown in a fourth.

Ultimately the event wound up not being about the conference -- but everything surrounding the show was an affirmation of why indies do what they do, and why they continue to thrive.

Who's an indie?

The games showcased were great (by and large), and the show drew interest across a range of people -- from indies that were just starting out, to industry powerhouses like John Romero, Brenda Brathwaite, Richard Lemarchand, Jenova Chen, and Spacewar! creator Steve Russell.

But that's to be expected at a conference like this. What was really impressive was the diversity.

Walking around the show, playing the games, and networking with peers, it was striking how many people there were who didn't look just like me. There was a noticeably greater female presence than at many game shows, both as general attendees and on the game making side.

I watched a girl who "doesn't play games" dominate Super Space __ for 30 minutes, saying "it's not as intimidating as I thought!" I overheard indie dev Anna Anthropy say that never had she felt so safe around game fans. I saw my friend Erin Reynolds display her game Nevermind while her husband acted as booth babe. I saw people from all sorts of backgrounds playing and demonstrating games.

I don't think the traditional industry purposefully avoids diversity, but it doesn't especially encourage it either. It's difficult to do within a large organization, and you certainly can't hire people just because of how they look or what their background is.

Indie games by their very nature represent varied perspectives and viewpoints, and pride themselves by being different from the mainstream. The faces I saw at Indiecade showed me what those varied perspectives look like, and there was a real positive vibe to each interaction.

Cardboard kings and queens

A peripheral event also stuck out - the Imagine Foundation's global day of play, which coincided with the Saturday of Indiecade. The idea is based on Caine's Arcade, which is worth checking out if you haven't already. In short, it's the physical cardboard arcade creation of 9-year-old Caine Monroy, which became popular through a viral video.

Monroy embodies the spirit of play and creation, and at Indiecade this was shared with any kid who wandered by. The huge playspace began with some of Caine's arcade pieces, which kids could play to win tokens. These tokens were traded in to "buy" materials to make their own games out of cardboard, tape, PVC pipe, cups, whatever was around. Kids were making games, playing games, and feeling empowered, in an incredibly positive way. Seeing the joy on a 4-year-old boy's face when I successfully completed his ball maze game was kind of a revelation. Nearly everyone likes to create, if given the chance, and nearly everyone likes playing games.

At the cardboard arcade, a 9-year-old girl hustled Brenda Brathwaite and John Romero into playing her whack-a-mole variant. Brathwaite asked if the girl played video games. "Of course!" she said. "I play shooters.

"Oh, my husband John pretty much invented shooters," said Brathwaite. "Hmm," said the little girl. "But did he make Halo?" The more things change, the more they stay the same. But she was great at promoting herself, and her game - she believed in it, and she wanted anyone she could find to play the thing.

Across the event, the takeaway was the same. Anyone can make games, if given half the chance, and try to make their mark on the world. This is why we're seeing so many odd and interesting indie games, as tools like Unity and GameMaker lower the bar for entry to digital game creation. As social games and the triple-A studios cast around for direction, indies choose all directions, at the same time. I, personally, am all for it.

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Maurício Gomes
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"He invented shooters"


Yes... that sometimes saddens me :P

I once told a person in a very excited manner that I talked about the subject I was talking with that person with John Romero himself (I think about 3 years ago somehow I could sometimes chat with him on MSN and on Facebook).

The reply was: "John who?"



my interlocutor:

"Never heard of him... Another of your game dev wannabe buddies?"


"No!!! He made DOOM! The DOOM! Awesome game! DOOM!! And Wolfenstein 3D!!!"

Finally, I get:

"Aaaaah... No, never heard of it."

And of course, I died a little inside.

Jason Lee
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This is one of those stories that makes me laugh on the outside but cry on the inside.

Laura Stewart
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What's DOOM?


Stanley de Bruyn
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Well kids now grow up with consoles. In the US it would be more a Xbox360. In Europe PS3. Wenn Doom came out 1993 I was 23 years old. So I happen to know and play that game. But expecting a 9year old to know about such accent game. For retro and nostalia you need to have a past with those very old games kids of now just don't have and young adults dito.

Me totaly not a retro gamer. So for me Doom is past I left behind. Look in to the future of where genre evolving to. So would take a modern game. Stalker over Doom. Or even Rage.
I even don't play smaller indie games.

Dave Ingram
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Spot on. I loved the Cain's Arcade video, and I love Indie games. Indies represent pure creativity and true artistic freedom.

Marc Fagin
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Halo = garbage compared to Doom and Castle Wolfenstein, IMO. As a tiny indie developer myself, I think its awesome that games can be made by more and more folks these days. Problem going forward for everyone will be standing out from the crowd as more enter the marketplace. Happened to the music industry, is happening more and more in the movie industry and now more and more in gaming.

Matt Hackett
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An IndieCade judge said this about our submission:

> I don't understand why you have entered something like this into Indicade. [sic]

Seems like IndieCade isn't as into diversity. Disappointingly exclusionary.

Bisse Mayrakoira
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So far you have essentially said that a judge judged something (FYI: judges are generally expected to judge things...) and you are pissed about it.

A little context would be nice. What was your submission? Did the judge think it was not of sufficient quality, or that it was a wrong category and did not belong? Was the submission actually excluded?

Quality (by any standard) is achieved by being exclusionary to non-quality (by the same standard). That necessarily reduces diversity. Maximum diversity equals garbage.

Matthew Doss
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You know... I saw quite a few different types of games there ranging from FPS to flash based platformers, with some obviously more finished than others. Regardless of what the judges think, the event seems to be far more geared towards networking and getting the word of your game out.

So while I agree with Joe's point of view, I also think Bisse makes a good point. Not knowing any details about your submission the quote may or may not be applicable. How far along was development? I could see that response being applicable in various situations; pre-alpha, a game unplayable due to bugs, or even a concept that hasn't been fleshed out at all. I'm sure a digital tic-tac-toe would probably gather the same response as well.

Now I'm not trying to say that those ARE the causes. But we are on the internet and people do often make claims with no basis for the claim.

Regardless, while I'm sure that being considered for an award is great - simply having been there seems to be good for developers as well. More exposure is more sales, and even more so, the face-to-face time leaves people with a good impression leaving them even more likely to tell all their friends about the game as well.