Out of the hundreds of submissions each year, 30-40 finalists are selected to be showcased at the IndieCade Festival. These finalists showcase true artistry in game development, combining a wide array of both artistic and technical skills, ranging from art direction, to interface and interaction design, to computer programming and sometimes hardware hacking, to sound design and interactive musical composition, to writing, to the mysterious alchemy of “game design.”
IndieCade then presents 10-12 awards that honor excellence of teams and individuals across the wide range of creative disciplines among the finalist games, while showcasing all of the finalists. Awards are selected through deliberation with a special panel of distinguished award jurors who come to a consensus on which award should go to which finalist. These awards have changed slightly each year based on past experience in discovering how to best honor these unique creatives - not an easy feat, which, if you look at the finalists of previous years, you can see why.
– Kellee Santiago, (Awards Jury Chair)
//Grand Jury Award
The Jury Award allows IndieCade’s Distinguished Award Jurors to select a game that they feel deserves a special citation for overall excellence. This could be a game that couldn’t fit into any other category, but the Jury each year determines the criteria for assignment of this award.
Unmanned is an experimental game about a day in the life of a drone pilot. Description from Art Technica: "The game uses a series of short, split-screen vignettes to combine simple mini-games with clickable conversation options, and takes you through the rather safe, humdrum existence of a modern drone pilot. Shaving, driving to work, flirting with your cute co-pilot, and even playing video games with your son are all given equal weight to actually blowing up a suspected insurgent thousands of miles away from a comfortable seat in front of a monitor. The game's short length practically demands multiple playthroughs, with different conversation options leading to significantly different outcomes. The result is a nuanced, wide-ranging look at a soldier's life from a variety of viewpoints."
The Trailblazer award is an honorary prize given by IndieCade every year to a working game creator who has both made great contributions to the field of games and captures the independent spirit. The Trailblazer award is for distinguished accomplishment over a career of game creation, and recognizes those personalities without whom many of us would have never fallen in love with the field. Past recipients include: Tim Schafer (2010), Megan Gaiser (2011)
CCO & Founder, Fourth Wall Studios
This year IndieCade is very proud to honor Elan Lee with the IndieCade Trailblazer Award. Elan embodies the spirit of the IndieCade Trailblazer. Credited as one of the inventors of an entirely new genre – the Alternate Reality Game or ARG – Elan began his career as character designer for films, then joined Microsoft as a game designer in 1998 where he was one of the creators of what is popularly considered one of the first ARGs, The Beast, created to promote the Spielberg film AI.
As one of the founders of 42 Entertainment, he worked on I Love Bees, an ARG designed to promote Halo 2, and Year Zero, which promoted the Nine Inch Nails album of the same name, as well as Tombstone Hold ‘Em and The Vanishing Point. He is also the recipient of a number of awards including an Innovation award for the International Game Developers Association for Halo, a Webby, numerous W3 and multiple Cannes awards.
In 2007, Elan co-founded Fourth Wall Studios with the goal of creating original ARG and trans-media content across a range of platforms. Last month, Fourth Wall garnered an Emmy® for outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media, Original Interactive Television Programming, for its multi-platform series Dirty Work, the first such award given to a property created solely for an online audience.
Fourth Wall, now located in Culver City, continues to blaze a trail into new territory with its unique and innovative approach to interactive narrative and we look forward to the next chapter in Elan’s Trailblazing career.
This game best reflects the IndieCade values in the group of finalists each year. It exemplifies a true work of passion, contributing to the cultivation of artistry in games. This award honors the finalist that uses the medium of games in a way that elicits the elusive, yet universal, experience often associated any work of true art.
The Stanley Parable
The Stanley Parable, created by Davey Wreden and featuring the vocal talents of Kevan Brighting, is an experiment in video game storytelling. Or the point of it might be that there's actually no story at all, or maybe the point is that there's no game. It's about choice, possibly, but it might be about something else. It is very important. It is not important at all. It makes perfect sense. It is utter nonsense. It is all of these things at once, or actually maybe it isn't. I, um…can you help me understand what's going on?
The craft of game development is inseparable from the medium in which it exists. This award honors the use of the medium to create an expression that simply couldn’t have been possible otherwise. A iPad game that leverages multi-touch input as an integral aspect of the experience, or a game that builds upon a computer’s processing abilities to make a digital work that wouldn’t be possible otherwise, this award honors bold and unexpected experiments with the affordances of the medium that transform technology to magic.
We asked Zak S., the game master of I Hit With My Axe, to make a little book full of the notes he had when running city adventures – and everything he wished he had. He gave us not only a sourcebook detailing key rules, tables, monsters and places in Vornheim – the city at the center of the Axe campaign – but also a treasure chest of resources for running adventures in any city. Need to know how to get from here to there even if neither here nor there are listed on a map? Even if there is no map? Need a random encounter? Need instant stats for that random encounter? Need to know why there was a random encounter? This book was designed to help you make a city happen now.
The space in between - designing the space where the player meets the systems in any game is a craft unto itself. Great interaction design allows a player to fall into the engagement of an interactive experience, whereas poor interaction design can throw so many hurdles in the player’s way that they are unable to move from the cerebral to the visceral. This award honors those games that consider the player, while at the same time allowing the player to forget they are one.
Eric Zimmerman & Nathalie PozziUSA
Interference is a physical game installation designed for a museum exhibition. It consists of five parallel steel walls, each 10 feet by 10 feet and less than a millimeter thick, which hang suspended from the ceiling and serve as visually permeable, vertical game boards. Pairs of players (up to 10 or more pairs at a time) can start playing anytime they want. The walls are divided into “cells” and each pair plays in a small, local area of connected cells. Gameplay is focused on moving colored wooden pieces around the walls in a simple strategy game. Your goal is to have the majority of your color in the cell cluster where your local game is taking place. The basic move in Interference is to steal a piece from another game that is going on between another pair of players. Playing your game means interfering in the games of other players.
This award honors the unique quality of gameplay that engages us with an experience or subject in that way only games can. This can entail a simple twist to a familiar genre, inventing a totally new mode of play, or the stellar execution of familiar mechanics.
Adaptation and additional game design by Eric Zimmerman, with graphic design research and reconstruction by John SharpUSA
Armada D6 is an unpublished board game with an unusual origin story. It is based on an obscure game-like ritual practice from the 1930s called “Armada Dei Gratia VI” (sixth armada from the grace of god). In this way, Armada d6 is part historic reconstruction and part original game design. A strategy boardgame for 2-4 players, Armada d6 is about the conquest of space. Dice are used as space ships, with each number a different type: for example, sixes are fast and agile scouts, ones are slow and powerful battlestations. Players use their ships’ abilities in clever combinations to create powerful gameplay effects. Gameplay maps are built from modular tiles and players can design their own map arrangements. The abstract and austere aesthetics of the game are inspired by the original found materials.
This award pays tribute to independent games that have had/can have a significant impact on the gaming landscape. They may have social message, shift the cultural perception of games as a medium, represent a new play paradigm, expand the audience, or influence culture.
Reality Ends Here
Jeff Watson, Simon Wiscombe, & Tracy FullertonUSA
Reality Ends Here is a pervasive game designed to reboot the freshman experience at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. This “secret” experience, officially unacknowledged by faculty and administration, launched in the fall semester of 2011 and was an instant success. Players are lured into the game via a series of mysterious communications from the “Reality Committee,” finding their way to a secret office, where they swear an oath of DIY media-making and are given a set of game cards that can be used to generate creative prompts. Players combine their card prompts into multifaceted “deals” that challenge them to collaborate in the production of media projects. Active participants are recognized by the Reality Committee with special serendipitous mentorship opportunities -- meetups and encounters with alumni, artists, and other industry professionals.
Games create their own self-contained worlds through a unique form of writing and storytelling. This award honors the special craft of revealing narratives through interactions within an imagined world which players want to inhabit and explore.
Amanita DesignsCzech Republic
Botanicula is a point'n'click adventure game created by the makers of award-winning Machinarium, studio Amanita Design and Czech band DVA. It`s about a bunch of five friends - little tree creatures who set out for a journey to save the last seed from their home tree which is infested by evil parasites. We will help the main heroes to explore their world, solve various puzzles, play mini games, find tons of hidden bonuses and collect cards with all the characters we will meet on our journey. It's very relaxed game perfect for hardcore gamers, their partners, families and seniors.
Independent game developers bring unique vision, both literally and figuratively, to interactive media, exploring a wide range of visual styles beyond the well-trodden approaches of photo realism or the arcade cartoon. This award honors the quality and originality of art direction and the ability of visual design to carry us to other times and places.
Gorogoa is a lovingly hand-illustrated world suspended inside of a unique puzzle. To solve the puzzle, the player rearranges a few tiles on a simple grid, placing them next to or on top of one another. But each tile is also a window into a different part of the game world--or perhaps into a different world--and each window plays like its own little game. The key to progressing never lies within one tile, but in the connections between tiles...
Sound and music are keys to the filmic experience, but they are even more important to the interactive experience. Audio is not only a way to create mood, feel and ambiance within a game, but are often a principle form of feedback, letting the player know her progress and performance in the game.
Dyad will reveal to you the secrets of the universe via bright flashy colours and phat beatz. Dyad is a gamified tie dye machine. Dyad is an interactive mind altering substance absorbed through your thumbs, eyes and ears. Dyad is a tactical octopus action ballet in a reactive audio-visual tube.
Each year, IndieCade asks its finalists to vote for their favorite game of the festival. This is a way for indie developers themselves to acknowledge their admiration for the work of their peers.
Renga is about finding a way home. Attacked and left for dead, our hero must carefully marshal their resources to build a new ship, confront their nemesis and finally return home. Only this hero isn't visible on the screen - it's the entire audience, working collectively to control the action using laser pointers directed at the screen. Turning the traditional hero's journey on its head, Renga asks the question - what if the ultimate reward can only be grasped by many hands? The show combines real-time crowd interaction technology, retro videogame aesthetics and a wry sense of humour to bring the audience together and leave them feeling a deep sense of camaraderie.
Each year, IndieCade invites the broad audience of attendees to vote for their favorite game of the festival. This is a way for participants themselves to voice their opinion.
Hokra is a minimalist digital sports game. A fast-paced, competitive game for two teams, Hokra uses sports metaphors to foster cooperation between teammates and competition between opponents. The game has simple controls and minimal rules while not losing the depth that makes multiplayer games exciting for advanced players. Like the sports from which it draws inspiration, Hokra is engaging to both player and spectators. Hokra’s music and sound design were created by Nathan Tompkins.