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IndieCade East Conference

Three days of talks covering topics from getting started at independent development to theories of play, and discussions of the future of the medium and developers. For IndieCade East, we take submissions from our amazing, diverse community, selecting talks to create a forum for up-and-comers and the well-known alike. This year will feature keynotes from Auriea Harvey (The Path) and Bennet Foddy (QWOP), and talks about DIY culture and game zines, the development of Black Mesa Source, and one of the founders of Project Adventure.

Click here for the complete list of speakers for IndieCade East

Letter from East Conference Chairs Margaret Robertson and Kevin Cancienne

Independent gaming has never been richer, so it's been fascinating challenge pulling together a programme that matches that diversity and range. We're thrilled to have Bennett and Auriea delivering keynotes. The Path and QWOP both represent benchmark games that have driven forward the public perception of independent game-making, and we're excited to hear the thoughtful and challenging perspectives they'll bring to IndieCade East.

Margaret Robertson & Kevin Cancienne
IndieCade East Chairs

Conference Keynotes by

Auriea Harvey

Auriea Harvey

Auriea has been making interactive digital art since 1995, more recently as part of Tale Of Tales, a studio which for more than ten years has been at the forefront of exploring narrative and emotional engagement in gaming. Projects like The Graveyard and The Path have helped define modern expectations of how games can explore mature themes and content, while new games like Luxuria Superbia experiment with generating emotional connection through aesthetics and interaction.

We are excited to have Auriea share with the IndieCade East audience a reflection on Tale of Tales' first decade and an examination of how their perspectives and philosophies have shifted over time. Auriea and Tale of Tales have always been willing to push players' and other developers' expectations about what games are -- who they're for, what they're about, how they work, and how they might affect us. This spirit of restless experimentation and resistance to easy categorization represent the best of what independent games have to offer.

Bennett Foddy

Image credit Gerard Vong

Bennett Foddy

Bennett Foddy is a scholar and a prankster. He was deputy director of the Institute for Science and Ethics at Oxford University, and is now Associate Arts Professor at NYU's Game Center. He played bass in Australian band Cut Copy. He also creates finger-destroying indie games known for their punishing difficulty and fiendish sense of humor. Games like GIRP, CLOP, and the phenomenally popular QWOP have alternately delighted and frustrated players for years. Bennett's two player polevaulting-meets-soccer game, Pole Riders, is part of indie sports compendium Sportsfriends, an IndieCade 2013 nominee. QWOP, his 2008 ragdoll physics running game, is featured in The Museum of Moving Images' Indie Essentials Exhibition.

We look forward seeing Bennett bring his unique mix of scholarship and wit to his IndieCade East keynote. Bennett will help us take a look back on where indie gaming has been and will try to make sense of where we are and where we might be going.

Rami Ismail

Rami Ismail

Rami Ismail co-founded Dutch indie studio Vlambeer in 2010 with Jan Willem Nijman. The terrifyingly prolific studio has cranked out a succession of superbly tuned indie action games, like Super Crate Box, GUN GODZ, Luftrausers, and Nuclear Throne. After their 2010 fishing-plus-guns game Radical Fishing was shamelessly cloned, Vlambeer came roaring back with an addictive and surprisingly poignant re-imagining of the game, as 2013's Ridiculous Fishing. Ridiculous Fishing went on to earn spots on countless "Best Of" lists, and honors from Apple and others.

Rami has emerged as a tireless and outspoken voice for indie game creators everywhere, and we are very lucky to have him delivering a keynote talk at IndieCade East. His work exemplifies the uniquely collaborative spirit that underlies the indie game phenomenon. Rami's battles against cloning, his philosophy on running a business that has no interest in cutthroat competition, and his stance on inclusiveness, all represent an interest in being an active member of a global community, not simply a purveyor of lucrative digital entertainment.

Conference Sessions

Friday, February 14th

Keynote: Vlambeer - Everybody's Medium

Friday, February 14, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Vlambeer's Rami Ismail talks about his hopes for independent games, opening up the medium through technological democratisation and community, and the challenges we face to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to make games.

Speaker: Rami Ismail

Indie Criticism

Friday, February 14, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Indie games are often implicitly critical of mainstream titles, but how do they handle criticism themselves? Especially within a community that enthusiastically supports them? In other words: how do we criticize what we love? I will discuss the importance of strong criticism, why the indie community should be a hotbed for it, and the values criticism and indie games share. I will also talk about the foundation of indie criticism – the individual experience of the player – and why it matters.

Speaker: Tevis Thompson

We Built a Community, So Can You

Friday, February 14, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Bartos Theater
A welcoming, engaged community of game-makers can be a tremendous source of support to its members, but it doesn't happen on its own. I've seen Dames Making Games Toronto grow from a small meetup to a vibrant and busy nonprofit, and people sometimes ask how to start something similar in their own cities. I'll share how we got started, our guiding principles for inclusivity, the challenges we faced, our program structures, and our fundraising methods. If you want to build a new game community, or want some ideas for your existing group, this talk is for you.

Speaker: Cecily Carver

Building A Better BitSummit - Reinventing Japan’s Indie Gathering

Friday, February 14, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Redstone Theater
An inside look at the challenges of creating a new kind of indie gaming event in Japan, and how to get the developers, media, and sponsors to buy into the vision of BitSummit. Then, with the resulting success of the event, figure out how to improve on the premise, and surprise everyone a second time. This presentation will reveal how we somehow managed to pull it off, and how we propose to create a sequel of an event like Japan has never seen.

Speaker: James Mielke

"RISE UP" - overcoming the toxicity and inclusivity of our industry

Friday, February 14, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Bartos Theater
"RISE UP" is an analysis of the industry's problems and issues with inclusivity, both racial and gender-wise. analyzing and dismantling gathered statistics, RISE UP intends to open up the kind of dialogue we rarely talk about, such as racial statistics and events, and how they affect our industry.

Speaker: TJ Thomas

Discovering Grim History Through Games: Tales told by early American board games

Friday, February 14, 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm, Bartos Theater
When we talk about indie developers we imagine fairly recent history, but people have been developing games for thousands of years almost all of whom have been indie. I’ll cover the rise of early American board games, who these designers were, and how their games reflected the times in-which they lived. Stories and games give a unique window into the past, making events that happened long ago seem real to us. Cultural constraints as well as our intentions shape our creations and sometimes those intentions get lost to time as games get re-published to larger audiences.

Speaker: Julia Keren-Detar

Narrative on a Budget

Friday, February 14, 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm, Redstone Theater
Stories can help your game immeasurably, yet few indie developers think they can afford them. Our talk provides advice about why it is good to include a story in your game, and how to integrate it without going over budget or scope, e.g. using the title to plant mysteries, reusing assets cleverly, creating narrative gameplay goals, using text and sound in new expressive ways. These tips and tricks come from the ample experience of the presenters, both narrative designers who have worked on mobile, web and downloadable casual games with small teams in very short development periods (3-4 months).

Speakers: Clara Fernandez-Vara & Matthew Weise

LARP Is Indie: Live Action Game Design

Friday, February 14, 3:30 pm to 4pm, Redstone Theater

Indie Game Design comes from a place of self discovery, personal expression and independent creation. So what other game design medium has been doing a lot of the same work? Live action role-play! Larp has been a hotbed of the same kind of personal, intense design around the world for years. Yet the connections between its unique innovations and the independent games movement have gone unexplored for years. Find out how LARP tackles many of the same design challenges indie digital designers face to discover just what these two different forms have in common.

Speaker: Shoshana Kessock

Videogames and the Spirit of Capitalism

Friday, February 14, 3:30 pm to 4:00 pm, Bartos Theater
If computer games, in their immense variety, have anything in common, that may be their compulsion for efficiency and control, for quantification and calculation. Computer games are the aesthetic form of rationalization. Regardless of their stated agenda, their cybernetic bias can push them to embrace a corporatist view of real world systems and scenarios. We are still learning to speak of immeasurable qualities through videogames. It’s a slow and collective process of hacking accounting machines into expressive machines. This talk will highlight some examples and strategies to counter this bias.

Speaker: Paolo Pedercini (Molleindustria)

Paid to crush your dreams: behind the curtain of publisher acquisitions

Friday, February 14, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Bartos Theater
As the former gatekeeper at a major publisher, I'll be sharing a host of useful information on how publishers assess pitches from developers, how to approach them and when you shouldn’t bother... interspersed with a number of amusing (and cringe-worthy) anecdotes. It’s not just about publishers either – whether it’s to the public on Kickstarter or Steam Greenlight, or to investors and venture capitalists, most developers need to pitch their game to someone at some point. This talk is relevant to anyone who is looking to release a game and charge money for it.

Speakers: Caspar Gray

Swords and Snails: the Killer Queen story

Friday, February 14, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Follow Killer Queen Arcade’s unique design process through it’s humble origin as a capture-the-flag style field game, into a projected video game, and eventually a 10-player arcade cabinet. See how our prior collaborations influenced us to make a team-based spectacle, allowing for both casual and high-level play. We will discuss how our intention of writing every line of code and pushing every pixel ourselves influenced the design and development of the game. We will also share what we have learned about arcade games, how to monetize them in a modern environment, and how our process has evolved.

Speakers: Joshua DeBonis & Nikita Mikros

Costumes as Game Controllers: An Indie/Research Collaboration

Friday, February 14, 5:30 pm to 6:00 pm, Bartos Theater
What happens when an indie game designer and a human computer interaction researcher work together on a game that explores using wearable tech and pop-up atmospheric elements to create amazing emotional and social situations and experiences for players? In our talk we will discuss our collaboration—the tremendous overlap in our aims and insights, and the challenges of working across the divide of the ways that we talk about, organize, and fund our work. We’ll also talk about how indie explorations might inform and inspire better technology design for everyday life, and the benefits back to indie games of collaborations like this one.

Speakers: Kaho Abe, and Katherine Isbister

Meat, Booze and Accordion Thieves: 11 Years of Kingdom Of Loathing

Friday, February 14, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, Redstone Theater
More than a decade ago, a unique browser-based MMO launched. While some of its innovations remain distinctly its own - the grammar test new players must undertake, for example, or its belief that chutzpah, smarm and muscleboundness are essential character traits - many others prefigured a world of physical rewards and in-game upgrades that have only recently become familiar through mechanisms like Kickstarter and in-app purchase. Conference co-chair Margaret Robertson interviews Kingdom of Loathing's creator, Zack Johnson, to discuss the creative, commercial and community forces that have shaped the game's evolution.

Speakers: Zack Johnson, and Moderator: Margaret Robertson

Players as Performers: Game Music and Music Games

Friday, February 14, 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm, Bartos Theater
Many video games that use music as a mechanic guide the player into repetitions of rote series of actions. What if, instead, we could use musical creativity and musical expression as game mechanics? This talk looks at classical and experimental music as possible sources of inspiration, from Mozart’s musical dice game to John Zorn’s improvisational system Cobra. These game pieces essentially reconfigure the relationship between audience and performer, observer and player. We’ll also look at current games that blur these boundaries, like Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, and Jordan Bartee’s Ming Mecca.

Speaker: Isaac Schankler

Saturday, February 15th

Keynote: PlayStation & Friends

Saturday, February 15, 11:00 am to 12:00 pm, Redstone Theater
The SCEA Developer Relations team will be on-hand to talk about the process of bringing your games to PS4, PS3, and PS Vita, as well an answer any general questions along the way. Some developer friends will be joining them too to talk about their experiences first-hand. If you love console and handheld gaming as much as we do, please join us for our session at IndieCade East! Brought to you by Sony.

Speakers: Brian Silva, SCEA; Nick Suttner, SCEA; Special Guests!

Black Mesa Source: Makeover Xtreme

Saturday, February 15, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Makeovers are serious business. That's why dozens of modders volunteered to makeover Half-Life 1 (one of the most influential games ever made) in a new game engine with new graphics, architecture, animations, voice acting, choreography, sound effects, etc. So much work goes into the video games we play, but what exactly does that work involve? Get ready for excruciating detail about the blood and sweat that goes into just one room of one level of one game -- and why us modders w-w-work it for years to give it away for free. See? Makeovers are serious business.

Speaker: Robert Yang

games + music + mainstream + indie

Saturday, February 15, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Bartos Theater
Making music and making games are basically the same thing. Creativity, technical ability, beauty, feel, talent, the need to push boundaries, and the need to make a statement -- both forms share all these qualities. In this session I’ll recall my experience playing music with Kelly Clarkson, making music with +/- {Plus/Minus}, and creating games at both Area/Code and Zynga as a developer. I’ll talk about what I learned from these experiences how it all plays into my latest indie game.

Speaker: Chris Deaner

Encouraging women in game development through community, education and development

Saturday, February 15, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Redstone Theater
Code Liberation Foundation (CLF) offers free development workshops in order to facilitate the creation of video game titles by women. During 2013, the organization ran 147 hours of programming classes at NYU Game Center and NYU Poly and served over 500 women. In 2014, the CLF will launch a game publishing platform for women creators participating in their programs.

This talk focuses on the lessons learned thus far and offer suggestions for educators who are attempting to encourage female participation within their programs. Topics include raising confidence through coding, same sex education pros and cons, curriculum, community building, male allies and outreach.

Speakers: Jane Friedhoff, Phoenix Perry & Nina Freeman (Code Liberation Foundation)

Five Spaces

Saturday, February 15, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Bartos Theater
How do volumes and materials, as well as safety codes, engineering and structural considerations, shape the design of a space, its perception as a physical game and the temporary experience of playing within that space? To put it another way, this is a talk about how I wish to hide meaning (and - perhaps someday – game rules) within materials. Although my field is architecture, through the accident of living and working with designer Eric Zimmerman, I somehow found myself completely immersed in game design. This talk looks back at the five playable installations we designed together to re-examines some of my conceptions (and my preconceptions).

Speaker: Nathalie Pozzi

Babycastles: Building an Alternative Dream

Saturday, February 15, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Conference co-chair Kevin Cancienne interviews Syed Salahuddin and Kunal Gupta, founders of Babycastles, New York's unofficial home for DIY indie game happenings. This session will explore the inspiration behind the videogame collective, Syed and Kunal's experiences running it so far, and what the future holds for Babycastles.

Speaker: Kevin Cancienne Syed Salahuddin, Kunal Gupta

Play Matters (and games don’t)

Saturday, February 15, 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm, Bartos Theater
This talk subverts the idea that games are important. Games are just things. What matters is that games are things we play with. Play matters, games don’t.This talk presents a theory of play that embraces why play can be dangerous, critical, political or even, sometimes, "fun". Like literature, art, song and dance; like politics and love and math, play is a way of engaging and expressing our being in the world. Play matters as a way of expression - not as an activity of consumption, but as an activity of production, with or without games.

Speaker: Miguel Sicart

Treachery in Marriage City: Clash of Artistic Backgrounds, Responsibility Shifts and Other Stuff!

Saturday, February 15, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Redstone Theater
You've heard the story of the former “AAA” game developer gone independent. There’s also the story of the married couple who makes games, either together or separately. Perhaps they also have a child, probably a baby. But what about when all of that is happening midway through the first year of marriage while also raising a preteen? Or the tension when one spouse isn’t a traditional game creator but is also a talented creative individual and has to take on an exceedingly numb of all creativity job just to keep the family afloat financially? And when she wants to be a part of the game project and the game developer husband is being a selfish jerk that isn't immediately open to the idea? And how they are miraculously still together?

This talk will be a frank discussion between Diana and her husband Shawn of struggles with creative differences, and the strengths of bringing them together to keep married life and game development on track.

Speakers: Shawn Alexander Allen, & Diana Santiago

The No Quarter Exhibition: A Brief History

Saturday, February 15, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Bartos Theater
This talk will trace the brief history of the No Quarter Exhibition, from its roots in the aesthetic interests of the early New York game scene, through its role in helping spark the current boom in local multiplayer games, to the present issues it faces going forward.

Speaker: Charles Pratt

When Indie Games Came in Ziploc Bags

Saturday, February 15, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Bartos Theater
How old is “indie gaming” and what defines our idea of it? Is indie gaming about relationships of power? Scales of economic production? A culture of play, an aesthetic, a community? This talk will explore answers to the question of "indie-ness" through a historical perspective. Focusing on the companies, products, distribution models, enthusiast magazines and company culture of early 1980s West Coast Apple II software scene (namely Sierra On-Line, Broderbund and Sirius), this talk offers game designers, critics and enthusiasts an original archival exploration of the challenges and triumphs of independent microcomputer software production during an era ruled by coin-ops and cartridges.

Speaker: Laine Nooney

Keynote: "Let's make a videogame!" a tale in 10 incantations

Saturday, February 15, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, Redstone Theater
Tale of Tales has existed for 10 years. I have been making videogames for 10 years. Now more than ever I believe a videogame can be anything and inspiration is everywhere. In this talk I will let you in on 10 important secrets. All whisper to the fact that indie developers cannot afford to make conventional games, and they are not... That this is an artform at the end of history, made for a public that is rarely educated to appreciate it. This is a medium worthy of sincerity in the midst of joy. Citing examples from our past and future projects, art history, and other people's games (maybe even yours): 10 astounding, confusing, beautiful, sublime, painful, true, ineffable, raw, believable and unbelievable ways of seeing videogames.

Keynote Speaker: Auriea Harvey

Sunday, February 16th

Winter is Coming and Other Stuff They Tell Free to Play Indie Devs

Sunday, February 16, 11:00pm to 12:00pm, Redstone Theater

Indie game developers that chose the free-to-play route five years ago are long gone – bought, closed, or no longer indie at all. But is the era really over for indie developers that want to make games with this model? And what about the other stuff they say about rising user acquisition costs, work-for-hire gigs, and why everybody should ditch web and develop for mobile? Developers from three indie studios still going strong in 2014 hash out the long list of "advice" doled out to them, looking for the wisdom that makes a winning game.

Speakers: AJ Glasser, Jeb Balise, Ian Tien, Rich Gallup,

Outsider Games - Why leaving your expertise at the door might not be such a bad thing.

Sunday, February 16, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Bartos Theater
What do we mean by “outsider games” and how might this approach be of value to game designers? Hilary, an atypical candidate for game design, will explain how having no formal game design experience and no interest in “whether it is a game or not” can lead to interesting work. More importantly it can lead to people who don’t play games to playing and making games, diversifying the gamepool of players and designers, which is beneficial for all.

Speaker: Hilary O' Shaughnessy

I'm a Transsexual Witch Poet Gamecrafter and You Can Too

Sunday, February 16, 12:30 pm to 1:00 pm, Redstone Theater
What does it mean to "be indie?" Does it mean aspiring to the mainstream model of videogames in miniature? Does it mean being a solitary poet warlord crafting polished game experiences that demand a particular kind of mastery from players? It doesn't have to! Maybe we need to unsettle our assumptions around what games and game developers look like if we want to allow new and fruitful kinds of play to flourish. Let's imagine this flourishing together in a conversation that will involve magic, forests, sadomasochism, queer utopias, and maybe... you?

Speaker: Merritt Kopas

On Karl Rohnke, the Field Indie

Sunday, February 16, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Redstone Theater
Karl Rohnke is one of the uncelebrated roots of independent gaming. He wasn't a video game advocate in any way - he's never even played a video game. Instead he captured and taught new games and game-like experiences as a way to create stronger communities. Karl was part of a movement that encouraged and allowed thousands to create games and to share those games. 

Modern designers explore his work because fun things are fun and, more importantly, future games need to be more inclusive and social. Karl’s experience showcases the secrets of getting along in a real space.

Speaker: Pete Vigeant

Rogers and Foddy (Attempt To) Objectively Rank The TEN BEST SPORTS OF ALL-TIME

Sunday, February 16, 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm, Redstone Theater
Tim Rogers and Bennett Foddy will attempt to -- live, in front of an audience of roaring spectators -- determine once and for all which sport is objectively the best sport ever designed and played in human history. This session will be half-rehearsed (the panelists will bring their collected game designery impressions of individual sports), half-impromptu (as the panelists attempt to agree to a ranking order), and all excitement! Will Rogers be able to convince Foddy that American Football is better than Cricket? (Probably not!)

Speakers: Tim Rogers, & Bennett Foddy

The Rise and Future of Video Game Zines

Sunday, February 16, 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm, Bartos Theater
A look at the recent renewed interest in fan-made video game magazines.

Game zines are a physical celebration of game culture at a time when virtually every aspect of the medium and its fandom are migrating to the digital world.

Thanks to easy-to-use print-layout software, online distribution platforms, Tumblr and Twitter, it’s never been easier for someone to create a physical print zine, find talented contributors, and connect with an audience.

As the indie game renaissance continues, this practice could be key in helping to develop new game subcultures.

We’ll be finishing up and printing an IndieCade zine during the session.

Speaker: Alejandro Quan-Madrid

Super Panel Fighter

Sunday, February 16, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Frank Lantz, Director of the NYU Game Center, hosts this mega panel starring six secret indie game all-star guests. Super Panel Fighter is a LIVE game show where panelists answer YOUR controversial or funny questions about indie games. Tweet questions to @SuperPanelFight. Who will be the ultimate Super Panel Fighter?

Speaker: Frank Lantz

How Kirby and Smash Bros Taught Me To Design Better Games

Sunday, February 16, 4:30 pm to 5:00 pm, Redstone Theater
Game development is exciting, tricky, and difficult especially for the indie developer. While professional devs are commonly hired based on skill, experience, and training, indie devs often employ and teach themselves. I present my journey from player, competitor (Smash Bros), blogger, tester, researcher, to BaraBariBall developer and how the details of my roundabout journey gave me a map to navigate any creative challenge without getting lost; without losing what I love about games and the ideas I'm driven to create. Details aren't cold and overwhelming. They're the personal, rich pieces that underlie why we develop in the first place.

Speaker: Richard Terrell (KirbyKid)

When Users Were Makers - Hobbyist Magazines in the Microcomputer Era

Sunday, February 16, 4:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Once upon a time, the best way to get games onto an 8-bit microcomputer was to type them in yourself. Hobbyist magazines contained program listings for games that were not only fun to play, but gave a generation of users permission to hack on their machines and become creators themselves.

This talk will look at some of the magazines that defined the microcomputer era and describe how these magazines fostered a culture of active media participation, creative recombination, and independent creation that is reflected in the current day indie and maker scenes.

Speakers: Josh Lee

Keynote: State of the Union

Sunday, February 16, 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm, Redstone Theater
The past five years has seen an unprecedented explosion in the number and variety of game developers who call themselves 'indie', or at least who get called 'indie' by others. Some grumble that the term has become useless, or even meaningless. In this keynote I'll go over the forgotten history of indie game development in relation to things as they currently stand. And I will recommend to your consideration such measures as I judge necessary and expedient.

Speakers: Bennett Foddy