IndieCade Festival
October 11 - 13
Los Angeles, CA
IndieCade Europe
October 19 - 20
Paris, France

A Decade of Game Design

Little more than a decade ago, video games produced outside the mainstream were largely an afterthought, found only in small online communities or derogatorily labeled “casual” games. The proliferation of game-making tools, the coming-of-age of a play-literate generation, and a growing consensus on canonical works has pushed the medium into maturity, expanding what we talk about when we talk about games. Today, a renewed interest in virtual and augmented reality, along with an expanding field of interactive experiences - escape rooms, immersive theater, mobile social applications, and more - sketches the boundaries of a vast space of expression.

IndieCade Presents: A Decade of Game Design highlights eight influential game developers from this past decade, presenting recent projects and contextualizing them within their larger bodies of work. Featuring Anna Anthropy, Tracy Fullerton, Copenhagen Game Collective, David Kanaga, Paolo Pedercini, Nonny de la Pena, Jason Rohrer, and Tale of Tales, A Decade of Game Design explores how games grew into a bona fide artistic and expressive medium.

IndieCade East returned to the Museum of the Moving Image for its fifth year, spotlighting the developers featured in A Decade of Game Design with a weekend kickoff of play, talks, workshops, a game jam, and more. The exhibit remains on display through June 17.

Each developer section on this page includes an audio excerpt from a walking tour of the exhibit hosted by IndieCade co-founder Sam Roberts. For a more in-depth look, you can listen here or download A Decade of Design: In Conversation with Sam Roberts and Mattie Brice, A discussion between Sam Roberts and game artist / academic Mattie Brice, the curatorial team for the exhibit. How have games and indie games changed over the last decade? How has the path of design evolved, and what did we see coming then that has now been realized or has yet to happen?

Sam Roberts and Mattie Brice discuss the exhibit.

Anna Anthropy

Anna Anthropy is a game designer, artist, educator and thirty-something teen witch. She teaches at DePaul CDM as Game Designer in Residence. She lives in Chicago with her familiar, a little black cat named Encyclopedia Frown.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

Lesbian Spider-Queens From Mars by Anna Anthropy, Mariel Kinuko Cartwright, Amon26: Enjoy a campy revival of old-school arcade games by recapturing all of your (consensual) slaves who are now in a revolt against you. Lesbian Spider-Queen From Mars marked an interesting time for queer themes in games by reimagining games nostalgia in a queer 80s scene. It pokes at the many permutations of moral panic about video games while challenging gamers on their home turf.

Emotica Online by Anna Anthropy, Leon Arnott, Liz Ryerson: Following the line of games that are themselves game makers like ZZT, Emotica is a pleasant world of emojis where the players interact in symbolic worlds and share their own creations with friends. An important movement in games is accessibility not only in playing games but in making them, lessening the barriers to entry by removing the necessity of technical knowledge. This game gestures to future playful technologies that blur play and creation with the ease of using any familiar application.

Be Witching: Anna Anthropy is the designer of many expressive punk games from early in the indie game movement, including Dys4ia and Mighty Jill Off. Anna’s work and her book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, embrace punk aesthetics in game design, and embrace difficult topics and subject matters, such as transition, masturbation, and witch fashion balls.
Be Witching is a game about witch fashion where players compete to design and judge outfits for the greatest fashion ball in the witching community. It is a game available as a print and play - easy for anyone to acquire and use, and which focuses on subject matters and emotional space far outside the traditional realm of games.

Anna Anthropy Board Game Cafe - February 18th, 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM: Come explore table top work of designer Anna Anthropy, as it explores role play, alternative technologies, romance, and social interaction. Anna’s non digital work focuses in the realm of accessibility, alternative content, and games meant to be played in dialogue with oneself or others. Have fun with your friends, and get some introspection on the side.

Tracy Fullerton

Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer, professor and director of the USC Games program. Her research center, the Game Innovation Lab, has produced several influential independent games, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Night Journey, with artist Bill Viola and the recently released Walden, a game, a simulation of Henry David Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond which was named “Game of the Year” at Games for Change 2017 and “Developer Choice” at IndieCade 2017. Tracy is the author of “Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games,” a design textbook used at game programs worldwide, and holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment. Prior to USC, she designed games for companies including Microsoft, Sony, MTV, among many others. Tracy’s work has received numerous honors including an Emmy nomination for interactive television, Indiecade’s “Sublime Experience,” “Impact,” and “Trailblazer” awards, Games for Change “Game Changer” award, the Game Developers Choice “Ambassador” Award, and Time Magazine’s Best of the Web.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

The Night Journey by Tracy Fullerton + Bill Viola: The Night Journey is a collaboration between the acclaimed media artist Bill Viola and the USC Game Innovation Lab, including game designer Tracy Fullerton, lead programmer Todd Furmanski, art director Kurosh ValaNejad and audio designer/composer Michael Sweet. The project was one of the earliest experimental art games and was supported by grants from the NEA and the Annenberg Center at USC. The team took inspiration from the prior works of Bill Viola and explored the challenging question of what is the “game mechanic” of enlightenment?

Walden, a game by Tracy Fullerton: Walden, a game is an exploratory narrative and open world simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. The Walden team spent ten years building this ambitious independent game, eventually gaining support from the NEA, the NEH and the Sundance New Frontier Storytelling Lab. In addition to designer/director Tracy Fullerton, the core team included lead programmer Todd Furmanski, lead artist Lucas Peterson, audio designer/composer Michael Sweet and a number of students from the USC Games program. Actor Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, Bonnie and Clyde) plays the voice of Henry David Thoreau.

The Making of Walden: Walden, a game has been a labor of love by a very small core team working over the past ten years. It is a six hour, exploratory narrative that begins in the summer of 1845 when Thoreau moved to the Pond and built his cabin there. You follow in his footsteps, surviving in the woods by finding food and fuel and maintaining your shelter and clothing.
Deeply researched through personal visits, lovingly designed, iterated, and thoroughly tested and polished over the years, the game has made an indelible impression on the modern cultural landscape and shines a bright light on the future of game design. Tracy’s work as a designer, theorist, and educator has been deeply impactful on the independent industry and has helped train and spur forth work as widely diverse as the IndieCade Award Winning Reality Game, GDC Award Winning Outer Wilds, and international sensation Journey. Learn about Tracy, her team and the game’s journey to final release.

Play Walden and Night Journey - February 18th, 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM: Explore the visual work of Bill Viola and written worlds of Thoreau through the lens of Tracy Fullerton's game design. Play these incredible games with their designer and take in the special knowledge, passion and design artistry of one of independent games' foremost scholars and creators.

Copenhagen Game Collective

Copenhagen Game Collective is a multi-gender, multi-national, non-profit game design collective based in Copenhagen, Denmark. The collective comprises a network of people and companies interested in independent game culture. Our members include creative individuals first of all, but also small companies, non-commercial interest groups, and game communicators and disseminators.
We play, exhibit, create, and care about games of all types – digital or otherwise – with a slant towards types of play that the game industry’s big boys can’t or won’t address. The diversity of our exhibits and game projects reflects our belief that creativity breeds creativity. The loose structure of the collective, encompassing a network of developers and collaborators, aims to create synergies between all our various projects.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

Keyboard Sports by Copenhagen Game Collective, Triband: Though video games are software, they have the ability to change our relationship to hardware and all the devices we now use in our daily lives. Keyboard Sports takes over the keyboard and pulls it away from its normal use of typing for playful exercises. It appropriates the old typing games made creators grew up on and points to the complexity of the machines we both work and play on.

B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now) by Copenhagen Game Collective: Though typically known for being purely digital experiences, the controllers of video games are also an important factor in design. Taking advantage of space and the competitive attitude games engender in people, B.U.T.T.O.N. shows the potential of video games influencing the context beyond the screen. It creates a unique playspace that leverages cheating and the typical expectations of game-playing.

David Kanaga

David Kanaga is a deeply felt and experimental artist working in games and interactive art. Kanaga’s work is a evangelist for the further exploration of audio in games and a provocative statement about the power of music to drive experience. Contributing to early important works such as Panoramical and Proteus, David started as a composer whose audio designs were so inherently interactive and responsive that he naturally became a design team member on the independent works he composed, David’s career has pushed into exploring zines, writing, philosophy, interventionist art, and culminating in the top to bottom design of Oikospiel.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

Proteus by David Kanaga + Ed Key: A mystical island where music and play are one and the same, Proteus is a changing landscape where the player is represented by the sound the make. Every journey through the island’s motions is its own composition, unique to the playstyle of those who wander through the swaying groves and run after its lively critters. Even though the player has the controls the island is the main character, and spending time with it unfolds its layers of beauty and mystery.

Oikospiel Book I by David Kanaga: An opera for and by dogs that takes an appropriately surrealist look at the connections between play, labor, and computers. Oikospiel is a completely expressive digital object, with visuals, sounds, and controls all struggling together to show the player the beauty of its messy world. The broken nature of the game that still manages to communicate itself complicates the artificial polish we expect of or digital playthings.

Oikospiel Libretto and Score: Oikospiel is a completely expressive digital object, with visuals, sounds, and controls all struggling together to show the player the beauty of its messy world. You can see the roots of Oikospiel’s expression in its libretto and score, and begin to understand how audio feedback and interaction can sketch, inspire, and evoke emotion and ideas as effectively as visual sketches and interaction prototypes.

Listen, Play, Explore w/ DK: IndieCade East 2018 Opening Party - February 16th, 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM: Experience the interactive music of composer / designer David Kanaga. This party feature interactive playable audio experiences arrayed around the central museum cafe, where attendees can create costumes, play simple party games, or choose to explore the audio worlds around them.


Since 2003, Molleindustria has produced ‘artisinal remedies to the idiocy of mainstream entertainment. This is primarily in the format of free, short-form digital games. Under this masthead, Paolo Pedercini and his collaborators explore guerilla semiotics, culture jamming, and short form game play as a form of provocative speech. Early works include simulations and play critiquing cultural institutions, such as the McDonald’s Videogame and Operation: Pedopriest, while the later 2000’s saw Molleindustria focused on life and war in an age of automation (Every Day the Same Dream, Unmanned). Molleindustria practices game design often in explicit opposition to the obsessions and cultural ideas contained within mainstream video games - and serves as a guidepost and hint as to the unexplored spaces of play.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

A Short History of the Gaze by Paolo Pedercini: As interactive technology begins the move from external devices to on our bodies, there is a renewed focus on the aesthetic and political qualities of our gestures that are appropriated by these tools. A Short History of the Gaze aims a critique of the seemingly innocuous use of vision in virtual reality by recounting the gaze’s violent use throughout the past. It shows the importance of innovative technology to critique itself and tracking the subtle ways it reinforces power as it attempts to push society forward.

Unmanned by Paolo Pedercini, Jim Munroe, Jesse Stiles: The 21st century has seen the rise of video games becoming a medium for political messages, not only about the world but also about games themselves. Unmanned stands as an exemplary example of how games can be self-aware of their involvement in the social topics they touch upon. Many games have stories and thematics involving social issues but this game is unique for involving players with the material through the design.

Protest Game Workshop with Paolo Perdicini - February 18th, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM: A workshop with the brilliant mind behind Molleindustria, exploring games that protest or games to be played in protest, spans the digital and the physical and explores how we represent problems of the world around us in search of real solutions.

Emblematic Group

Emblematic is one of the world's foremost producers of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Its team of award-winning filmmakers, journalists, designers, and veteran game developers lead the industry in creating fully immersive environments that place the user inside the scene, allowing them to move through, interact, and play with the story.
Founded in 2007 by Nonny de la Peña, known as the “Godmother of virtual reality” Emblematic pioneered walk-around virtual reality with the first ever VR documentary, Hunger in Los Angeles, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012. From social impact pieces (The World Economic Forum) to branded content (Standard Chartered Bank) to original news stories (The New York Times), Emblematic’s VR experiences encompass everything from recreations of actual events, fantasy environments and powerful data visualizations.

Nonny de la Peña is regarded as one of the most influential pioneers in virtual and augmented reality. A Wired Magazine #MakeTechHuman Agent of Change, she has been called “The Godmother of Virtual Reality” by Engadget and The Guardian. Additionally, Fast Company named her “One of the People Who Made the World More Creative.” for her pioneering work in immersive storytelling. She was also named one of CNET’s 20 most influential Latino in tech.
As CEO of Emblematic Group, her digital reality media company, she uses cutting edge technologies to tell stories that create intense, empathic engagement on the part of viewers. Emblematic is also pushing the envelope with branded content, and an experiential volumetric search platform. From positional goggles to hand controllers, Emblematic has constantly innovated in the field.
A winner of the Knight Innovation Award, New America Fellow, and Yale Poynter Media Fellow de la Peña is widely credited with creating the genre of immersive journalism. Currently a member of the BAFTA virtual reality board, she is a former correspondent for Newsweek and her virtual reality work has been featured by the New York Times, BBC, Mashable, Vice, Wired and many others. Showcases around the globe include the Sundance and Tribeca Film Festivals, The World Economic Forum in Davos, The Victoria and Albert Museum, Moscow Museum of Modern Art, and Games For Change. She has more than 20 years of award-winning experience in print, film and TV and has used her broad knowledge to innovate in this burgeoning field. her spatial narratives are regularly met with critical acclaim.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

We Who Remain by Emblematic Group: A theme for interactive technology in the 21st century is what is first used for entertainment is picked up by those looking to further engage people in social issues around the world. We Who Remain sets itself in a journalism context to use technologies like 360 video and virtual reality to connect audiences further in the stories we are used to just reading. Experiments like this mark a return to the body after living almost a century with screens.

The Virtual Reality Documentaries of Nonny de la Pena and Emblematic Group: Hunger in Los Angeles is an immersive journalistic experience set in the heart of the city, where the indigent are trying to survive on an over-strained food distribution system. By embedding audio that was captured from the First Unitarian Church in an immersive 3D Unity scene, the viewer becomes witness to a distressing event that unfolds.
Nonny de la Pena and the Emblematic Group trailblazed the exploration of virtual reality as a documentary platform, and these early shorts, captured here in traditional film format had an immediate and deep impact on viewers. These early explorations led to the establishment of Emblematic Group, and the popularization of 360 video and VR as a tool for educating and informing.

Documentary VR Workshop with Emblematic Group - February 17th, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM: Come explore the principles and creative ideas behind journalism and documentation in the world of 360 video and VR taught by field pioneers from Emblematic Group and the New York Times Magazine Daily 360 team. Featuring a conversation between James Pallot of the Emblematic Group and Maureen Towey, Senior Producer, The Daily 360, The New York Times, about 360 Video and VR as a documenting tool, and an explorating of the cutting edge technology with Sam Quick, a VR editor and immersive experience designer who has worked with The New York Times, Doug Liman, and others.

Jason Rohrer

Since 2004, Jason has designed, programmed, and released 18 games: Transcend, Cultivation, Passage, Gravitation, Perfectionism, Idealism, Police Brutality, Immortality, Regret, i45hg, Crude Oil, Between, Primrose, Sleep Is Death, Inside a Star-filled Sky, Diamond Trust of London, The Castle Doctrine, and Cordial Minuet.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

Passage by Jason Rohrer: As video games grew into a maximalist medium, there was an important turn in the independent scene to find the evocative in the smallest amount possible. Passage is a touchstone example of a video game communicating a feeling through play different from the usual hedonistic pleasures of entertainment games. Games like this one opened up the way for more like them to be accepted in art spaces where they were unwelcome before.

Burial Site Map: The Game Worlds of Jason Roher: Since the early days of indiegaming this century, Jason Rohrer has been crafting elegant games exploring ideas of mortality, meaning, and relationships. His games build complex meanings, interactions, and dynamics from often misleadingly simple covers. Passage (2007)—acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York—uses game rules and procedurals to create a contemporary memento mori that captures an entire lifetime in five minutes. A Game for Someone (2013) is a board game sealed in a box and buried in the Mojave Desert, with a list of one million potential sites distributed to Rohrer’s fan base. (Rohrer estimated that it would take two millennia of constant searching to find the game.)
This book offers a comprehensive account of the artist’s oeuvre. The book documents all seventeen of Rohrer’s finished games, as well as sketches, ephemera, and related material, including a map of the burial site of A Game for Someone, hidden as a puzzle throughout the books pages.

Alt-ware Tabletop Game Jam featuring Blinks - February 17th, 10:30 AM - 10:00 PM: Join us for a jam at IndieCade East using Blinks (tactile new hardware developed by MIT Media Lab spinoff, Move38, and first debuted in IndieCade Finalist Fracture) hosted by Shawn Pierre (creator of IndieCade Selections Henka Twist Caper and These French Fries are Terrible Hotdogs), with the work of Jason Rohrer as inspiration to create games about the journey of life.
The jam will be held Saturday, February 17th with twelve hours available to complete the games, from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Teams can include up to four team members and each team member will be provided a weekend pass to IndieCade East.
Game Jam Results & Presentations will be held Sunday, February 18th from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, including an announcement of the games selected to win by a panel of accomplished game designers. Many prizes will be given, including a Blink dev kit!

Game Jam Results & Presentations - February 18th, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM: Celebrate the amazing work inspired by Jason Rohrer, and made using Blinks. See the brilliance and creativity of our community through presentations on all of the games created in the jam, and see the announcemeent of the games selected to win by a panel of accomplished game designers.

Tale of Tales

Tale of Tales is a videogames development studio run by Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn out of Belgium. Their goal is to create elegant and emotionally rich art for computer interactive entertainment. As artists Auriea and Michaël focus on beauty and joy. They want to create art for people. That is why they distribute their work on line, and cheaply. As designers they hope that videogames can be as diverse and meaningful as any other medium. They want to create playful experiences that appeal to both gamers and non-gamers. They try to design expressive interfaces to access engaging poetic narratives through simple controls.

Michaël Samyn (1968, Belgium) & Auriea Harvey (1971, USA) met online in 1999 and collaborated for several years as Entropy8Zuper! creating sensuous, personal and political web-based art works like “Skinonskinonskin” (1999) and “The Godlove Museum” (1999-2006) and “Wirefire” (1999-2003) and designing web sites for various clients.
In 2002 they founded independent development studio Tale of Tales with the purpose of exploring the artistic potential of videogames. Between 2002 and 2015, Harvey and Samyn released 8 videogames: “The Endless Forest” (2005), “The Graveyard” (2008), “The Path” (2009), “Fatale” (2009), “Vanitas” (2010), “Bientôt l'été” (2012), “Luxuria Superbia” (2013) and “Sunset” (2015). All unique explorations of the potential of the medium used by videogames, often winning awards for originality while being alternately admired and infamous for their non-conformism.
The couple have now stopped producing commercial titles to focus on Virtual Reality and artistic uses of computer technology with a new projects like “Cathedral-in-the-Clouds” (2015-…) and “Cricoterie” (2017-…).
They live and work in Ghent, Belgium.

Excerpt from Sam Roberts's exhibit tour.

Sunset by Tale of Tales: The representation of oppressed people and the political struggles of the marginalized are pressing topics in contemporary video games. Sunset goes against video game conventions where the main character is not only unconventional, but what you do, cleaning houses, is also a push back against the homogeneity of the medium. In a time where good and bad seems black and white, this piece allows players to witness the messy nature of revolution and living your politics.

The Graveyard by Tale of Tales: Video games are known for action and addictive participation and rarely as places for thoughtful contemplation of serious topics. Among the notgames movement The Graveyard radically challenged how people thought of what a video game was and the values the industry placed on games. It preceded the now popular genre of walking simulator and influenced a generation of independent designers.


Stay up to date with all the latest news and get reminders about the submission dates right to your inbox.