Kaho Abe: Bernie DeKoven Big Fun Award
This annual honorary award was created in collaboration with Bernie DeKoven, to honor his legacy and to recognize creators significantly furthering the field and impact of new, big, and physical games. We love big, pervasive games, because of they way they bring people together and forge connections on a large scale.
Kaho Abe is a Media Artist and Game Designer from NYC, currently residing in Tokyo, Japan. She creates novel playful experiences with the hope of bringing people together, face to face. Kaho builds custom controllers and interfaces by embedding switches, sensors and other electrical components into objects and costumes. Her games are played mostly in public spaces including galleries, festivals and events.
Kaho is also a Teaching Artist. She has been sharing her practice in building custom controllers to formal and informal learning spaces. She has taught “Beyond the Joystick” and “Costumes as Game Controllers” at the New York University Game Innovation Lab, and also have been teaching and developing content with Ramsey Nasser for Playable Fashion, a highschool afterschool program, that was initially taught out of Eyebeam, an art and technology non-profit based in NYC.
Kaho holds a MFA from the Design and Technology Program at Parsons New School of Design and was a Fashion Designer in her previous career.
Q&A With Abe
“In my previous career I was a Fashion Designer. I’d always been interested in the stories that fashion/costumes can tell and the way our bodies move. I went to graduate school at Parsons in Design & Technology in the early naughts, hoping to expand upon my fashion career by learning how to design, build and embed electronics into clothing. The department was chaired by Colleen Macklin, the program was directed by Katie Salen, and Nick Fortugno taught Game Design. Learning Game Design on top of everything else changed my life. A few years later in 2010, my life changed again when I became a Fellow at Eyebeam which is a media art non-profit/hackerspace that supports artists. There, I was able to grow my practice as a Media Artist/Game Designer, learn the value of community engagement, sharing knowledge and what it means to be a Teaching Artist. Many things have happened since then, but those are the basic foundations for which I am incredibly grateful for.”
“My inspirations are often just things happening around me. Maybe it’s a trend that seems silly to me or maybe something I saw recently or a question I might have lingering in my mind. I think about the player’s experience most of all — what emotional journey they will have, and what they will take away from the experience. Since most of my games are multiplayer, I think about what kinds of relationships between the players. And then I build the game, the technology and the whole experience around the concept. I try to playtest a lot.”
“I hope I am understanding your question correctly, but is it about hacking pre existing technology? If so, I think that it gets harder and harder to hack electronics as it gets smaller and more advanced. However, there are always fun tools out there like the Raspberry Pi Zero W that are so small and powerful that they can be embedded directly into the controllers. With older technology, I think radio is so cool — like stand alone AM/FM radios, shortwave, walkie talkies or marine clocks. I am not sure what I want to make with them, but I think about them a lot for some reason.”
Hit Me! – Individual project
Don’t Wake the Bear – Collaboration with Ramsey Nasser and Francis Hsueh
Wizard’s Hand – Collaboration with Ramsey Nasser
Little Happies – Collaboration with Toni Pizza
BallAR – Collaboration with Ramsey Nasser
Morgan Romine: Game Changer Award
IndieCade’s Game Changer Award celebrates an individual who has impacted the gaming landscape in a significant way, a positive disruptor who has has brought a paradigm shift to our community. Whether it’s advocating for independent developers or creating space for conversations to take place, a Game Changer is someone who makes us proud to be part of the industry.
Morgan Romine, Ph.D., is a cultural anthropologist, consultant, and advocate who specializes in gaming and esports communities. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Irvine. She is Co-Founder and Director of Initiatives for AnyKey, a non-profit advocacy organization that leads research and programs supporting diversity and inclusion in gaming. Known to gamers as “Rhoulette,” Morgan was the co-founder and Captain of the Frag Dolls, Ubisoft’s all-women professional competitive gaming team, from 2004-2011.
As a game industry veteran, Morgan has worked in community management, esports, and communications for 18 years. Her research engages with digital citizenship, online communities, esports, social equity, ethnography, and empathy-driven leadership.
Q&A With Romine
“My first gaming love was EverQuest because of all the social potential. I loved the prospect of being able to play in a fantasy world with people from around the globe! I had the most fun playing on the team-based PvP server because of how it scratched my competitive itch. This opened the door to competitive gaming when friends I made through EverQuest introduced me to other competitive games like Tribes, Quake, and Counter-Strike, and Halo.
I was almost always the only girl in the groups I played with. I knew a few others from my MMO guilds, but I didn’t know any others who played shooters. In 2004 I leaned heavily on my experience with MMO guild leadership to get a job working as a Community Manager for Ubisoft. When I started playing Ghost Recon online on the PS2 to get more familiar with that community, I found that I couldn’t get through a match without someone exclaiming their surprise that a girl was playing, too.
When I brought these stories back to colleagues at Ubisoft, we came up with the idea of putting together a team of women all-stars to make a competitive team. As Captain of the Frag Dolls team I got to meet hundreds of other girls and women who loved playing games competitively even before they were known as esports, and I became all too familiar with the cultural barriers that were preventing more women from playing at an elite competitive level.”
My college experience involved a lot of gaming and a lot of studying anthropological theory. I majored in anthropology as an undergraduate and, as a senior, taught a student-run class called “Anthropology of Online Gaming Communities” while recruiting my students for my MMO guild. Gaming and anthropology became inextricably intertwined and provided frameworks for how I thought of each.
I always imagined that I’d go back to school, and it was my experience with esports and the game industry that made me want to continue studying games and their communities as products of cultural practice. I wanted to help build a better understanding of the relationships between players, developers, and their technologies of play, and how they all shape and perpetuate one another.”
“The work I do with AnyKey supports inclusion and equity through research about the challenges and barriers faced by underrepresented groups. We use our research findings and shared love of games to create strategic programs that show folks from both industry and community what more inclusive and empathetic gaming looks like.
Over the past 6 years we have rolled out programs that teach best practices for inclusion and provide people with new frameworks for understanding what marginalized players experience. Some of the most common exclusionary practices in gaming spaces persist because players repeat something they heard someone else say or do, without understanding how what they’re doing is causing harm. For those folks, gentle feedback and redirecting with a more positive model for how to play with others can make a difference that adds up in daily practice.
One of the best examples of this work is the GLHF Pledge that we created as a simple set of guidelines for how to be a good sport in online gaming spaces. It contains 7 promises about remembering respect, compassion, integrity, and courage, even in the heat of competition. Over 1.5 million players have taken this pledge and many of those proudly wear our GLHF badge online to show that they’ve committed to being a better kind of competitor and digital citizen.
The thing that keeps me excited about doing this advocacy work is that I get to help people develop their capacities for awareness, reflection, and empathy while in their own gaming communities. I’ve always loved games for their special power to bring people together, and I’m grateful every time I can help people feel more welcome in a community that plays together.”
John Romero: Trailblazer
The IndieCade Trailblazer Award is an honorary prize given to a working creator who has made both great contributions to the field of games and captures the independent and pioneering sprit. The Trailblazer award is for distinguished accomplishment over a career of creation, and recognizes those personalities without whom many of us would have never fallen in love with the field.
John Romero is an award-winning game designer, level designer and programmer whose work spans over 130 games, 107 of which have been published commercially, including the iconic works Wolfenstein 3D, DOOM and Quake. Romero has worked in the mobile, hardcore, mid-core, casual and MMO space. Romero has co-founded eight successful game companies including the likes of id Software, Gazillion Entertainment and, most recently, Romero Games which celebrated its 7th anniversary in 2022. He is considered to be among the world’s top game designers, and his games have won well over 100 awards. One of the earliest indie developers, Romero began working in the game space in 1979 on mainframes before moving to the Apple II in 1982. He is a completely self-taught programmer, designer and artist, having drawn his inspirations from early Apple II programmers. Romero co-owns Romero Games.
Watch some of our past talks with Romero.
Audio Design Award
Ambition: A Minuet in Power
Developed by Joy Manufacturing Co.
The Joy Manufacturing Co. presents, Ambition: A Minuet in Power, featuring a new kind of revolutionary, romantic gameplay.
A young woman finds herself alone in the streets of Paris, far from home and abandoned by the love of her life. In that moment, she decides to live for herself and seek her own passions, as France marches towards a violent uprising that will change history forever. Navigate the twisting social politics of pre-revolutionary Paris in a game world that’s different every time you play. Court, snub and seduce your way to the top of society. Extend your influence, uncover the intrigue of the coming revolution, and ensure that you end up on the winning side of history.
Impact Game Award
Return at Night
Developed by Yi-Wen Hsu
Return at Night is a virtual reality horror game, the content of the game is the fear of women returning home alone at night.
Live Action Award
Developed by Mouse & the Billionaire / Whaaat!? Lab
In the future, humanity has wiped itself out, but every other entity on Earth has become sentient and escaped together in a ship to find a new home. You run the information kiosk at that ship’s mall.
The Case of the Golden Idol
Developed by Color Gray
A new kind of detective game that allows you to think and investigate freely. Discover clues surrounding 12 strange and gruesome deaths and build your own theory.
Artholomew Video’s Stream Challenge
Created and hosted by Alistair Aitcheson
A suite of creative performances played live on Twitch! Type into chat to direct paintings, dance, music and storytelling, or hop in front of the camera and become your audience’s very own art-puppet!
Watch a session from our Beyond Screens stream!
Mike Sellers Systemic Design Award
Developed by Everybody House Games
Babble Royale is an intense multiplayer free-for-all that combines word-making skill with fast-paced tactical and strategic action. Outwit, outspell, and outlast your opponents to have the Last Word!
Tabletop Design Award
Developed by Shing Yin Khor
Remember August is an experimental live keepsake game by Shing Yin Khor, about forgotten friendships and lost memories, played to the ritual and cadence of sending and receiving postal mail.
Visual Design Award
Developed by TLR games
IDEA is about discovering and sharing your ideas. Explore gorgeous landscapes captured by drones! Get lost and help your ideas find their way. Share your own thoughts with the world when getting stuck!
Grand Jury Award
Svoboda 1945: Liberation
Developed by Charles Games
Talk to witnesses of the chaotic aftermath of World War 2 and discover the secret history of your own family in a captivating story about reconciliation with the dark past.
Jury Prix Award
Developed by Witch Beam
Unpacking is a zen puzzle game about the familiar experience of pulling possessions out of boxes and fitting them into a new home, while telling the life story of a woman through the items she owns.
Innovation in Interaction Design Award
Developed by LuGus Studios
A tactical narrative-driven RPG with unique keyboard-only controls. Hack into servers, beat security systems and discover encrypted secrets while you try to find answers to why and how you got doxxed.
Innovation in Experience Design Award
Developed by Matajuegos
Atuel is a shapeshifting, surrealist documentary game about climate change in which you explore dreamlike landscapes inspired by the topography and wildlife of the Atuel River Valley in Argentina.
Developers Choice Award
Lost in Play
Developed by Happy Juice Games
The bizarre and dreamlike world of Lost in Play is filled with mystery, unique puzzles, and mini-games. Challenge a pirate seagull to a game of clicking crabs, serve magical tea to a royal toad, and collect pieces to build a flying machine. Be a part of this modern point & click game that will reward your curiosity and leave you excited for the next piece of story.