//2012 Conference: Sessions & Events

Conference Session
Conference events start October 4th
A full schedule of special sessions, talks, keynotes, parties, and social events continue through October 7th.

View the full IndieCade 2012 Calendar here to plan your full experience.

//SCEA Sponsored Session: How Indie Developers Are Redefining the Publishing Model

Leading gaming platforms have had to adapt and embrace new publishing rules to allow more creative freedom and provide avenues for developers to bring these great concepts to the gamer. In this panel, indie developers will discuss their experiences designing games for PlayStation and working with the company to develop, publish, and market their games. Expect to have the light shed on why and how PlayStation has evolved its practices to provide a more open and friendly environment in which developers are free from Draconian publishing policies and creative constraints.

//Esther, Pigs, and heading for The Rapture - sixty minutes inside thechineseroom

It's been a rollercoaster couple of years for thechineseroom. Back in 2009 we picked up an award for Best World/Story at IndieCade for this experimental mod thing called Dear Esther. Three years later, Dear Esther is an indie hit, we're no longer this little academic research project but a studio employing fifteen people, we're currently in the thick of making two games at once, including the sequel to Frictional's 2010 horror classic Amnesia, and people keep talking to me like I'm some kind of expert on games. Now, I don't see myself as an expert - I still see myself as a shooter fan and modder who got lucky. But something went right... right?

So this is a lightning fast history of thechineseroom, from its humble beginnings in academia, where everything was carved out of the space between the twin pillars of lack of money and lack of technical ability, through to accidentally releasing a hit game, and beyond. I'll talk about the design philosophy of what we do; our take on emotion and story and how that relates to all the traditional stuff about mechanics and things; why you should never trust an academic; managing dual teams and trying to keep twin projects together; why I love AAA games and why you should too; and why we should all be damn proud of our medium. I'll show off the new games and talk about how they extend the early experiments that created Dear Esther, and about our aspirations as a studio and where we're heading next. Hopefully that'll be interesting. At the very least, it'll only be sixty minutes of your life, and that's only a little more than you need to complete DOOM twice, so what have you got to lose?

Speaker: Dan Pinchbeck


A session NOT about games: Phil Fish, Kaho Abi and Naomi Clarke will talk about three influences outside of games that have impacted and inspired their work and why. Last year's session proved to be one of the more eye-opening sessions on where indie developers derive their inspirations, and this year's should continue the trend.

Speakers: Phil Fish  •  Kaho Abe  •  Naomi Clark

//Indie Kick Bundle Fund: A Discussion about Funding Your Games and Making Money

Funding and financial sustainability is an essential part of making great games, no matter if your project is self-funded, crowd-funded, angel-funded, or funded by presales. Equally important is making sure you sell your game in the right way, using a combination of direct-to-consumer, bundles, pay-what-you-want, and channel sales. With the goal of discussing ways you can retain control over your current and future revenue so you can remain independent, our panel discussion will feature Cindy Au (Kickstarter), John Graham (Humble Bundle/Wolfire), Greg Rice (Double Fine), and Nathan Vella (Capy/Indie Fund), moderated by Aaron Isaksen (Indie Fund/AppAbove Games).

Speakers: Cindy Au  •  John Graham  •  Greg Rice  •  Nathan Vella
Moderator: Aaron Isaksen

//anna anthropy: NOW WE HAVE VOICES

anna anthropy talks about the importance of marginalized voices - of hearing from any and every "other" - in a monolithic videogame culture where the privileged few are allowed to monopolize the creation of videogames and the conversation around them. Queering videogames is both necessary and happening - anna looks at how queer and women creators, excluded from game creation by technical and social gatekeepers, have repurposed the hypertext tool Twine as a platform for queer game creation.

Speakers: anna anthropy

//Bennett Foddy: No Pain, No Game

Historically, videogames have induced various different types of suffering in players. Frustration, confusion, boredom, shame, irritation. Commercial game development since the '90s has focused on the removal of suffering from games. In this talk, I argue the case for making the player suffer.

Speakers: Bennett Foddy

//Indie to Indie

Many independent artists choose to work alone, or in small teams, by choice, but they also can enjoy being a part of a larger community of independents. It's in that spirit that this session was conceived. Today, we already know much about how technology is not only helping artists to go it alone to produce their work, but it's also helping to close the gap between audiences and artists, the mainstream and the margins, and at the same time, connecting independent creators to their peers. So, in this new environment what does it mean to be "indie?" In this session we will hear from independent makers from diverse disciplines such as game design, music, and film to definitively answer this question. Just kidding. Rather, we will use the question of "what it means to be indie" as a jumping off point to have a cross-disciplinary conversation about shared experiences, lessons learned, and best creative and business practices. Can game designers learn anything from indie filmmakers? Can indie musicians learn anything from game designers? Who knows, but it will be interesting to find out.

Hosts: ITVS and Matthew Meschery
Speakers: Greg Pak  •  Tajima-Peña  •  Kellee Santiago  •  Alessandro Cortini

//Project Next

Want a sneak peak at the next wave of indie games? To see how finalists and ground-breaking indies are following up their successes? Project Next is a series of quick previews of unreleased games by a wide range of indie developers.

Speakers: anna anthropy  •  Tale of Tales  •  Colleen Macklin  •  Akira Thompson  •  Davey Wreden

//LET'S PLAY WITH THE WORLD – Games, Art, Activism and Other Subversions

This panel invites five game designers who are also artists to discuss the boundary between art, games and activism. It is a standard reflex for people to think they are helpless in the face of mighty governments and corporate power. But in a media-based society, everything is controlled by a "cultural grammar of the public space": the habits and conventions of society, our ways of speaking and thinking, the images and stereotypes which give short-cuts to meaning in our lives. That means that the power wielded by big institutions is more like a fluid or a jelly than a solid brick wall, and we can play with it. So let us - as game designers, game players, artists, activists and other fellow nerds - leave our cozy peer-groups and comfy scenes behind, and talk about what we can do to play with the world.

Speakers: Johannes Grenzfurthner  •  Kaho Abe  •  Nathalie Pozzi  •  Zach Gage  •  Paolo Pedercini

//Experiential Gameplay: How Non-Gamey Games Are Rocking the World

It's been a good year for games that focus more on the ebb and flow of the player's experience, their emotional journey, and concentrate on more ambient, atmospheric or abstract play, than being driven by mechanics, or goals. Titles such as Proteus, Journey and Dear Esther have downplayed or even abandoned traditional gameplay architectures, creating instead often simple, fluid, highly immersive games. They're not alone, this approach can be seen from notgames pioneers Tale of Tales to Erik Loyer's Strange Rain to AAA games like the Uncharted series. But are these games really so different? What makes them tick? What makes their designers tick? Is ticking a gameplay mechanic or a perceptual experience? What can be learned from this strange and not-so-strange aspect of game-making, and applied to your own games?This panel brings together interesting folk who make interesting games to discuss these and many more interesting questions. To paraphrase Jimi Hendrix, are you experiential?

Speakers: Jenova Chen  •  Amy Hennig  •  Ian Dallas
Moderator: Dan Pinchbeck

//What’s Next? Games By and For Everyone Else!

This panel will explore the urgent need for increased diversity in the independent game design community, calling for a break from traditional definitions of gamers and game designers. Participants will take an expansive view of who video games may be created for, and who will be making them in the future. New platforms such as social networks and the iPad have opened up new audiences, revitalized "lost" genres such as point and click adventure games, and opened opportunities for new modes of expression through games. How can we use the experimental and innovative spirit of indie games to bring exciting and unexpected new voices to a wider audience?

Speakers: Celia Pearce  •  Megan Gaiser  •  Akira Thompson  •  anna anthropy

//Should Waking Mars Have Had A Story?

Waking Mars, an iOS "action gardening" sci-fi adventure, features hundreds of lines of dialog, multiple characters, portraits with facial expressions, environmental props, and other indicators of a traditional video game story. Was any of this the right call? How much could be removed toward the goal of improving the game? Join director Randy Smith as he talks through the creative process behind Waking Mars' elaborate fiction, its scientific credibility, attempts to appeal to adult sensibilities, experiments taken and lessons learned along the way, and the story's polarizing reception from critics and players. Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor demonstrated Tiger Style's ability to craft a story appropriate to the interactive medium. Did Waking Mars follow suit? This presentation is a case study in the persistent debate of story vs. game systems.

Speaker: Randy Smith

//Eric Zimmerman - Being a Game Designer: Principles for a Thoughtful Practice

Most talks on games focus on how to make a better product – a more successful game. This session frames what game designers do in a different way. I want to ask the question: What does it mean to be a good game designer?

Apart from the problems and challenges of designing particular games, what are the attitudes and approaches that cut across all kinds of games that can connect us more deeply to what we do on a daily basis? For example, practitioners of Parkour see it not just as a series of techniques for jumping over walls, but as an attitude that can permeate every moment of a someone’s life. Could we take a similar approach to game design? Is it possible to think about game design as a way or mode of being?

The talk is structured as a series of “principles.” The principles help describe games as a cultural form, and they also describe game design as a creative practice. The principles are meant to anchor a set of ideas around what being a game designer can mean. Each principle will be presented with examples from my own experience as a designer, player, and teacher. A few examples are below:

This is not meant as a “theoretical” talk that focuses on abstract design concepts, but is intended as more of a personal meditation. Rather than thinking about how to make great games, and how those games can transform our players’ lives, I’d like to ask how it is that making games can transform their designers.

Speaker: Eric Zimmerman

//Form + Code: Games Edition

Using last year's successful IndieCade panel "Form + Code" as a springboard, Andy Nealen convenes a group of developers from the world of artgames to talk about projects where code and form are inextricably linked. Join us for a richly interactive session of audience questions and comments, and a discussion that ranges from procedural generation of content to the expressivity of finely-tuned control mechanics and the aesthetics of gameplay.

Speakers: Jason Rohrer  •  Mark Essen  •  Eddo Stern
Moderator: Andy Nealen

//Paris Plays Along: Curating a playable exhibition

As the worlds of media art and game design continue to collide, institutions and organizations that create and promote media art installations are increasingly turning to game designers for elaborate, interactive content. Rather than representing games as a nostalgia fest or a series of technical breakthroughs that prefigure the AAA blockbuster industry, Jeu le jeu / Play Along at the Gaîté lyrique set out to position games broad, diversified, exceedingly dynamic and evolving cultural field it is now becoming. Join co-curators Heather Kelley, Cindy Poremba, Lynn Hughes, and Espace jeu video Artistic Director Oscar Barda, as they share experience and insights from this summer’s breakthrough playful exhibition Joue le jeu/Play Along in Paris, FR. This session is a must for independent game creators and curators interested in the opportunities afforded by a renewed relationship between media art and games.

Speakers: Cindy Poremba  •  Heather Kelley  •  Lynn Hughes  •  Oscar Barda

//A Conversation About E-Sports

We tend to associate the term e-sports with huge prize pools, online streams with thousands of viewers, and mainstream, big budget games. But what does e-sports mean for indie games? The rise of games like Hokra, Johann Sebastian Joust, and Nidhogg are providing more and more opportunities for intense, compelling, competitive experiences. This year Baribariball and SpyParty ran tournaments at EVO, which traditionally focuses only on well established fighting games.

Speakers: Paul Sottosanti, in conversation with Sean "Day[9]" Plott