Yesterday I jokingly said that the most interesting Indie talk came from the Serious Game summit. Today, that was actually revealed to be true.
With the indie games movement gaining traction and its luminaries evolving in different directions, the base IGS experience seems to have shifted fundamentally. Matt Wegner had remarked at the first talk of the Indie Game Summit that this was their biggest yet, and that jump in size was tangible in the scope and tone of the talks.
Shifting from the pure craft exchange of the previous summits, I perceived the talks mostly as entry-level courses in good practices of game development (not exclusively indie), and good (but not specific to indie) advice. Thatgamecompany’s Kellee Santiago and Robin Huinicke’s basic message was “hey, dorks, communicate!” delivered with the same tone a sex-ed teacher would approach a bunch of teenagers telling them what their bodies do is normal and that they should not be afraid of it and remember to talk about it. “Art game” guys gave somewhat aimless talks,but that’s their thing I guess. Design talks by the Osmos creators did not really got into actual design, but more on how indie design is better/more agile/free.
I mean, seriously? The IGS used to be the place where the most inspiring and inflamatory speeches could be heard. Why the dumbing-down? Has indie gone mainstream?
Basically my analysis is that with the proliferation of game courses (some of dubious quality), there’s a perpetually larger number of people exiting those courses and not finding any jobs in the industry to complete their training and knowledge of basic game design and production, having no option but to consider themselves indie, just to avoid the label “unemployed”.
So, maybe they decided to take this into account and give basic talks to attempt to complete the education of all those new indie guys in an attempt to raise the quality of future games? I don’t know.
What I do know, however, is that the most exciting indie action was found at the other summits adjacent to the IGS, especially in the Serious Games and Social Games summits.
The golden nugget of the evening was the Serious Games Summit’s keynote, hosted by Ian Bogost and featuring interactive artists Paolo Pedercini of Molleindustria and Jason Rohrer. The talk was aimed at serious game makers to get them to stop systematically chasing grants and funding and maybe, just maybe make a serious game for free on your own.
So Paolo talked a bit about his process in making acerbic and thought provoking games, and shared a bit of his guidelines when making a game, namely: Simulacra not simulations, transparency, authoriality. I strongly recommend checking out Leigh Alexander’s writeup. Jason Rohrer followed up by detailing the design process behind his next game “Diamond Trust of London”, set to be released later this year for DS. This was a pretty skillful demo of balancing a game theory system and eliminating Nash equilibriums in his new games, using several different techniques supported by paper prototypes. Great Stuff.
The day closed with a pretty inspiring talk / QA session by Kumar Garg, currently working for the science advisor to the POTUS. The main takeaway from this is that the US state believes in the power games have to engage and provoke thoughts and emotions in players, and they want in, but they also admit they don’t know very well how to help game developers and the concrete needs to get the industry interested and ready to contribute. I left the session a little dissappointed that France’s government doesn’t recognize games’s power yet… But hopefully, that in time, and maybe with the USA’s example, will come.
Today was the last day of Summits, tomorrow will give way to the conference per-se, and the expo floor will be open too. So maybe tomorrow, a little more info, beers willing!