IndieCade East Turns The Spotlight On The Best Of The Indie Gaming Scene

February 18, 2014

For the past two years, the Museum of the Moving Image has hosted one of the few events on the East Coast that allows the public to rub shoulders with some of the biggest and smallest names in indie games. IndieCade East took up residence in the Queens museum last February, and introduced fans on the colder coast to this wonderful event that gamers in the Los Angeles area have been enjoying for last nine years or so. Originally started in 2005, IndieCade is a grassroots celebration of games that don't always get to step into the spotlight. The events on both coasts offer opportunities for fans to come out and play some of the world's best indie games, while getting a glimpse inside the industry, and a look at some of the big games of tomorrow.

This year's IndieCade East ran the gamut of incredible games, outstanding speakers, and exciting events over the course of three days, and those that weathered the cold temperatures and snow got a chance to experience the best of the indie scene. The events were spread out over a variety of activities: attendees could sit in on talks and panels in the museum's theaters, try out a rotating cast of indie games that are still in development at Show and Tell, or even take part in an ongoing series of e-sport challenges and tournaments. On top of all of that, the Museum of the Moving Image also had two interactive installations that featured games: Indie Essentials, which highlights 25 of the best indie games from the last decade, and Madden NFL: 25 Years and Running, which showcased some of the best iterations of EA's blockbuster football franchise.

Each day was anchored by a keynote from some of the most important names in the industry. On Friday morning, the event kicked off with a talk from Rami Ismail, one half of the Dutch studio Vlambeer, the team behind games like Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing and Luftrauser. He spoke about the origins of the studio, and took attendees through a visual history of his life, as well as his partner's, Jan Willem Nijman, and how they got to where they are today. Saturday's panels ended with Tale of Tales' Auriea Harvey who recounted her love of creating digital art, and how the development team of her and her partner, Michael Samyn, came to be. The whole event ended on Sunday evening with a keynote from QWOP creator Bennett Foddy who attempted to give a state of the union on indie games, and, in doing so, established that "indie" games have always been a force to be reckoned with within the games industry.

Super Panel Fighter II Turbo HD Remix hosted by Frank Lantz - Panelists (from left to right) Naomi Clark, Zach Gage, Colleen Macklin, Erik Zimmerman, Sam Roberts, Syed Salahuddin

The other panels throughout the weekend tackled a wide variety of indie subjects as well, from money, to marriage, to game culture. Sony had their own panel hosted by Brian Silva and Nick Suttner from their Developer Relations team, where they spoke with indie devs Doug Wilson (Johann Sebastian Joust) and Jake Kazdel (Galak-Z) about the company's approach to indie games. At the Rise and Future of Video Game Zines panel, speaker Alejandro Quan-Madrid worked with the audience to make their own zine on the spot. NYU Game Center's Frank Lantz led a the game show style Super Panel Fighter, which featured six of New York's biggest indies taking questions and talking games. The two men behind the outstanding arcade game Killer Queen, Joshua DeBonis and Nikita Mikros, gave a history of how it came to be and where it's headed. And, in one of the most humorous panels, the always entertaining Tim Rogers and Bennett Foddy attempted to pick the top ten sports of all time. These are just a sampling of some of the best, but with numerous panels over the course of the weekend, some of the most pressing and entertaining topics of the day were discussed at length by some of the smartest people in the field.

Another of the special experiences that IndieCade East offers is Night Games. On Saturday evening, the event space at the museum was completely taken over by large-scale games, many of which did not require a screen to play. There was a full beginner-friendly LARP session hosted by Shoshana Kessock taking place alongside things like Art Boy Sin where players get to rearrange 8.5 x 11 letters in whatever fashion they'd like. On one of the museum's big screens you could play the first ever dual-dance pad, co-op games of the rhythm roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer or see if you could master the art of Pickpocket as you tried to lift game pieces (cloth tags) from marks (other players) around the venue. These are just the tip of the iceberg for some of the most unique games of the entire event, and ones that could only be enjoyed in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Treachery in Beatdown City

On top of all that, there's games too... a lot of them. Sony had some of their best upcoming indie titles for the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita on display all weekend. IndieCade East attendees got to spend some quality time with some fantastic games like Octodad: Dadliest Catch, Towerfall Ascension, Hohokum, Sportsfriends and Metrico. Along side those "big" names were other titles still in development, being shown off by the teams that were working on them. Some of the highlights there included: the Double Dragon inspired Treachery in Beatdown City. Meriwether from Sortasoft, which recreates Lewis and Clark's cross-country expedition. Cleaversoft's take on runner games, EarthNight, which featured some of the best art of the entire show. The simple, yet highly addictive, Crystal Brawl from Studio Mercato, which brings capture the flag to a whole new realm. And who could forget The Joylancer: Legendary Motor Knight from Alpha Six Production, that takes the graphics and the gameplay all the way back to the Game Boy. In addition to these games, the NYU Game Center was also showing off some of the games that were coming out of its program, showcasing some developers that you'll likely hear more from, as soon as they graduate.

The second year of IndieCade East help solidify it as a destination event for gamers on the East Coast. The astounding assortment of events, activities, and games never left anyone without something to do. A well-executed event, coupled with a great home at the Museum of the Moving Image, made this year's event significantly better than last years, which puts the annual event on a great trajectory for next year, and for years to come.