By Rachel Roberie
Rachel Roberie is a second year student at Northeastern University majoring digital art and game design and minoring in writing. She hails from New Orleans, LA, loves to play video games, make video games, cook delicious Cajun food, and write stories and poems.
The 2013 Boston Festival of Indie Games is a testament to the power of crowdfunding and homage to the platitude “good things come to those who wait.” The second FIG, held on September 14 with an expected attendance of 5,000 people (3,000 more than in 2012), had already achieved the feel of a miniaturized PAX – but with less drama and plentiful goodwill. In order to make the festival bigger and better without having to charge attendees, a Kickstarter was launched in April. In the course of 35 days it collected nearly eighteen thousand dollars from 400 backers, three thousand higher than the original goal, and the improvements to the festival were huge. Last year it was held in a bunch of MIT classrooms, which were tough to navigate when the crowds came in, and hot and stuffy to boot; this year’s location was excellent, with the space bumped up to several gymnasium-sized areas: much roomier, very well air-conditioned, and holding a very official, convention-like feel.
Pains were taken to keep the event’s admission free for all with a love for games in their heart, like having an all-volunteer staff, despite the addition of new tournaments, speakers, and many more games. This sets FIG apart from most other game conventions, which can get to be pretty expensive, and the more you spend on going to conventions, the less you can spend on the great games you discover there. And there were plenty of great games to be discovered – FIG displayed 28 tabletop games, up from last year’s 11, and 69 digital games, nearly doubling the previous count of 36.
Game developers from the west coast, New York area, and even a few from Canada traveled all the way to Boston to show their stuff. Apsis was a touch-based experience developed by a team of students from Cornell, and Ko-Op Mode from Montreal was displaying Skipping Stones, a generative music game that looked like a moving painting. Some notable Boston-area companies included Disruptor Beam with Game of Thrones Ascent, Fire Hose Games with Go Home Dinosaurs, and Popcannibal from the Indie Game Collective with Captain Astronaut’s Last Hurrah. Many of these games were in alpha or beta stages, but all of them were beautiful and showed huge potential. Equally impressive were the tabletops, which ranged from Funemployed, a card game of fantastical resume-building, to Castles of Caragaba, a tile-laying magic-lair-buildathon. The full list of the digital and tabletop showcases is available on FIG’s website.
But the games themselves weren’t all the festival had to offer. The famous Boston food trucks that parked nearby, including Cookie Monstah, Bon Me, and Area Four, relieved some of the crowds in MIT’s student center dining. The keynote speaker this year was the Robin Hunicke, executive producer of the rich and artistic game experience that is “Journey,” developed by thatgamecompany. Her talk was about finding meaning in gameplay, something that the innovative boundary-pushing indie community cares a great deal for. And, of course, events like FIG are a wonderful place to talk to people who share a passion for games. Booth owners and attendees alike were approachable, friendly, and willing to share of their experience, and these are the qualities that make FIG a festival everybody is glad to come back to.