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.

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We are proud to partner with the Boston Festival of Indie Games in 2013 and are happy to tell you that attendee registration for the 2013 festival recently opened! Fans of digital, tabletop and live action roleplaying games are welcome to register for free at http://bostonfig.com/registration/attendee-registration/.

A celebration of independent game development in a variety of media and genres, Boston Festival of Indie Games is for all ages, free and open to the public. Festival attendees play video games, tabletop games and live action roleplaying (LARP) games in a casual, inclusive environment, plus attend film screenings and keynote talks.

Attendees can also become game developers themselves by participating in digital game jams, creating their own board and card games, and attending workshops and lectures about the process of making games.  More fest details, including 2013 programming, will be announced soon. To stay informed on fest progress, sign up for updates on www.BostonFIG.com.

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It has been a momentous year for the games industry in and around Massachusetts. We had lots of ups and some downs, but the Games Circle committee is looking forward to new beginnings and even brighter horizons in 2013! To move forward, however, we must look back…

In 2012, numerous new games were launched (some beta launches) by local companies such as Stomp Games / Tencent Boston, Turbine / Warner Bros., Demiurge Studios, Popcannibal, Owlchemy Labs, HitPoint Studios, Harmonix and many more! While many studios saw  success in 2012, 38 Studios brought national attention to New England when it shut its doors this spring. But, we’ve emerged. And, whether you were personally touched by the happenings at 38 Studios or not, I think we all learned a lot from the experience.

PAX East came to Boston for the third straight year, bigger and better than ever! Despite being held on Easter weekend, this year’s PAX East was the most well-attended yet.

Several other significant events impacted the industry in and around Boston including the MIT Business in Gaming Conference and the first-ever Boston Festival of Indie Games, which saw over 2,000 attendees in September! And, let’s not forget the 1st annual MassDiGI Game Challenge  in April  –   28 teams competed and numerous student-created games were developed (and some launched) this year as a result.

Our own Games Circle community was also very active during 2012. Our line-up of thought-provoking and well-attended panels and networking events included a “State of Play: 2012 Edition” session, “Can Games Save Education?” panel, and “Launching Great Games with Limited Marketing Spend” panel. We ended the year with “Smart Money in Gaming,” which was our most well-attended event EVER!

We are also happy to have two new committee members joining the Games Circle in 2012 – Caleb Garner of Part 12 Studios and Michelle Yaiser of Adobe.

And, I can’t end a 2012 recap post without thanking our sponsors – Turbine; Morse-Barnes, Brown & Pendleton; Adobe; and the Microsoft NERD Center!

Cheers to an even more momentous 2013 for the New England games community!

Elicia Basoli