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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2013 is here and the road ahead for game developers in Massachusetts has never been better!  With 2012 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to all of the great local events coming this year.  The first, Boston Indies Demo Night, happened this month along with the Global Game Jam. If you missed it, fear not! There are a plethora of additional events in the pipeline including:

February:

            Game Development Gala (February 20th)                    

Turbine’s “Game Dev Showcase” will showcase their many facets of AAA game design, game production, game development and game support to the greater Boston game community as well as to the many game design academic programs in the Boston area.  More info and registration info here: http://turbinenerd.eventbrite.com/

            Games Circle “Women in Games” Panel (February 28th)

Our next event will feature a panel of women who are active contributors in the games industry and who will share insight into the current and future roles that women perform to shape the industry.  More info and register here: http://womeningames.eventbrite.com.

March:

            MassDiGI Game Challenge (March 1st-2nd)

A one-of-a-kind event, the MassDiGI Game Challenge helps aspiring game developers launch new games in Massachusetts. Students and “indie” developers can compete to win a variety of prizes and the event will also feature educational sessions/workshops and an Indie Game Showcase. More info and register here: http://www.massdigi.org/gamechallenge/

            MIT Business in Games (March 21st – TBD)

Details have not yet been formally announced for this upcoming conference, but we believe it is scheduled to happen on March 21st, the day before PAX East. I will update this blog as soon as I have official information. http://www.mitbig.com/

            MassTLC “Made in MA” Pre-PAX Party (March 21st – TBD)

Hosted by MassTLC, this is an annual shindig held the night before PAX East all to celebrate the Massachusetts game industry. Held at the Microsoft NERD Center, it is a great night of networking and checking out various local products and services on display. Go here to register and remember to find someone with the discount code that makes the event free.  If you don’t know someone email me here http://paxparty2013.eventbrite.com/

            PAX East (March 22nd-24th)

Penny Arcade Expo’s east-coast event, PAX East is a consumer-oriented gathering focused on games, games, games. PAX is an excellent opportunity to check out the latest and greatest games, but to also meet companies in the region, as well as those from other areas of the country. Look for the “Made in MA” room to show your support for the game industry in Massachusetts.  More details: http://east.paxsite.com/

May:

            Games Circle Financing/Funding Event (May 30th!)

Stay tuned right here at www.GamesCircle.org for more information about this event, coming soon.          

August:

            GameLoop (TBA)

This is Boston’s own game developer un-conference in the vein of BarCamp.  Attendees determine the subjects they want to talk about and propose.  Attendees vote on which topics they want to learn more about, which then determines the course of the day.  Keep your ears open for more details about the event – participation is usually driven by word-of-mouth.

September:

            Boston Festival of Indie Games (September 14th)

Organized by Boston Indies and hosted at MIT, Boston FIG is a multi-faceted event that not only supports digital games, but has board games, live action games, speakers, game related films, a game jam, game art exhibit and more! With over 2,000 attendees in 2012, the Boston FIG committee expects 2013 to be even bigger.  Free to attend, game developers and game fans should keep an eye on registration and game submission details at: http://www.bostonfig.com/

So, be sure you mark these dates and events on your calendars and we hope to see you around! Also, be sure to stay tuned to these other local organizations for other events throughout the year:

            Boston Indies (Meets Monthly)

http://www.bostonindies.com/

            Boston Postmortem (Meets Monthly)

http://www.bostonpostmortem.org/

            Women in Game Development Meetup (Meets Monthly)

http://wigboston.wordpress.com/

            HTML5 Game Developers

http://www.meetup.com/Boston-HTML5-Game-Development/

            Boston Unity Group

http://www.meetup.com/B-U-G-Boston-Unity-Group/

Boston Blender User Group

http://www.bostonblender.com/

            AAUGA Autodesk Boston

http://www.aaugaboston.com/