Feb. 21, 2015 | 4:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER Mike Longley’s first commercially released game started with an old Matthew McConaughey comment. “Cameras aren’t guns,” the actor told the Associated Press in 2005. “They can’t really hurt you.” Those words served as a challenge to Longley and his friends, who made it the basis of an all-night “game jam.” Common among game students and the independent community, game jams often function as meet-ups in which developers must explore one theme in a limited amount of time. Longley’s theme? McConaughey. “It was just something he said that was so random,” said Longley, who at the time of the jam in 2014 was close to finishing his degree from USC’s game program. “We took that and said, ‘Well, you can’t hurt someone, but you can hurt their dignity.’ That was enough to make a game about paparazzi and celebrity. […]
Oct. 18, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER On a recent Tuesday evening, more than 50 current and former students of USC’s game design program gathered to talk video games. Student projects were shown and critiqued, but soon students were debating what it means to be labeled a “social justice warrior,” a suddenly trendy term in the video game world thanks to the ongoing battle in the player population known as “gamergate.” Consider gamergate an ownership tug-o-war. Do games belong to their growing audience, or will a broader reach destroy all that’s pleasurable about them — the sex, violence and profanity? You know, the fun. But framing gamergate as only a debate is too kind. From the moment the term emerged as a hashtag in mid-August, it was ugly, messy and convoluted. Female game designers and critics who spoke out about the medium’s future experienced harassment, […]
Oct. 16, 2014 | 8:25 a.m.
Some of the most creative and innovative work in the video game industry is coming from independent developers working alone or in small teams with limited budgets. Many such games were on display this weekend at IndieCade, the annual expo held in downtown Culver City. The festival attracted video game designers, publishers and fans worldwide who came to showcase and play games that veer from the mainstream. Hero Complex spent a day in the arcade, playing games and talking to creators. Here’s a look at five video games that caught our attention. ‘Gemini’ Playing “Gemini” feels a bit like the scene in Pixar’s “Wall-E” in which two robot lovers dance and twirl in space, trails of light tailing behind them. In this single-player video game, an NYU thesis project from designers Nick Zhang and Atlas Chen, the dance is between […]
Oct. 13, 2014 | 8:23 p.m.
THE PLAYER Imagine, perhaps, you’re a die-hard football fan. Now imagine someone comes along and says, “Hey, football isn’t so smart. It can be played better, team names don’t have to offend an entire community, and what’s with all the abuse scandals?” Maybe you don’t react too kindly to the suggestion that your Redskins should change names. Maybe you’re offended that the game you’ve held dear since childhood is facing criticism. A similar theory was recently applied to video games at IndieCade, the gaming conference and festival that concluded its seventh year over the weekend in downtown Culver City. It went something like this: While big-budget games with guns still rule, independent developers are opening up new avenues with games that tackle police brutality, explore the perils of dementia and address the difficult conversations parents have — or don’t have […]
Oct. 10, 2014 | 12:55 p.m.
THE PLAYER Gaming culture today stands at a crossroads. Games are regularly being studied and critiqued as the cultural force they’ve long claimed to be, and some in the community aren’t reacting well, to put it mildly, to the newfound microscope. Those attempting to intellectualize the medium — “social justice warriors,” as they’ve been labeled by their online disparagers — are portrayed as destroying all that’s been great about the medium, namely obscene violence, scantily clad women and the idea that games are for play and not social commentary. Granted, interactive entertainment is still a relatively young medium and therefore one not immune to struggling with issues of maturity. But credit the annual IndieCade festival, now in its seventh year this weekend in Culver City, for its part in slowly leading the community into adulthood. IndieCade has long been a […]
Oct. 10, 2013 | 7:41 a.m.
Stroll end to end at IndieCade, a now-annual game festival and conference in Culver City, and there’s as much for the spectator as there is for the player. Look right, and four people are walking around with robots on their heads, walk left and players are gazing off into digital worlds via virtual reality headsets. In between, players sampled a crowd-funded board game such as “The Perfect Heist,” or tried out new games for Nintendo’s Wii U and Sony’s upcoming PS4. Well over 120 games were playable the four-day IndieCade, which concluded on Sunday. Ten awards were handed out on Thursday night to a potential 36 nominees and an additional 19 games were on display as honorary mentions. One can spend four days playing games at IndieCade and barely scratch the surface of what’s available. The 7-year-old event recognizes only […]
Oct. 04, 2013 | 6:30 a.m.
This weekend more than 120 games will be playable on the streets of Culver City as part of IndieCade, a now annual game festival where risk-taking design choices and anything-goes unpredictability take precedence over commercial success. But this year, there are signs that the indie gaming world is catching the eye of much larger players. Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 console will also be there, as will Nintendo’s Wii U and the still-in-development Oculus Rift, a headset industry observers believe will finally popularize virtual reality. Still, only independent games will be playable at the event. Take “Deadbolt,” where a player must take a look at fellow players, then answer a series of questions, such as who among the group is the most beautiful. Or which player is the most intimidating. And it’s all done with a real-life pen and paper. “The […]
Oct. 09, 2012 | 3:12 p.m.
Game designers from across the globe descended on Culver City, Calif., for IndieCade this weekend, and some of the most memorable games they offered weren’t necessarily the award-winners in the juried festival. Hero Complex spent a day in the arcade, playing games and talking to creators. Here’s a look at five video games that didn’t take home a trophy but certainly won us over. ‘Tengami’ As iPad and mobile games proliferate in both mainstream and indie spheres, the puzzle and adventure game “Tengami” (from U.K. developer Nyamyam) makes exquisite use of the platform’s tactile nature. Players use their fingertips to explore a pop-up world, folding and unfolding their way through a fairy-tale Japan, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by renowned game composer David Wise. “Our artist is actually Japanese, and we all have a fondness for Japan, particularly the […]
Oct. 03, 2012 | 3:06 p.m.
Call it the Sundance Film Festival of video games. IndieCade, which will take over Culver City this weekend, aims to showcase independent developers who, working alone or in small teams with very limited budgets, happen to be creating some of the most innovative video games available. The event, which runs Thursday through Sunday, is designed to help these creators and their projects find an audience and secure distribution, much like film and music festivals do for lesser-known artists. “IndieCade features hidden gems from around the world. Each year some of these games premiere at the festival, others go on to be the next big hit and many push the envelope,” said Stephanie Barish, IndieCade’s CEO. The event, in its fifth year as a public festival, includes a professional conference with workshops, speakers and mixers for game developers. But unlike other […]