Monday, October 7, 2013

Indiecade 2013 postpartum

So Indiecade 2013 came and went. I had a pretty great time and I still think it's a pretty good games event. I also think untempered compliments are the least useful form of feedback, so here are some notes, observations, and thoughts:
  • It is getting much bigger. The tent village, this year, seemed almost double the size of last year's?
  • Is it getting less independent? Some people were upset, or at least had mixed feelings, about the growing prominence of sponsored tents at Indiecade. Yes, we understand that these events happen because of sponsorship money, but when the bulk of passer-bys are gravitating to the gigantic Nintendo tent-complex, then the message that many get is, "buy a WiiU and Nintendo is great", not necessarily "look at this new and diverse form of barely funded game dev." (In this respect, I appreciated the barely-present Microsoft sponsored brunch bag.)
  • AAA vs indie. Indiecade physically manifests the shifting AAA-indie relationship today... Many indies feel the "indie" label is meaningless because we should all just strive to make excellent games and we are all friends and games are great haha!... I don't agree and I think "indie love" is nice in short-term and poisonous in long-term. AAA is moving to be an "indie vendor" precisely so that it can co-opt, domesticate, and harvest the energy of indies to strengthen their own brands -- ultimately leading to the publisher ecosystem bullshit that led to the earliest AAA-indie breaks in the first place. What does indie mean? It means not-AAA, it means fighting for culture and space and distribution and control that remains separate from AAA. We should keep our guard up. Cooperation can be great, but assimilation is... undesirable.
  • Add a napping / quiet tent. Especially needed in the afternoon heat. Bonus points if you pipe-in some lullaby music or Gregorian chanting.
  • More taco tents, more often! The line for tacos was quite long and discouraging. But A+ for the idea.
  • More night games, less density. The lines for all the night games were quite long and discouraging, and they were all situated around a handful of tents clustered together. I have no idea what the site considerations were, but consider spreading out the installations more next time, if possible?
  • Those were some very handsome Indiecade pint glasses... but next time, please: less energy drinks everywhere and more water. On Sunday morning this became a running joke. One thing that Indiecade or Culver City might want to invest in, next time: some NYC styled "Water On the Go" water fountains that tap into a fire hydrant, and some lovely Indiecade-branded water canteens for every attendee... instead of constant and wasteful searches for bottled water in 90 degree heat.
  • A/V in talks and panels. I noticed my favorite Indiecade talks and presentations made lots of audio / video use, and the more disappointing ones involved people sitting in a circle in front of a blank title card, talking very intelligently -- but also very inscrutably, unless you had played their games and read the books and watched the films already. I understand panelists and moderators have very little time to do the prep, but I think when they do, then it adds a lot and it really gets the audience on the same page.
  • Please don't become a security state. There were some technical problems on Saturday night, rumored to stem from a malicious saboteur messing with cables. I hope the response isn't to enforce security everywhere. In my eyes, the entire festival seemed to flow pretty smoothly, and was a testament to the power of public culture. If anything, let's strive to open up access even more: livestream all the talks and lower the price of the conference pass.
  • The LA indie scene exists! I never really gave Los Angeles much thought as an indie hub, but after meeting a lot of Los Angeles indies, I guess it is. My bad.
See you next year... or if you can't wait that long, then maybe see you at Indiecade East in New York City, February 14-16 2014, which I'm told would love to see your talk proposal submissions...