Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Text:AAA
Tuesday, Mar 11, 2014
I honestly believe there is something about IndieCade that leads one to think differently about games and that is quite a feat to accomplish given gaming's frequent commitment to conventionality.

When a developer is told to create a video game, the average mind will always drift to what has already been done. Given a blank canvas with which to work and the mind is assailed by the tyranny of possibility, creating nothing. The mind needs some structure and limitations to create, and often they are the limitations that creators impose on themselves. And often those self imposed limitations are the conventions of what has come before. It is a safety net that those steeped in a medium understand.


Conventionality in the arts leads to the exclusion of ideas that fall outside the norm, not by simply refusing to grant admittance to those outside the boundaries of what is accepted as a game, but through the subtle denial of new thought. Saying those limitations no longer apply in this instance is never enough. New limitations, specially crafted, are needed to break away from the old and into a new arena of possibility.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014
Does the museum environment persuade developers to display games that would feel out of place and alienated in another setting?

I sometimes wonder if it is form that dictates content or the content that dictates form. We have conventions and genres that sign post certain content and indicate whether the content of a game will meet our expectations. Computers, lasers, and space means sci-fi and all the connotations that go along with that genre. Alternatively, fantasy immediately dictates a mental image of a feudal medieval Europe with swords and sorcery. Do these tropes comes arise from the content of a fictional work or does certain content mean that we automatically shift into telling a story a certain way? It’s an eternal back and forth in all things, not just art. It could also be true of venues.


The broad variety offered by IndieCade East would be unimaginable at a trade show like E3 and is pretty much absent from a fan convention like PAX as well. Does the museum environment persuade developers to display games that would feel out of place and alienated in another setting? Or does a commitment to the games that you wouldn’t find elsewhere lead to the adoption of the museum setting in order to comfortably contextualize this particular set of avant-garde gaming options?


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014
I don't know if any of these games are good. I don't know if any of these games are great. But there is something interesting in all of these games.

Last week while describing my experience of IndieCade East, I promised that I would go over a number of the games that caught my eye and my interest at the show. Well, here it is. There were multiple places that games were on display at the event. There was the Sony sponsored section where a number of displays showed off upcoming indie offerings, those coming soon to PlayStation platforms. This is where I got to try out Towerfall: Ascension, probably the only time that I’ll get to play it against four opponents. There were also several stations to show off student project from an NYU game design course.


The entirety of my list of games, though, comes from a section called Show and Tell. This was a space that on Saturday and Sunday where developers rotated out games that they had on display every four hours. I got to check out a lot of games that I both never would have heard of otherwise or that I just normally wouldn’t have had a chance to see at all. Some were destined for consoles, some for the PC, some for mobile devices and tablets, some for the table, and others really couldn’t be played outside of a dedicated event such as IndieCade.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014
If there was a central theme to this year's IndieCade East, it's that games aren't important. Play is important.

“Play! Where’s the magic? We have technicians… we need magicians.”
—Karl Rohnke


Over this last weekend I spent a good deal of my time at IndieCade East, a smaller scale convention focused on the art of games, on the avant garde, and on challenging the idea of what games can be instead of celebrating the stagnation of what they are. Last year I wrote an extensive three part primer on PAX East. I enjoyed my time there well enough, though I always end up feeling stifled, constrained, and in the end exhausted by it. Conversely I felt I didn’t get to spend enough time at IndieCade East. More than just the games that are represented on the “show floor,” it is almost the exact opposite of the huge public spectacle that PAX East is in every major respect.


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Text:AAA
Wednesday, Feb 12, 2014
By taking the concept of choice and mapping it onto spatial relativity, The Stanley Parable has created an extended metaphor that comments on the whole concept of choice in video games.

When we think of choices in games, the image we usually imagine is a clearly marked out situation with two or more responses represented by buttons or by on-screen options in the UI. The player then makes a choice by pressing the corresponding button or clicking on the preferred option. These choices then dictate how the plot of the game’s story will unfold. Think of the Mass Effect series in this regard or how it is wonderfully parodied in the walk and talk opening of Saints Row IV. These are generally moments different from the game’s standard style of play and need to be represented by their own system, one that is essentially separate from the rest of the game. It is as if the the characters have been brought into a sort of fugue state outside the normal game space, and in most cases, outside of the passage of time.


The Stanley Parable belongs to that collection of games based on genre minimalism that I’ve been calling the first person walker. While the game does have one click interactions that can open doors (in some cases) or push buttons (to little or no effect), most of the game is spent walking around corridors. Unlike other examples of the genre it doesn’t seek to minimalize a genre, only a certain aspect of it, by turning what was once an outside consideration into a physical aspect of the play space. What were once represented by a button appearing on the user interface now is literally represented as branching paths.


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