Noah J Nelson on Friday, Oct. 7th
If there’s one thing Los Angeles loves it’s an award show. They’re as essential to the culture here as sunshine and smog. Last night at the Santa Monica Bay Women’s Club, the luminaries of the indie game scene got their time on the red carpet, and in the spotlight. IndieCade, the International Festival of Independent Games honored the best and most innovative games being shown at the fest that takes place this weekend in Culver City.
While the winners are listed below, what I’d like to do first is give you a sense of what the awards themselves were like– which was in some ways quite unlike any other awards show you may have seen, and in other ways all too familiar.
The crowd itself was fascinating: international hodge-podge of hoodie wearing coders, beautiful people, and freaks. The starlets who make up Team Unicorn — who presented the Interaction award — were dressed like they were rehearsing for the Academy Awards. The developers of Ordnungswissenschaft, the German game that won, were dressed in lab coats. To accept their award, the game devs arranged four young ladies in height, from shortest to tallest, in lieu of a speech.
Now, let’s get the traditional lowlights out of the way: there were clearly two types of presenters this night. Actors who were talked into it by their agents, and people who really, truly cared about indie games.
There were lots of awkward, or just plain bad jokes, with the most uncomfortable bit being when host Samm Levine (Freaks & Geeks) tried to make light of the award’s show tradition of the “In Memoriam” reel. Something that IndieCade’s awards don’t actually do (well, not this year anyway). Coming so close on the heels of the death of Steve Jobs — whose iPhone platform has done as much for connecting the indie developer community with a paying audience as just about anything else on the planet — the bit felt like it was in really bad taste. Levine got no laughs for that one. We can only hope that he and the writers learned their lesson.
Yet, bad jokes and presenter disconnect are like a right of passage — for attendees and show producers alike. The awards show is perhaps the most awkward of all “entertainment” formats. All anyone really wants is to find out who won and then get to the open bar to celebrate/commiserate. Finding ways to actually entertain a room filled with so much — even low level tension — is a rare feat.
Which brings me to the highlights — not the least of which was Fez developer Phil Fish’s maniacal laughter upon being presented with the award for Best in Show. At it’s hight the IndieCade Red Carpet Awards didn’t just celebrate the act of playful creativity — they embodied it. In between some of the awards, The Wise Guys — a duo who specialize in creating team building games for corporate clients — got most of the audience up and playing with each other.
While there we’re a few isolated groans from at least one table — headed up by Gameplay Design winner Tom Sennett, who added a touch of real indie class by flipping off the entire room as he accepted his award — who were too cool for school, the majority of the audience was up on their feet for the game breaks. It was as if the entire room was transported back to the fourth grade lunch room with no adults in sight. It would be hard to imagine the crowd at the Emmys or the Oscars coming alive like that. (The Golden Globes are another matter, thanks to the booze.)
If the rest of IndieCade is as fun as the awards, I hope the festival never ends.
Story/World Deisgn: Fez
Technology: Johann Sebastain Joust
Game Design: Deepak Fights Robots
Visuals: Sword & Sworcery
Special: The Swapper
G4TV Impact Award: Johann Sebastian Joust
Best Of Show: Fez
Check out IndieCade’s finalists page for links to the games.