Every year some of the most innovative and imaginative games from independent developers are selected by IndieCade. An organization dedicated to giving artists, programmers, and storytellers a platform to showcase ideas often deemed too off-the-wall by the mainstream entertainment experience. The IndieCade showcase at E3 is always one of my favorite things about the show and I’ll always be greatful to for introducing me to the Butt Sniffin Pugs game a few years back.

Once again it’s my treat to bring everyone the five best games of the E3 IndieCade showcase.

Borders (Macua Studios)

On the surface, Borders may not look have the flash of an Xcom or a Gears of War however, its subtlety one of the most powerful and politically eye-opening games created. Creative Director, Gonzalo Alvarez designed a game to portray the dangers Mexican immigrants face in order to give the next generation a better future. Borders is a game inspired by the horrors his grandfather encountered in his journey to come to the United States from Latin America. As the game goes, you’ll traverse the desert as you try to avoid border patrol while staying hydrated. Where Border’s eerie vibe comes from is what you’ll see along the way. As I just stepped up to the machine everything was pretty self-explanatory in an NES Metal Gear style; avoid the guard by hiding in the cacti. While I noticed all the skeletons laid out across the level, it didn’t occur to me that they were anything more than a design choice. The bones are of previous players left in the spot they died in the game. While it helps in game to see the trouble spots coming, when you consider the inspiration of the game and how many real people lose their lives crossing the border there’s only one word to describe Borders, haunting.

Everything is Going to be OK (Alienmelon)

What if Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show was a game based on the experiences of choices you make growing up? Everything is Going to be OK takes the short story telling art form of the zine and turns it interactive. The game is a series of pages where you interact with moments that deal with things like PTSD and social anxiety. In a way, it illustrates the difference between surviving trauma and living with it day to day. The cutesy characters are the avatars of your choices. In one page we were tasked with keeping a conversation going by choosing the right things to say to fit what we were talking to the other characters about. Anytime we chose incorrectly the awkwardness meter climbed until we had no friends. It’s titillatingly dark, while at the same time thought provoking. The woman who developed this game has a bright future as a gutsy storyteller.

Hackers of Resistance (The Hackers of Resistance)

More of an interactive experience than a video game, Hackers of Resistance took me in a make shift hideout on the E3 show floor where I chose a code name and three female hackers recruited me to their cause of exposing government wrong doings. H.O.R is a homage to the Sisters of Survival—a performance art group that dressed in colorful nun habits to champion nuclear disarmament and conjure cross-cultural dialogue. These girls have curated an augmented and digital experience that disassociated the common stereotype of “hacking” with “crime”. As you sit at the computer and play a communitive series of mini typing games you’ll find yourself immersed in the experience created. In a culture that’s created things like escape rooms, Hackers of Resistance could be the next team building exercise.

Virtual, Virtual Reality (Tender Claws)

Think of it as VR Inception. In Virtual, Virtual Reality you’re a lowly human looking to escape your A.I. overlord by putting on a VR headset after you’ve already put one on to enter the game. The story takes place in two main acts 1. Fulfill emotional labor for A.I. clients as your reviews tank 2. Escape the cycle of labor to explore “backstage” of Activitude and its past iterations (parodies) of “VR startups” that made Activitude what it is today. Slather toast on a giant stick of butter as it berates your human efficiency.
It’s an experience with tons of variety to it. VR itself is one of the most exciting technologies to currently exist. Its applications are almost boundless; being accessible to anyone with an imagination and a desire to push the gaming industry forward Virtual, Virtual Reality is just the beginning.

Stifled (Gattai Games)

Marvel needs to pay attention to the Gattai Games team. Stifled is a sound-based stealth horror game where the player is put in total darkness. The only way to see your surroundings is through echolocation using the mic in the VR headset, talking sends out a pulse that highlights the world in a series of white lines. You can also throw rocks or use your own footsteps to trigger the effect. It all sounds perfectly innocent until you realize there are monsters lurking in the dark hunting you and all the noise you make in order to navigate brings them closer to tearing you limb from limb. Stifled is a game whose level of claustrophobia creates a tension very few triple-A titles achieve. You’ll need to explore this world fully if you want to solve the mystery of your accident and find out what exactly is hunting you. This type of gameplay could be adapted into making a Telltale style Daredevil game. A character who you could never truly create a game for before without pulling players out of the experience of truly being Matt Murdock. Stifled is intense. Currently, it’s only set for STEAM but we played it on PSVR hardware so there’s hope.

Check out the pages and social media of all these talented developers. IndieCade will bring its own full show to Los Angeles Little Tokyo district later this year.