While Team Beat is covering NYCC from Javits to Soho, I decided to take in some of the most trippy interactive experiences being created today at Indiecade 2017. For the past ten years, a tiny independent group with a passion for games that go beyond shooting zombies have been putting on the Sundance of the video game industry. Indiecade celebrates the weird and wonderful art of gaming. These diverse curated creations go beyond screens into immersive experiences designed by creative voices who will shape the future of interactive entertainment. Here are our favorite five experiences from Indiecade 2017:
WHERE THE WATER TASTES LIKE WINE (Dim Bulb Games)
No other entertainment medium has the immersive storytelling potential of video games and perhaps no game best illustrates the lost art of tall tales like Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. Set in an old America built on tales like Paul Bunyon and John Henry, this game introduces the player to 16 different characters each with a different narrative each scribed by different writers. They’re all themed around the idea of people who failed or were failed by the American dream: miners’ strikes, the Pullman Porters, and even the Long Walk of the Navajo. This is a game combining a visceral art style, intriguing story beats, and even a soundtrack that you won’t be able to get out of your head. Our traveling avatar walked across the empty Appalachian plain to the sound of Kentucky bluegrass. As you travel across country, the music changes to the specific region. As we hitchhiked towards Portland the rhythms shifted to something of an indie folk vibe whereas heading south towards New Orleans would have given us some swinging Jazz to listen to.
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine launches on STEAM PC in 2018.
FEAR SPHERE (HNRY)
Imagine being surrounded by darkness, your only view a tiny portal of light that lets you see a sliver of your surroundings. Your mission in Fear Sphere is to navigate your way out of a deserted office building with no on-screen directions while being hunted by a shadowy monster. Not a video game in the traditional sense, more like an exercise in communication mixed with interactive art. While you’re physically inside a literal bubble made of black tarp no light can penetrate, a friend will guide you via communication using only blueprints of each office floor. Inside the bubble, players will move and explore using a handheld projector with a mounted six-axis motion control. Think of rotating the projector as looking through a VR headset, in order to fully see your surroundings you’ll need to turn your view. Instead of a headset, the projector acts like you’d use a flashlight in real life. While the software is a bit of a bare bones experience, these talented developers knew the right touches to use in order to mess with your senses. As you walk you’ll hear a heartbeat which also lets you know when the monster is getting close. With a few more touches it could be every bit as heart-stopping as Resident Evil VII.
At this time Fear Sphere is a traveling art installation experience. To keep up with studio HNRY check out the game’s site.
CAT SORTER VR (Pawmigo Games)
Take the next step from cat mom to cat god as Cat Sorter VR gives players the task of seeking flawed cats and returning them to normalcy. You’ll look at an assembly line of cats with defects such as three eyes, ears in the wrong place, etc. Players pick out parts from a bin to replace the defects. Think of it as putting a mouth on a cat that comes out like Hello Kitty. While the gameplay of this experience is carnival simplistic, it’s just incredibly fun to play with the dozens of cats on screen. You can pick them up and bring them towards your face to watch them meow and react to you or stack them in piles creating a symphony of cat sounds. Cat Sorter VR isn’t a revolutionary game but sometimes being fun and adorable is all you need to have a good time. Just ask any of my ex-wives… Hi-Yo!
DETENTION (Red Candle Games)
A game more in line with what most people belive video games to be, Detention is a 2D atmospheric horror side-scroller. Players navigate the main characters in a classic point and click fashion to explore a high school haunted by something evil. This title’s aesthetic is inspired by 1960’s Taiwan, a state under martial law where desolation was the norm. In this supernatural high school, you need to explore and solve puzzles involving ghostly stories and Buddist lore. Guiding this young girl from room to room is trickier than meets the eye. When you encounter one of the shadow monsters in the hall, you can either sneak into a nearby room to hide or try to go directly through by holding your breath as these things hunt by sound. Detention is an experience in methodical pacing, one loaded with rich storytelling for anyone with an interest in Asian culture.
CRIBBAGE WITH GRANDPAS (Less Than Three Interactive)
On the surface, Cribbage With Grandpas might look like an average mobile card game, but beneath a really old card game is a heart players create. The caveat of this game a grandpa creator where the player can select different features to create an artistic representation of their grandpa. They can also choose what kind of personality they should have in the grandpa creator which affects light dialogue during play. While it’s not some scary George Orwell sci-fi like version of your grandfather in digital form, it is quirky and for some, it might envoke a memory or two of a long lost relative. Even someone like me who never had much of a relationship with any grandparent can appreciate the charm coming through on screen. The card game itself is easy to learn and the grandfather you create, if you chose patience, helped me get the hang of the game as if someone was actually teaching me.
This was simply a small sample of what we got to experience at Indiecade 2017. The show is always fun and imaginative. Attendees are treated to art in immersive and interactive ways such as the night time gaming, informative programming, performances, and giant Exploding Cats Card Game. Indiecade 2017 marked its first time in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. A place which fits the welcoming and artistic vibe everyone who attends this show puts out. Indiecade is more than just a festival, it’s a community that focuses on bridging cultural, gender, and pop culture gaps. Every facet of entertainment that’s allowed online toxicity to fester could take a lesson from this group on how to build genuinely progressive community.