Four days before Indiecade, I was on the other side of the continent to visit Dave Gilbert and discuss progress on our game, Puzzle Bots. We had just come from the New York Anime Con, where he had given a talk about how to break into the games industry. The audience was largely teenage, squeaky, and in costume. I wondered what I would have said had I been in Dave’s place. Probably something like, “I’m glad you’re not my kids.”
It had been sort of a gloomy afternoon; the weather was lousy, and I was going to spend my last night in NYC indoors, by myself, wasting time on the internet. However, unlike the million other times I’d done this, fate had other plans. I got a message from someone at Indiecade. Strings got pulled, magic happened, and suddenly I had myself a flight to LA.
Somehow, I navigated my connecting flight to LA, although my sunscreen was confiscated for security reasons. I had no plans that extended beyond arriving at LAX airport. I called an Indiecade person from a payphone. They said hold up, we’re finding you some accommodations. I said cool. Then they said it’s with a family of 9. I said okay. In my head, I said, roll with it.
I met up with the family matriarch, Jacki, at her work. She told me they had kind of a lot of cats. I asked how many cats was kind of a lot. She said 14, then asked if I was allergic. I said yes, kind of. We rode in silence for a few moments. I asked if we could stop and get some sunscreen.
I was soon set up in the spacious attic apartment of a ramshackle old mansion. The walls were covered in bookshelves, handmade shadowboxes, and shiny objects, a trifecta of things that distract me. Outside were honest-to-god palm trees, which to Canadians are basically cartoon plants. It was a completely surreal place to find myself transplanted (and jet-lagged, to boot). My only company was a black cat named Eva (short for “Evil”), who mercifully kept her distance.
The next day Jacki and I talked shop while she drove me to Indiecade. I found out she used to make adventure games back in the early 90s, but not commercial ones. It turns out the US Navy had once tried using them for training purposes. It’s a good thing I was so tired, otherwise I probably would have started making jokes about “use torpedo on submarine” and “use swab on poop deck.”
Indiecade was different from the other games conferences I had been to. It’s impossible to overstate how strong the sense of community is in the independent gaming scene. I had played or heard of most of the games that were on display, and I think that’s the reason that meeting the games’ creators felt so familiar. “Talking shop” doesn’t quite capture the kind of vibrant game design discussions that sprung up constantly. We even made up a game called “Fuck You, It’s Art.” Ask me about the rules some time.
If there’s one photo that I think sums up the spirit of the event, it’s this one. It was taken on the last night of Indiecade, long after the talks had wrapped up, and past the point of exhaustion for most of us. And yet, here we were at Robin Hunicke’s house, taking turns playing Cactus’s skull-bending new platformer, Tuning. I died a lot but that’s not really important.
One highlight of my trip was getting to speak to Keita Takahashi, better known as the creator of Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy. At first, with our considerable language barrier, it was difficult. However, he had a translator app on his iPhone, and I happened to remember the Japanese word for beer. At the end of the night he gave me his business card, and I did my best to accept it the polite way, with both hands, and with a bow. I don’t think I bowed far enough, because he laughed pretty hard.
So, in conclusion, Indiecade ended up being a far more intense and inspiring event than I thought was possible. I met so many amazing, creative people who are doing their best to bring new kinds of games into the world. And that’s a pretty neat thing to be a part of. Hopefully next year, as well.
Oh, and for those of you who made it through this wall-o-text entry, here’s something that’s the opposite of reading: Spike TV interviewed a couple of devs at Indiecade, and I’m told there’s going to be a segment on it tonight at 12:30am PDT. They spoke to me and I tried to look competent. See if you can spot the moments where I’m just thinking, roll with it.