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5 Trendsetting Video Games from IndieCade East

The 2015 Indiecade East at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria (photograph by the author for Hyperallergic)
The 2015 Indiecade East at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

This past weekend, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens hosted Indiecade East 2015 for its third year of independent games, talks, and community networking. While the East Coast edition is a smaller, newer branch of the fall’s IndieCade on the West Coast, it serves as an engaging epicenter of what’s having an impact in independent gaming. Talks centered on topics like consent and intimacy, how indigenous culture is represented, and how libraries are incorporating gaming into their programs.

As with last year, the conference was foremost an interactive experience, from the Show & Tell area, where developers demonstrated games in progress, to a whole exhibition space on Love & Rejection. Alongside were selections in a Horizons exhibit that focused on work breaking through the boundaries of gaming and expected to have an impact in the coming year. Here are five of these Horizons highlights.

Pry

Two screenshots of Pry (via Tender Claws)
Two screenshots from ‘Pry’ (via Tender Claws)

More an interactive novella than a game, Pry creatively uses the interaction of gaming in its narrative on a Gulf War veteran losing his sight, and his sanity. While film and text drive the story, it’s the use of the iPad touchscreen by the user that goes further into its details. You can open or close the main character’s eyes to probe into his subconscious, or ripple your finger over the braille in a book. The project of art collective and studio Tender Claws, currently available as an iOS app, is a promising step in how the future of ebooks can be experiences totally unlike anything else, while still presenting at their core a powerful story.

Preview of 'Pry' (GIF by the author via Tender Claws on Vimeo)
Preview of ‘Pry’ (GIF by the author via Tender Claws on Vimeo)

Framed

Screenshot of 'Framed' (via Loveshack)
Screenshot of ‘Framed’ (via Loveshack)

Like PryLoveshack‘s Framed is an innovative use of touchscreen gaming to play with narrative storytelling. Users rearrange panels of a comic book-style noir set to jazzy music, solving puzzles while at the same time rewriting the action. The stark graphics are full of inky silhouettes, and require a close look at the details of each room which may impact the story.

Scene from 'Framed' (via Loveshack)
Scene from ‘Framed’ (via Loveshack)

Shape of the World

Screenshot of 'Shape of the World' (via Shape of the World Games)
Screenshot of ‘Shape of the World’ (via Shape of the World Games)

Created by Vancouver-based developers led by Stu Maxwell, Shape of the World has no plot or narrative other than that of you, the wanderer, walking through a world augmented by your movement. The trees rise just for you, and rivers unfurl from your footsteps. Billed as an “artistic exploration game,” the PC game is surprisingly meditative and diverse in its trippy permutations generated by your solo walk in the woods. It’s like the game version of the late poet William Matthew’s first poem type in his list of “the four subjects of poetry“: “I went out into the woods today, and it made me feel, you know, sort of religious.”

Scene from 'Shape of the World' (GIF by the author via Shape of the World Games on YouTube)
Scene from ‘Shape of the World’ (GIF by the author via Shape of the World Games on YouTube)

Vietnam Romance

Screenshot from 'Vietnam Romance' (via Eddo Stern)
Screenshot from ‘Vietnam Romance’ (via Eddo Stern)

Eddo Stern is one of the more high-profile creators in art and game design to fuse influences from those two fields, such as his sensory deprivation Darkgame. IndieCade offered a preview of three levels from his new Vietnam Romancea follow-up to his 2003 digital video that experimented with computer desktop environments. Vietnam Romance, with its tagline of “If you hated the War but liked the Movies You’ll love this Game,” has searing colors in an illustrated style that takes you on a weird journey from the Mojave to the battlefield, with a tour of monuments to characters from Platoon along the way.

Scene from 'Vietnam Romance' (GIF by the author via Eddo Stern on Vimeo)
Scene from ‘Vietnam Romance’ (GIF by the author via Eddo Stern on Vimeo)

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Screenshot from 'Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes' (via Keep Talking Team)
Screenshot from ‘Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes’ (via Keep Talking Team)

Among the virtual reality games at IndieCade, most using Oculus Rift, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes was the most creative in taking the physical action of the technology and making it into a social collaboration. Created by the Ottawa-based Steel Crate Games, it originated as a prototype at the 2014 Global Game Jam. One player wears a virtual reality headset where they can see a ticking time bomb, while another person has a cumbersome manual on how to diffuse it.

Indiecade East 2015 was February 13 to 15 at the Museum of the Moving Image (36-01 35th Avenue, Astoria, Queens).

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