December 7, 2007
Crayons and Goo, but no Bill Viola at IGF08
The finalists for the Independent Games Festival, held annually at GDC, have been announced.
Much like I felt from the 2D physics-based indie game jam a few years ago, highly procedural and generative gameplay can make for compelling games. Two of the five games competing for the grand prize make creative use of 2D physics: Crayon Physics Deluxe, and World of Goo. Check out the trailers for each; I’m particularly taken by the trailer for Crayon, which taps into the nostalgia for older mediums I wrote about a few months ago. I’m reminded of the excellent Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings animations from my Captain Kangaroo days; sigh… It would have been cool if SketchFighter 4000 were competing this year too.
One of the games competing for design innovation is Fez, previewed at Jason Rohrer’s Arthouse Games. (While you’re there, check out Jason’s new art game, Passage.)
I am very disappointed, though, that The Night Journey, an experimental game by Bill Viola, Tracy Fullerton and others at USC, didn’t make it to the IGF finals! I haven’t played it, so can’t tell how much of an injustice this is, but I have a sinking feeling it’s because it’s a little too artsy for the IGF. If so, what a shame; kind of makes we wish we could body-slam-dance some open-mindedness into the more conservative members of the IGF jury.
December 7th, 2007 at 2:27 pm
Wow. That’s surprising and disappointing.
December 7th, 2007 at 8:59 pm
I highly recommend one of the entries, Immortal Defense.
December 9th, 2007 at 4:07 pm
I think the IGF does a lot to open up new opportunities for indie games and arguably they’ve shown some of the best new independently produced games around. But they seem to draw a particular line in the sand when things get to arty or too controversial, or perhaps a tad too innovative. It’s unfortunate because in so doing, they sometimes inadvertently narrow the field rather than broadening it. We’ve shown Night Journey in all of our IndieCade showcases over the past year: at E3, at E for All and at GameCity Nottingham. As unusual and arty as it is, the game has been a big hit in all three (very different) venues, the latter two aimed at the general public. Night Journey is a game where you have to slow down to win, where you have to observe and take in, where the “power-up” happens when you stop and reflect. It could almost be described as an anti-game. Yet people of all ages seem to be mesmerized by it. I highly recommend playing it if you get the chance, and I’m sure you will.
December 10th, 2007 at 9:16 am
I was also disappointed (as IGF Chairman) that The Night Journey didn’t make it in – but I will make the obvious point that The Path, which is also a third-person, abstract exploration art-game, certainly did. I’m surprised you didn’t mention this title, Andrew – it’s certainly the equal of The Night Journey, but going in a slightly different direction.
Also, Celia, you should know better than claiming the IGF shies away from the ‘innovative’. That’s a pretty low blow. Our judges care a lot about innovation _and_ broadening the market – hence why you’re seeing a lot of fun, playable, accessible titles as finalists, increasingly, as opposed to hardcore niche titles.
December 10th, 2007 at 10:59 am
Clearly it’s good to have a diversity of game festivals, to allow all of these good games to get broader exposure and recognition. Truth is we can’t expect any one festival to somehow include them all, or exactly align with one’s own criteria (such as my own ;-). Inevitably each competition has its particular balance of game designs it seeks for competition.
So, instead of being disappointed about a game not making it into any one festival, let’s look forward to more festivals, to diversify the field. And, at the same time, let’s discourage any one festival from becoming dominant.
December 11th, 2007 at 6:50 am
No matter how disappointed or surprised we may be about the results of competitions, it is crucial at times like this to stick up for and stick by juried decisions. Having juried events is crucial to the integrity of the cultural and artistic statements we are trying to make as independents in this creative industry.
We are all a part of the same community and as people who deeply support independent gamemaking we have to understand that there will always be limitations in any one event and the broadest of possibilities for exposure across multiple events. It is important that we can work together in order to be able to bring more perspective, diversity, experimentation, and even controversy that exist in this field to the public eye through a range of events.
December 12th, 2007 at 6:11 am
I apologize if my comments sounded harsh. I think was responding in large part to my disappointed for Tracy, who is a good friend of mine, and who I think is one of the best game designers around. I have always been a big fan of the IGF, and indeed, the IGF is the locus of innovation at the GDC…I would even add that for me, it is the highlight, if not the entire reason to go to the GDC in the first place! I’m really pleased to hear that The Path will be included, and glad Simon, that you feel the same way I do about Night Journey. But I have to concur with Stephanie. In the end, the jurors trump our personal opinions. That’s just the way it is. Night Journey is definitely a challenging piece, which is part of why I referred to it as an “anti-game.” Some people might argue that it’s not even a game at all. What’s exciting to me is that we are at a moment of critical mass where between indie developers of all stripes, diverse indie festivals (pioneered by the IGF), indie game portals (God Bless the Internet!), and the advent of downloadable content on consoles, indie games are going mainstream. I’m really excited to be a part of that, and to follow in the IGF’s footsteps to help make that possible.
December 17th, 2007 at 12:09 pm
Stephanie, I have to disagree that we should stick up for juried decisions. Where a numerical jury process fails most is at the fringe of experimental content. Which is not to say the IGF should focus on innovative content; simply that if any festival wants to focus on innovative content solely, then those are the games that typically polarize people. A game will receive either high mark or low marks, and so its final score will be average. The games that succeed in a judge-by-numbers process are those that are fairly well liked by most people at best, appeal to a lowest common denominator at worst.
To me, it seems the question that keeps building is, what is the goal for the IGF, and does it’s current process of selecting finalists best serve that goal?
December 18th, 2007 at 11:25 pm
As much as I appreciate Simon’s reference to The Path (of which I am one of the creators), I don’t think it deserves the credit of being “the equal of The Night Journey”. As far as I can tell (having not played it), the latter, is far more extreme as a work of art, even if it goes in a similar direction. Many people may not realize that we designed The Path to be a commercial game. This is probably why it ultimately got selected by the IGF: it’s consciously designed to appeal to people, to not go too far in the art direction. I personally think that there is a lot to say for such a Trojan Horse strategy. But I wish a festival that “rewards innovation in independent games” would figure out a way to reward the extreme cases as well. Kellee is probably right about the current “judge-by-numbers” selection process not being suitable for this purpose.
That being said, I have spoken with Simon on a number of occasions about including more extreme “non-games” in the IGF somehow. The will is most definitely there. But the means is not clear. Another category? A seperate jury? Or, as Kellee’s post seems to suggest, a different way of judging?
But then there’s of course other events as well, such as IndieCade, which seems to have a slightly different focus than the IGF. And that’s good since it broadens (the public perception of) the field. I really do hope that a meaningful (artistic) movement can come out of the indie games scene. And that Night Journey can be a prominent part of it, next to the legions of 2D physics “pinball games”…
December 24th, 2007 at 11:43 am
I have played Night Journey a few times as an USC student pursuing degree in game development. I was impressed by the artistic talent and design aspect of the game. Jason, host for indie-games booth at e for all expo, praised Night Journey of it being more of a meditation-stimulating game for him. I feel that we should venture more into such experiments.
January 2nd, 2008 at 12:24 pm
[…] problem seems to be similar to the one pointed out by Kellee in the comments of a Grand Text Auto post, talking about getting innovative games selected in the Independent Games Festival: Those are […]