Arts 

PREVIEW: BOSTON FESTIVAL OF INDIE GAMES

AR_BFIG2

The Boston Festival of Indie Games, or BFIG, is hard to embody in just one word.

It’s a convention, a showcase, a game jam, a concert, an art exhibit, a seminar, a LARPing event, and best of all, it’s free.

But if there’s one shared notion among its participants, it’s that the second annual BFIG at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is exciting.

“Everything is definitely bigger. There’s a lot more games to play, stuff to buy, and it’s turning out to be a lot of fun,” said co-founder Dan Silvers.

And while Boston is no stranger to massive conventions such as PAX East, Comic-Con, or Anime Boston, there’s no denying BFIG is its own animal.

“[Developers] don’t have to compete with people who have studios with a massive amount of money,” said Silvers.

“Everybody has the same amount of space, and the same amount of airtime, basically. What that creates is more of a farmers market kind of feel.”

This year, nearly 200 digital games will find display space inside the Johnson Athletics Center ice rink, with an expected turnout of 5,000 to 6,000 attendees overall, according to another BFIG co-founder, Fiona Charbak.

This farmers market mentality means relative newcomers such as Steve Forde, who built Pombie Zong in his free time, will find the exact same showcase space as Henry Smith’s hectic mobile multiplayer hit Spaceteam, which garnered 50,000 downloads within a month of its release on Android.

Forde is not unlike many of the developers in BFIG’s showcase, who said his part-time career as an indie developer “just kind of started one day,” after a friend floated the simple concept of pong with zombies. He took the idea home that night and, four hours later, Forde had completed a prototype.

“So far, I’ve been really happy that the overall reaction has been good so far,” he said. “With a bigger audience, who knows?

There will be a lot of other big games out there and mine is just pong with zombies in it, you know?”

Pombie Zong embodies the spontaneous spirit of indie gaming.

While not seeming entirely complex, or deep in any mechanical sense, indie games are about the unfettered free flow of creative concepts that are typically too niche for mainstream audiences,

or too much of a monetary gamble for larger video game publishers to pursue.

These ideas come in the form of a point-and-click adventure game like Paul Franzen and his wife Lizo Medina-Gray’s Monkey Island-inspired Beard in the Mirror; Brian Kokernak’s retro-looking baby-saving arcade app, Fire Escapes; or Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest, an interactive fiction game conveying the everyday challenges of a depressive individual.

Few games are a big enough hit to let their creators walk away from their day jobs to pursue indie development, like Smith has been able to do with Spaceteam, partly due to the lack of immediate exposure.

“A festival like [BFIG] is a chance for game developers to show their games to consumers, show their games to peers, but also get game press interested and involved in looking at their games,” said co-founder Cherbak.

“It’s very valuable as a marketing platform for indie developers who, quite frankly, don’t have those chances.”

They might not have the exposure yet, but if BFIG is indicative of anything, it’s the tectonic shift within the gaming industry towards indie gaming.

“The internet has created such an environment where this kind of creativity can thrive and be perfected, and I think this industry is really the first to take advantage of that,” said co-founder Silvers.

“If the big names keep pushing indies the way they’ve been doing, what we’re doing here is only going to get bigger and bigger.”

BOSTON FESTIVAL OF INDIE GAMES

SATURDAY 9.14.13
STRATTON STUDENT CENTER AT MIT
84 MASS. AVE.
KENDALL SQ.
CAMBRIDGE
10AM/ALL AGES/FREE
@BOSTONFIG
BOSTONFIG.COM


About COLE CHAPMAN

Cole Chapman is a San Francisco, CA native who, years ago, woke up in school at Boston and can't remember why. Thankfully, it's a pretty groovy city, so he's cool with it. It turns out he thinks these video game things are pretty neat, too.
'