This year’s IndieCade Festival, the largest event in the United States dedicated to showcasing independent games, will be coming to USC for the first time this weekend.
The festival will start on Friday, continue until Saturday and take place at the School of Cinematic Arts. Attendees will be able to explore newly developed games being showcased by their creators, participate in summits and workshops to exchange ideas and hear about trends in the industry from keynote speakers.
The IndieCade Festival is free to USC students with their student ID.
“Like Sundance, it is a festival, and we’re showing all sorts of games, including traditional digital games, virtual reality, competitive play like eSports, mobile games, physical games and tabletop games. We have it all,” said Stephanie Barish, CEO of IndieCade.
Independent games are made outside of the traditional marketplace, meaning that they may have received alternative forms of funding or are created without access to a game studio. The games themselves may be very different from many of today’s popular games.
The primary purpose of the IndieCade Festival is to bring the independent game community together and foster an atmosphere of collaboration and support. While there, developers can exchange ideas with each other, receive feedback on their games or cultivate new skills.
“There are workshops and events that are focused on skill learning and helping independent developers empower themselves,” said Samuel Roberts, program manager of SCA’s Graduate Interactive Media & Games division and the director of the festival. “One of the workshops focuses on [how designers can address] business and legal issues, and how to run a small company, which is what you have to do as a small independent developer.”
The festival was held in Culver City for the last seven years, but IndieCade chose USC as its new location to avoid construction at their previous site and utilize a larger space to accommodate more participants.
“There’s something here for everyone, and those things are new and exciting and different,” Roberts said. “If you’re not interested in games per se, but cool stories, or interesting experiences, or the future of media … then this is an amazing place to come and see the creative work people are doing.”
Many games that have been showcased at the festival in previous years have become commercially successful. Major gaming companies attend the festival and sometimes offer to continue developing the game or provide funding.
“Oftentimes the games you see at IndieCade are the games you will eventually see on these other platforms [published by large game companies], so you get to see them first,” Roberts said.
Barish said that each year, around 5,000 people attend the IndieCade Festival, with over 200 developers showcasing their work.
“We put a lot of effort into helping the community ‘level-up’ together,” Barish said. “We run lots of events at different sessions that are targeted to our different audiences. We have workshops for developers, for people who are new and interested in breaking in and opportunities for discussion.”
Keenan Mosimann, a senior majoring in interactive entertainment, is one of the developers who will be showcasing his game at the festival this year.
Mosimann’s game, called ICU, is a horror game where the player must overcome audience-imposed obstacles to complete each level. People watch the game take place online in real time and vote on ways to make the game more fun and challenging for the player.
Mosimann started working on the game a year and a half ago in one of his classes, eventually getting it approved for his senior thesis project. Now he has several people helping him design the game and has received funding to further develop it through Kickstarter campaigns and pitches to investors.
“Everyone loves games. Be it board games, video games or football, this is all under the umbrella of IndieCade. It’s not a trade festival or a niche audience,” Mosimann said. “If you’re just looking for a fun thing to do on the weekend, regardless of whether you want to break into games yourself, coming to IndieCade you will find a fun activity to do for a couple days, and you’ll get to meet game developers.”
For Mosimann, it is a place for enthusiastic and casual gamers alike.
“If you’re there to see passionate people doing what they love, or if you’re there to play some fun games, IndieCade Festival has something for everyone,” Mosimann said.