Gaming isn’t really a social activity anymore. Sure, MMO’s are around, online co-op and PvP happens pretty much everywhere on the planet, MOBAs are in their heyday right now, and everyone’s having a good time with their Minecraft server on a regular basis.
But I mean, when was the last time you really got together with your friends, traded game cartridges, plugged in controllers and had a bloody, brutal brawl? When was the last time you heard someone curse as you blue-shelled them? When was the last time you screamed “FATALITY” into your opponent’s face as they were torn to shreds?
For many of you (and me, too), it might have been a while. That’s why I was totally stoked to go to the International Game Developers Association event in Sacramento, California over the weekend. Real live people, talking real live indie games. Developers, players, lovers of games, and the behind-the-scenes people who make the world run and develop new technology for gamedevs the world over. What a treat!
I walked in and scanned my QR code to get a wristband. There were some people playing Marvel vs. Capcom, Super Smash Bros Melee and Killer Instinct off in the corner. As the expo was held at a pub, I grabbed an IPA (which could have stood for Indie Pale Ale, given the locale) and proceeded to mingle. Nearby, a gamedev was demoing his new project for Oculus Rift. I had to try it out. Though it was brilliant and amazing, I’m not going to rant and rave about it here. There are plenty of people who’ve logged more hours on Oculus with the know-how and experience to talk about it… but I will say this: when I took off the glasses, I felt sad when I finally realized that I had come back to reality. It’s that good.
There was a superhero dodgeball game, too. A buddy and I wrecked the opposing teams time and time again, but it was good, local multiplayer fun. Imagine, real people beating each other up in the same room. With dodgeballs.
As I wandered a bit further, I came across a nifty 3-D roguelike by the talented Jeremiah Ingham at Arclight, a simple pixel shooter game (reminiscent of Tempest for those of us old enough to remember), and some nifty iPad apps that looked both addictive and original. There was even an interesting and original platformer about an envelope that took me by surprise (by the fledgling Nascent Games).
The crowning achievement, in my opinion, was a multiplayer shooter called “Farrah Rogue: Zero Hour.” It’s fast-paced, simple, easy to play and learn, with lots of possibilities to change and master. Many multiplayers have a bit of a learning curve in that there are many weapons to find and experiment with, and that death severely impacts your survivability (think about losing the shotgun and sword in Halo. Ouch). Farrah Rogue mixes the best elements of Halo and Battlefield 1942: excellent level design, physics and pacing with a changeable loadout between spawns. If this game never gets a single-player campaign, I’ll be happy.
It’s also very shiny. Just saying.
There were talks and demos, competitions and performances. There were business cards and beer flying in all directions. It was packed with people who loved playing games, who loved making games, who loved supporting games. To see such a hugely positive community come out of the woodwork in Sacramento vindicates everything that I and my fellow bloggers here at Last Token Gaming try every single day to make happen. This indie arcade expo was, in my opinion, just the beginning of what may be a very promising future for Sacramento as a game development city. The only way to go is up! But… without you, dear reader, we may not be able to go anywhere at all.
My request to you is this. Check out these studios. Look at their games, offer your advice or support (or both), and help build interest in the games you like. Sacramento has the talent and the numbers to become an indie gaming powerhouse, but your involvement is the only thing that will help it happen. And who knows? Maybe I’ll see you at the IGDA expo next year!
Keep gaming, friends.
(All photos except robot courtesy of the IGDA Sacramento chapter. Robot courtesy of James Guard)