The Independent Games Festival is due to hold its’ 13th annual awards ceremony in the Spring of 2011. The IGF is a mainstay of the gaming calendar, and in the words of Kyle Gabler (World of Goo) ”is the biggest showcase for indie games”.
There are numerous games which have featured in the IGF that have gone on to achieve critical and commercial success, games like Kyle’s World of Goo, Machinarium and Everyday Shooter have all featured. If it is possible, this years entries look like they will match, if not surpass the success experienced by those other indie greats. Games like Amnesia: Dark Descent, Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble and Minecraft already have garnered quite a reputation while there are bound to be numerous gems hidden away amongst the 391 entries.
I asked Kyle why he thinks the IGF has been able to expand in the way it has done in the 11 years it has been running, in typical 2D Boy-esque fashion he replied saying “IGF started like 10 years ago or something…and in that time, we have a new crop of kids who have grown up with the internet radiating into their eye sockets from birth, and they’ve become so scary capable with computers, their brains pulsate, causing bits and bytes to swarm about, eventually settling into perfect army lines of code, creating wonderfully surprising new games.”
Andy Schatz, the mind behind thieve-em-up Monaco feels that the presence of the IGF has had a cyclical effect on indie game development in general. “The IGF gets so many entries now because there are so many more indie game developers now than there ever were before. The IGF is a partial reason for that growth, as is the increased exposure of indie games and the increased commercial viability of them as well.”
The IGF has become so important in the indie gaming world that Kyle describes it as the “Academy Award of indie gaming”. When I asked Andy why he entered Monaco into the IGF he gave a reply that should make budding developers sit up and take notice, “I think the better question is, why would any indie game designer NOT enter the IGF?”
With the ever rising number of entries to the IGF developers are certainly aware of the impact the competition can have on a game. It is an impact that goes further than the financial rewards, the winner of the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the awards ceremony next year will receive $20,000 with the other awards each offering $2,500.
Kyle describes a two-fold impact of the IGF, firstly a recognition before entering that there was a pressing need to get World of Goo into a vaguely finished piece and a new found confidence in the game after winning the Design Innovation and Technical Excellence awards in 2008. “IGF affected us in two ways: 1. Pre-IGF, it forced us to pull together all the scrappy little pieces of game and music we had into a coherent experience. I (and probably other “creative” folks) tend to be extremely indecisive when there’s no time limit. 2. Post IGF, we finally had confidence in the game we were making. We just didn’t know if anyone would care or understand basic things about our game, like that you could build structures with balls of goo. Once we knew people “got it”, it propelled us forward.”
Andy told me a similar story after Monaco won the Grand Prize and the Excellence in Design awards earlier this year. “It allowed me to be more ambitious, for better or for worse. When I built the game, I only intended to work on it for 6 weeks. Then it was nominated, which meant that I planned to work on it for about 4 months. Then it won, so I decided to take it the route of a full-sized console downloadable title.”
The IGF is one of the best parts of gaming, it is genuinely exciting to see such a variety of titles being made and not just for the PC. While there may always be some early favourites each year, such as Minecraft and Amnesia this year as Andy says “often the most impressive games are the ones you’ve never heard of, particularly the student entries.” It is worth digging through the 391 games competing in this the 13th Annual Independent Games Festival, you never know when you will come across the next World of Goo or Monaco.