Digital Media Strongly Represented at Indiecade 2013

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Indiecade, the International Festival of Independent Games, takes place this weekend in Los Angeles, California. The Digital Media program at Georgia Tech has always had strong ties to the festival since Digital Media professor Celia Pearce is one of the co-founders of Indiecade. She currently serves as the Festival Chair, as she is still involved in organizing the event and deciding what games will be showcased. Two other Digital Media representatives that are often involved in Indiecade are Professor Ian Bogost and PhD student Simon Ferrari who will be both be speaking this year as well. Bogost will be part of a contemporary game journalism panel discussing the state of game criticism and Ferrari will be presenting Kentucky Route Zero as a Well Played Screening.

This year, the Digital Media program has the honor of also being represented in the Festival Games portion of Indiecade. Second year MS student Adam Rafinski and MS graduate Colton Spross both had games chosen as finalists for the showcase. Both of their games are master’s projects for the program.

Rafinski’s Church of Play is a reality game that offers people the possibility to develop, play, and communicate their own rituals and spiritual ideology.

“The Church of Play is an experiment in establishing a spiritual community of players that deal with and investigate relationships regarding the connection between spirituality and play,” Rafinski explains. “The game works via Workshops and Manifestations. At Indiecade, we will hold a Manifestation that will allow players to play and iterate upon rituals that members of Church of Play designed, as well as get access to the Meta-Game.”

Indiecade provided Rafinski with a platform to promote the game and draw in more players.

“We at the Church of Play believe that we come from play and go to play and the way how we can connect with fundamental questions about our existence is through play,” Rafinski says. “Since Indiecade is all about creative and innovative perspectives on Play, we are also very curious about the reaction of players to the radical approach on game design that Church of Play stands for.”

The Digital Media program provided a supportive and robust background for Rafinski as he developed and designed Church of Play.

“Church of Play wouldn’t be possible without the openness and advice I received from the Digital Media program, especially from Celia Pearce, regarding my work on the ontological limits of game design,” Rafinski says. “Working on the edge of reality and fiction, by utilizing mechanics of community building, is a task that requires a lot of faith of the players. I am very thankful that the design culture in the Digital Media program stands for these values.”

Spross’ game Babel Build is a physical game in which a team of three players work together to build a structure from large blocks. One person, called the Foreman, holds the picture of what the finished structure should look like, while the other two players follow instructions to build it. The Foreman can’t touch the blocks and the constructors can’t see the picture of the finished structure. The real trick to this game, however, is that no one can talk. The players must communicate with each other with gibberish or gestures in order to figure out how to build the structure. It was designed with the goal of bringing together people of different languages and cultures in the form of a game.

“It was designed to bring people together in public spaces,” Spross says. “Teams must learn to communicate creatively without using speech or pointing. These skills will make the difference between epic success and hilarious failure. This language-independent game is designed to foster cross-cultural friendships by letting players communicate through the universal language of play.”

Babel Build has begun to generate some buzz, especially from Bernie De Koven, author of The Well-Played Game, who was so taken with the game that he devoted a blogpost to it. “It is in the spirit of New Games, only newer,” says De Koven. “And it’s clearly, genuinely fun.”

Indiecade certainly has a strong Digital Media presence this year, a tradition which will hopefully continue into the future.