>Independent gamemakers, like their counterparts in film, make products that can be a lifelong passion, that rely upon the creative inspiration of innumerable collaborators, and that often deplete a life savings or run up credit card debt to create. Like independent filmmakers, they compete for support, publicity, and distribution against established producers and productions that can cost millions of dollars… But the game industry, unlike cinema, has no comprehensive, public venue to introduce, explore, and celebrate groundbreaking independent work. Worthy independent games, prospective funders, and players hungry for new experiences rarely find one another.
Imagine an annual global crossroads and marketplace, open to the general public – a yearly celebration of this community’s new voices and their trailblazing work. Imagine thousands of independent creators, developers, thinkers, players, and fans, traveling from across the world to be at the same place at the same time….
This is the second of a series of interviews I plan to run over the next month or so with key movers and shakers in the independent games movement. I am running this series out of a belief that we may be at a vital crossroads in the history of computer and video games as a series of announcements and developments this year may pave the way for greater innovation, diversity, and experimentation in game design. For a long time, the games industry seemed in danger of being completely swallowed whole by Electronic Arts and a few other major publishers. Suddenly a number of institutions are emerging which will enable distribute and critical engagement with works by smaller games developers or will encourage amateurs to produce and distribute games. Like many of my readers, I love many mainstream games but I also believe that there need to be an alternative games culture if we are going to avoid standardization and stagnation.
A little over a week ago, I featured a two part conversation with Greg Costikyan about Manifesto Games, its support for creator rights, and his critique of the mainstream game publishers.
Today and tomorrow, I will be talking with Stephanie Barish, Founder and President of Creative Media Collaborative, the group which is organizing Indiecade, which they hope will function for the independent games industry the way Sundance has functioned for the independent films movement — a gathering place, a training ground, a focus for critical attention, and a showcase for the best new work from around the world. Full disclosure dictates that I acknowledge that Barish asked me some time ago to serve on the board of advisors for the festival and through telephone conversations and e-mail correspondence, I have watched her and her team grapple with some of the challenges of building the infrastructure and identifying the sponsors needed to pull off a pretty ambitious plan. The first Indiecade is going to be held in Santa Monica, California in the fall of 2007.
I first met Barish when she was working as the producer and director of multimedia publications at Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and then later as the executive Director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center. Barish comes not from the heart of the games industry but rather from the world of independent media production and multimedia literacy education. She brings an alternative sensibility and perspective to the effort to promote independent games.
Here, Barish suggests the ways that the Indiecade has emerged from a particular analysis of what’s working — and what isn’t — in contemporary games culture and explores some of the ways that a games festival might contribute to greater public awareness of the independent games movement. Along the way, she speaks to the question of games criticism, which was a central focus of discussion across the blogosphere earlier this year. Tomorrow, she will speak more fully about what it means to create a festival around games and how games might be understood as reflecting differences between different national cultures.
Barish has asked me to acknowledge the contributions of other members on the Indiecade team who helped her think through how to address some of these questions: Scott Chamberlin (Partner) , Janine Fron (Conference Chair), Sam Gustman (CMC V.P., Partner), Kirsten Paul (IndieCade Program Manager), and Celia Pearce (IndieCade Festival Chair).