We recently met up with professor Celia Pearce in an adorable little coffee shop outside of Boston. Celia teaches game design at Northeastern and oh my did we get lost in conversation with her.
Eventually we found ourselves talking about IndieCade, the independent gaming conference that she helped create. IndieCade sounds like a blast… and it turns out they would love to feature more real life games on the cutting edge of game design. We figured that we’d help get the message out there.
Room Escape Artist: What is IndieCade?
Celia: IndieCade events and showcases highlight innovation in independently- produced games and interactive experiences. We provide a venue for games that are on the margins of the mainstream game industry, as a way to acknowledge and reward creativity and originality in interactive media and games.
Since we launched our first events in 2007, the indie game scene has gone from a small niche to a vital part of the larger game ecosystem. Our role has expanded to include facilitating game creation and distribution (such as publisher-developer matchmaking) and connecting new tech companies with creators.
Why are escape rooms interesting to IndieCade?
Innovation is central to our mission. Physical and tangible forms of games, such as escape rooms, are innovating.
In the last couple of years we have seen a movement that I call “Beyond Screens” where people are trying to extend play and interaction beyond screens in the traditional sense. There is a lot of innovation happening in this kind of “post screen” environment. This includes digital forms, such as mobile, AR (augmented reality) and VR. It also includes physical and tangible forms of games, such as escape rooms, performative forms of interactive media, and hybrids, such as Un-Destined, an ingenious Taiwanese escape room where one person in VR collaborates with another player solving physical puzzles, all of which continue to demonstrate variety and creativity.
We tend to gravitate wherever the most innovation is happening. Immersive theater and escape rooms are a big area for that right now.
On a personal level, I started out my game design career in the theme park industry and I have a soft spot for physically immersive, socially interactive experiences. I feel like we need more face-to-face fun in our lives.
Who attends IndieCade?
We have four core constituents:
- Indie developers: Any work that is not funded by a publisher is indie in our book. That includes work by game designers, fine artists, university researchers, and students. More recently, it has come to include immersive theatre folks and location-based game designers, in other words, escape rooms and their ilk.
- Publishers: Publishers come to see what’s new and take advantage of the market- testing entailed in observing who is lining up at which games. Publishers take advantage of our pre-festival matchmaking event where we introduce developers to sponsors. Matchmaking is now extended to tech platforms (for instance, helping Oculus Rift to identify VR developers). Escape room creators looking for someone to design puzzles or for some cool new tech to license could take advantage of this as well.
- Press: At E3, the show floor is predictable. Everyone waits in line for three hours to play the new Nintendo or PlayStation release. Our showcase gets a lot of attention from press because we offer something unexpected. We also offer press the opportunity to talk to developers. Big companies rarely bring designers to expos or festivals. At our events, developers attend, which is a real value-add to members of the press. We also have a Media Choice award that we let the press vote on.
- General public: Few international festivals in the US are open to the public. Our events enable game fans to see the hottest new things and give developers exposure. For instance, we’ve had a number of studios time their Kickstarters to coincide with IndieCade events. Many of the games are self-published and they don’t have a lot of money for advertising. An emerging escape room company would get some prestige and public attention at IndieCade. Our Audience Choice Award puts some decision-making in the hands of the general public, which is a lot of fun.
An escape room could submit their work to IndieCade as an indie designer. What would IndieCade look for in a submission from an escape room company?
Innovation is always the watchword; the more inventive and original the better. Since the escape room is a relatively new genre, the ratio of innovation is particularly high.
As escape rooms become more popular, I suppose more and more of them will be derivative, a problem we see with many digital indie games now. People see an indie game they like and make a clone and somehow think they are being innovative by copying someone else’s innovation. So, that’s what we are not looking for.
We are more interested in design than production value (although good production value is always a plus.) We’d rather see an innovative prototype than a slickly produced copycat experience.
I recommend browsing our website indiecade.com to get a sense of the work we’ve shown. A few examples on our website include Un-Destined, which I mentioned earlier, Beautiful Corner, or variations such as Tracking Ida, which is more of a puzzle box, or Escape Room in a Box, with which your readers might be familiar. We’ve also shown Six Ghosts and a Pie by Two Bit Circus, so that kind of gives you the range. Just ambling around the website will give folks a sense of what we are about.
When and where will IndieCade take place?
The IndieCade Festival, our flagship festival, takes place annually in Los Angeles in October. It will be October 11-13, 2018.
IndieCade @ E3, our annual showcase at the big game expo, will be June 12-14 in Los Angeles.
We also host IndieCade East, a conference and exhibition, in New York, as well as IndieCade Europe, which usually takes place in late fall. We’ re currently in discussions to launch IndieCade in Asia.
The Call for Submissions for the fall events, The IndieCade Festival and IndieCade Europe, is now open. When are submissions due?
The Call for Submissions can be found at https://www.indiecade.com/Submissions. The regular deadline is May 28th, the late deadline (with a slightly more expensive fee) is June 25th.
Note that we take great care in jurying. Whenever we get site-specific projects, such as escape rooms, we draw on our pool of jurors to find someone with appropriate expertise to go and play the installation. Creators should not hesitate to submit because they think we won’t be able to jury their game. If you send us a game that is only installed on the moon, we’ll launch someone there to play it!
What are the top 3 reasons an escape room should submit to IndieCade?
- Press exposure
- Audience exposure
- Networking with developers and designers
Collaborations are born at IndieCade. We’ve helped cultivate many relationships where indies are hiring each other to work on projects or creating new work together.
What can IndieCade offer escape room players?
Escape room players will be able to:
- See some of the most cutting-edge demos in the genre
- Put their hands on new tech (including pre-market tech that nobody has seen before)
- Experience a wide array of games and different genres of play: digital, board, live/physical, VR, mobile, etc
If you like to explore, play and solve puzzles, IndieCade is definitely a worthwhile adventure!
Question! The website says that “A total of 36 Finalists are selected each year from the pool of submissions. Up to an additional 100 are selected as Official Selections.” Does this mean only 36 games actually participate, or do more people participate but they just don’t get considered for the award?
Only the 36 Finalists that are selected through our jurying process are eligible for the main awards, but curated games (aka Selections) are also eligible for our on-site awards: Developers Choice, Media Choice, and Audience Choice.
You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any other questions!