GDC is a yearly conference for video game developers that takes place in San Francisco. It's grown exponentially over the years, and is brimming with game makers, distributors, investors and journalists. And with the rise of mobile phone and tablet gaming, the conference is bigger than ever. In fact, just in the few years I've been going, it's grown so much it's starting to resemble E3. But amongst all the hubbub, is the best part of the con—the Independent Games Festival.
Independent Games Festival showcases indie games from students and professionals. And each year I go and check the games out, and bestow upon them the highly-coveted totally made up Games We Love Awards! And so, here are this year's winners!
Best Game From Some Random Dude on the Floor
One of the neat things about GDC is the colorful characters you can randomly meet on the floor. And many of them just happen to be making a video game they'd be more than happy to tell you about. Like this spiky-haired young man who was showing off his creation, Clobbr. A mobile game where you must align arrows to create a path to feed mice to a hungry cat. Kind of like a reverse Chu Chu Rockets. Good luck with your game, sir!
You can check out his game here.
Best Jetset Radio Hatsune Miku Mash-Up!
I can't believe a bunch of college kids made a game this beautiful. I spent my college years eating junkfood and watching Scooby Doo reruns. In the game, you control a Hatsune Miku-esque character and skate through an abstract landscape of brightly colored geometric shapes. The goal of the game—do rad stuff. Much like Jet Set Radio, you can grind rails, skate on walls, get major air off of jumps and more. Not only is the game visually compelling, but the music is as well. This game comes with some serious beats.
You can download the game for free here.
Artsy Fartsy Smartsy Award
Back To Bed
The team that made this are some seriously deep thinkers. In the game, you play as the Subob, the subconcious of a sleepwalker named Bob. In order to stop Bob from falling off ledges or getting hurt from the monsters of his subconcious, you must guide him by placing objects in his way. The levels are filled with references to famous artists. There's the green apple from Magritte, impossible staircases from M.C. Escher, melting clocks from Dali and more. Someone from the team that made this was certainly paying attention in Art History class. And Video Game class as well! Brainy stuff!
You can learn about art and play the game here.
Best Game About a Guy Playing a Game Playing a Game Award
In this game you play a guy playing a game. And if you're a guy, technically it would be a guy (you) playing a game about a guy playing a game. Well, I'm assuming it's a guy playing the game. That hand looks pretty manly. What the heck am I talking about? Well this is one of those meta games with multiple layers of reality. If you're ever read Phillip K. Dick, you'd know exactly what I'm talking about. And part of the game is to figure out exactly what's going on in both worlds.
You can download the game and hurt your brain trying to figure it all out here.
Best D&D Simulator For People With No Friends
Knights of Pen & Paper
Are your friends lame and like to go to parties and meet girls, leaving you all alone with no one to play Dungeon & Dragons with? Well, be lonely no more! In Knight's of Pen & Paper you're the Dungeon Master, and you get to choose who the players are as well! How does it work? It's basically a video game simulator of tabletop roll playing games (which is where video game RPGs got their start, so now we've gone full circle). You choose who is going to be in your group, what class they are, where they'll go, and even what monster they'll fight. And it's all wrapped up in super-cute old school pixel graphics.
If you have +2 magic iOS or Android device, you can download it here!
Best Atari 2600 Style Transgender Educational Game
I'm not exactly sure how big the market for this game is, but that's the fun of GDC, you get to see lots of stuff that is off the beaten path. This is an autobiographical game about a transgender person's experience taking hormone replacement therapy. It's basically a bunch of mini-games that shows the player some of the issues the creator deals with. It was very educational, and the music and super basic grapics were all pretty neato.
You can find out more about the game, and the struggles of a transgender person here.
Best Hipster Simulator
Wanna be a hipster, but don't want to grow an itchy beard, ride a fixed-gear bike and have too many tattoos? Well, this is your lucky day, because Cart Life gives you the chance to experience a hipster with a food cart's struggles—without even drinking Pabst! Haha, I'm just giving the game a hard time, it must have something going for it, it won the Seumas McNally Award for Best Independant Game which is the Grand Prize Award.
If you wanna manage a food cart and try to make it in the big city, you can download the game here.
Best Carnie Barker Promo Guy
7 Grand Steps
This guy was a real pro at getting people to take a look at his game—7 Grand Steps. Which is saying something, because it is quite difficult to describe. The goal of the game is to move pawns to collect beads to become a legend. If you succeed, your family ascends through society becoming more and more famous eventually attaining legendary status. I think. All of this sounds good on paper, but then when you take a look at the actual game screenshot, it's like whu...huh? It began as a board game, and if you've played some of the modern ones, they can look super confusing at first. But once you figure it out, they're often quite fun.
If you want to take a crack at the game, you can download a demo here.
Most Realistic Star Trek Simulator
If you're a Sci-Fi nerd like me, then you probably love good techno-babble. It's always been part of Sci-Fi, but it really took off during the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In fact, to the point it became a joke. Every other episode seemed to end with Geordi yelling something about rerouting power from the main phaser banks into the deflector array, or reversing some kind of polairty. Well, this game celebrates techno-babble and forces you and several friends to try and keep the spaceship from blowing up by yelling commands at each other. And loudly, since everyone else has some task that needs done, but they don't know who can do it. And of course, the tasks sound silly, like "Set Newtonian Photomist to Maximum," yet not too far out of what you'd hear on ST:TNG. With a few Romulan Ales, this game would be amazing at a party.
You can save your imaginary spaceship, by downloading it for iOS devices here.
Best Non-Yelling Spaceship Simulator
FTL: Faster Than Light
A slightly more serious approach to a starship simulator than one that requires you to yell at your friends, but still a bit cheeky. FTL: Faster Than Light has you controlling a crew during various dangerous situations that a starship may undergo. You have to prioritize the situations and decide where to send the crew and what they should do. This game was also a big winner at the show, and has garnered quite a lot of accolades.
You can buy it for ten measly earth dollars from their website here.
Best Game To Make You "ONE COOL DUDE" At A Party
If you have a Sony Move, and some decent speakers, and this game, and you're having a party, you could be ONE COOL DUDE. This game lets you create loops of music, by moving your arm through the air and essentally "grabbing" them. You can get up to 16 different loops going, and add sound effects in as well. And while you're doing all this, crazy psychedlic graphics respond to your groove. Plus, you can share your creations live with people all over the world. And if you just want to watch, you can do that too, and even reward great performers by giving them "kudos" when they impress you with their creations.
This game's available on the PSN Network. Learn more about it here.
Best In Show!
Um, hi, can I have a game where I ride giant wolves around and shoot giant robots and bad guys? I can! Thank you! Out of all the numerous games at GDC, Intrusion 2 impressed me the most. This game mixes elements of several great sidescrolling shooters like Metal Slug and Contra, but gives you the ability to choose exactly where you target like Sin and Punishment. Combine that with beautiful art, imaginative enemy and level designs, and you've got one heck of a game. As a console gamer, I really hope this winds up on XBLA!
Until then, you can buy it for Windows for just 10 bucks right here!
And that concludes the 2013 GDC Games We Love Awards! Hope you enjoyed them, and please go to these people's sites and check out their games! Support indie games!
by Urian Brown