Indie gaming fans crowd Boston festival

The show floor at Boston's Festival of Indie Games.
The show floor at Boston's Festival of Indie Games.

There was a game for everyone at the Boston Festival of Indie Games on Saturday at MIT. More than 3,500 people of all ages played games spanning genres, styles, and platforms.

Attendees had the chance to jump walls, dodge arrows, and set traps in “Ultimate Chicken Horse,” cook soup in a virtual kitchen courtesy of “Job Simulator” at HTC Vive’s VR room, make historic literature more usable for institutions, scholars, educators, and the public with “Smorball,” help Zeus find his stolen lightning bolts in “Oh My Gods!,” or play one of the dozens of other titles on hand.

“The creativity at Boston FIG is amazing,” said Jack Dalrymple, senior vice president of marketing for Boston gamemaker Ape Law. “When you have this many smart people making games, you get incredible, fun results.”

Though the festival featured many New England-made games, developers from California to Canada made the trek to be a part of what is the largest indie game event of its kind in the country.

Vincent Hippoman, co-founder of Montreal-based studio Double Stallion, was at Boston FIG to showcase a new game prototype, “Luna: A Voyage to the Moon.” He was impressed with the quality of games around him and excited by all the virtual reality demos. “There is nothing hotter than VR right now,” said Hippoman.

Games ranged from the silly to the sublime. Alex Engel, an organizer at Boston Post Mortem, enjoyed “Emily is Away,” a Boston-made interactive fiction game set in a retro chat client. “I’ve never played a game that’s made me nostalgic for AIM,” he said.

Nina Huntemann, co-organizer of the Women in Games Boston group, loved “A Matter of Murder” by Cambridge-based Worthing & Moncrieff, a puzzle-solving game with an Edward Gorey-esque art style. “It makes you mad for mystery and mayhem,” she said.

Ryan Canuel, co-founder of Worcester-based Petricore Games, was all about “Super Daryl Deluxe,” a slapstick, action role-playing game that puts a new twist on high school. Dean O’Donnell, an assistant teaching professor in Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s computer science department, thought “Xeero” was “Great fun. I can’t wait to get it on Steam.”

Tabletop game “Crown of Exile” caught the attention of attendee and game-industry veteran Athena Peters from Easton, who called it “Fantastic, with fun gameplay.” Dennis Scimeca, staff writer at The Daily Dot, said, “One word: Thumper,” referring to the critically-acclaimed game that combines classic rhythm-action with speed and physicality.

The event concluded on a high-note with organizers giving out awards called Figgies.

This year’s winners of “Figgies” in the digital showcase were:

Audience choice: “Ultimate Chicken Horse” by Clever Endeavor Games

Best in show: “Ultimate Chicken Horse”

Best learning game: “Smorball” by Tiltfactor

Best audio design: “Thumper” by Drool

Best multiplayer design: “Ninja Tag” by Leandro Ribeiro

Best visual art: “Liege” by Coda Games

Best narrative/world building: “Howie and Yarla” by Syndicate Atomic

Best technical quality: “Xeero” by For All To Play

And in the tabletop showcase:

Audience choice:  “Dragoon” by Lay Waste Games

Best in show: “Karmaka” by Hemisphere Games

Most innovative game: “Slideways” by R&R Games

Best artwork: “Karmaka”

Timothy Loew is the executive director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) based at Becker College in Worcester.

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