In a world where art is continually gang-borked into homogeny by commerce, no form is bullied  quite as hard as games, the much-maligned younger sibling of movies. Games, at their best, require you to actually interact- instead of just staring at them while you pound chee-toes into your face. But since humanity has a rapidly diminishing ability to solve problems (or speak in complete sentences), any game that forces you to think or feel anything beyond the limited sugar-high of shooting strangers in the face and then grunting out slurs on their sexuality is immediately looked at as profit-killing poison. That's why an independent game festival is so needed, and to have one under the nurturing canopy of Fantastic Fest is godsend. There are incredibly weird, imaginative games being hatched out there in the margins, and they may not appeal to any 'corn-sugar' fattened rugrats or dead-eyed gun-nuzzling fratboys. I like death and destruction better than most, but sameness and withered imaginations are what sell now, and what sells shouldn't decide what the rest of us get to experience. Especially when so much is possible.
IGF chairperson Brandon Boyer conducts a panel with "Spelunky" creator Derek Yu, "Braid" Creator Jonathan Blow, and "Everybody Dies" creator Jim Munroe

Fantastic Arcade is Curated by Mike Plante, who originally nurtured the idea for CineVegas during his time as director of programming. The festival, in it's first year, features panel discussions with some of the most interesting personalties in the scene, indie games from around the world, built into beautiful full-size arcade cabinets and Rows of gaming PC's, loaded with more competition and showcase games, and with an awesome recreation of the Alamo South Lamar theater and The Highball as a Left4Dead 2 mod. Console stations with indie offerings already in distribution line the walls, and also have featured play areas in the Highball's Karaoke rooms.

I'm going feature a few of the games that are in the festival with each of my posts during the week, as well as show you pictures and video clips from some of the happenings as I stumble through them. Sword & Sworcery EP
'rustic 21st century minimalism' Sword & Sworcery isn't out yet, but it has already created quite a buzz. It's a stark, fat-pixeled adventure game that recalls quiet, moody and cinematic games of the past like Out of this World- when developers and animators did so much with such scarce resources. I haven't got my hands on this one yet, but the developers are going to be here at Fantastic Arcade to show it off, and I wanted to prep you with a peek at what it looks like. This one is an iPhone/iPad game, and it uses the touchscreen for controls, and orientation to switch between exploration and battle modes.I'll be posting a longer S&S:EP piece today after Craig Adams' talk. It's no surprise that a lot of new indies are eschewing pre-fab 3d engines and embracing their roots with 2d graphics and pixel art. Either for fast prototyping of games where concept is the key, or a feeling that basic tenets of gameplay need to be rethought and mastered rather than hidden, sometimes simple is best. Norrland

Norrland is what would have happened if, in the 80's, nihilistic Swedes were allowed to make a hunting game for the Atari 2600. This is a menacing and hilarious game that involves humping dead deer until a seminal geyser eructates from their neck-stumps, drinking beer and shitting in the woods with track-and-field button tapping, and bizarre dream-sequence minigames that feel like the designers of Swordquest went on an ether-binge in the carpathians. Frequently, I completely misunderstood the object of a minigame while playing it- but again, frustration and a little drudgery is part of the theater of this game, and for its surreal qualities and meanness of spirit (one of the most entertaining moments of fun is to be had when an animal charges you while you are out of bullets, and you have the opportunity to punch it in the face. On top of all this, Swedish title cards with English subtitles make this the most cinematic 2600-style game ever. Fuck you, E.T.


Every Day the Same Dream Every Day the Same Dream uses video game conventions to satirize real life- Repeating the same workday infinitely until every possible deviation can be mapped out (for instance, going to work without putting on any clothes). The limitations of linear games lend themselves easily to a parody of an actual work day. EDTSD pushes the player to rebel against the sort of cow-clicking zynga grind that some games impose in a warped assumption that exploiting people's task-completion/reward psychology equals "fun". Here repetition is attrition and failure, and any deviation from that repetition, even suicide, is a success.

EDTSD was coded in a 6-day game programming contest, and as is often the case with games that come from these contests (cannabalt by Adam Atomic is a good example), it's quick, pure, and to the point.

-Wiley Wiggins