IndieCade East kicks off today at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, bringing with it talks, workshops and video games of the independent variety. Diversity and design are crucial to the event, but it's love, sex and rejection that will dominate one of the show's biggest exhibits.
The "Love & Rejection" Exhibit combines two showcases of games: one that deals in romance and relationships, and one that explores rejection, whether by events, platforms, peers or elsewhere. It's a fitting theme for Valentine's Day weekend, but festival director Sam Roberts says the theme speaks to something deeper.
"All of this wraps around this idea that games can deal with stuff we don't typically think of games dealing with," Roberts told Polygon during a recent interview. "Both because love is one of the deepest human emotions, and because these games are being rejected for taking on things you might not otherwise think they could do."
Within the Love exhibit, attendees will find games like How do you Do it?, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and Realistic Kissing Simulator, each of which explores some facet of relationships. How do you Do it?, for example, is a bite-sized experience in which a girl uses her dolls to try and figure out how sex works. Realistic Kissing Simulator features two players working together to waggle their tongues for some odd make outs.
"it makes you think about what sex is."
Others are a little more far out, like Consentacle — a game in which a tentacled alien and a human try to have a "mutually satisfying romantic encounter" — and Dark Room Sex Game, which appeared at previous IndieCades. Unlike the original Dark Room Sex Game, where players would shake Wii remotes to sexualized audio clues, it will be played with PlayStation Move controllers. Roberts says that both games force players to think about broader scenarios in their own lives.
"It's a very simple activity, but it makes you think about what sex is," Roberts said. "Sex very much needs to be this rhythmic joining where the two of you come together. You're working at a pace that is communal and you have to really metaphorically hit that same feeling when you're doing it. That's really compelling and interesting to do so."
At the Rejection exhibit, the games present aim to inspire thought in a different sort of way. Snuggle Truck in its current form is about driving cuddly animals to a zoo for free health care. But it began as Smuggle Truck, an interactive satire in which players drove passengers over the border. The game in its original form was rejected by Apple. At the exhibit, attendees will have the chance to play both side by side.
And then there's controversial 2005 title Super Columbine Massacre RPG! — a game that Roberts admits has its flaws, but works toward an admirable goal. Players act as gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold the morning of the shooting.
"[Super Columbine Massacre RPG!] is trying to tackle a very important issue in a very interesting way," Roberts said. "It was written off because it was a game, because 'games can't do that' even though movies can, or books can, or music can."
Continuing about the Rejection exhibit, Roberts explains that while he doesn't believe in "hard lines" of what to cross or not cross, including games in this particular exhibit still comes with serious challenges.
"people are going to be doing really compelling, edgy, interesting work..."
"The difficult thing for us is to show things that we think are really thoughtful about the way they are stretching these boundaries," Roberts said, "and they're really trying to provoke discussion."
The Love and Rejection exhibits will be running this weekend, along with other collections such as Sunset Horizons, Leap Motion 3D Jam Games and more. Many games showing aren't new titles, but Roberts says IndieCade is indicative of a larger movement — a look at artistic expression and independent development as it progresses.
"This is where people are going to be doing really compelling, edgy, interesting work that stretches the bounds of how we engage with media — how we engage with the world," Roberts said.