We congratulate the
2020 IndieCade Anywhere & Everywhere
Innovation in Interaction Design
Innovation in Interaction Design honors the specialized artistry and innovation required to engage with games on a new level. This may be in the form of original controllers, unique interface design, or bold new game mechanics. At its utmost, the Interaction Award acknowledges a work that asks us to reconsider the ways in which we play.
“Honoring the craftsmanship and innovation behind unique interaction, hardware, and system design.”——
Electric Zine Maker, by alienmelon: Equal parts toolbox, funhouse, and potato. Plunks you in the middle of a technicolor mansion brimming with secrets, dares you to wield the many arcane powers it offers, and delivers on its promise that you’ll have a zine when it’s over. Make your first Electric Zine and your next dozen will suddenly feel not only possible, but inevitable. An outstanding interactive experience, and a compelling argument that we’d be better off if every creative tool were built by game designers.
Electric Zine Maker is a playful creative tool designed to make creation easy, welcoming, and fun. It makes the art of creating and communicating your ideas an exploratory and entertaining experience – you make a zine just for the pleasure of creation without the barrier of expectation and complex tool mastery. Electric Zine Maker inspires creation by making it low stakes and high pleasure. IndieCade finds this deeply playful and chaotic attitude commendable and unusual–a strong experimentation in innovating modern content creation culture.
Innovation in Experience Design
Innovation in Experience Design honors a game that provides a unique, curated experience. This can come in the form of a rich narrative or be entirely ‘story-less’. It takes the player on an emotional arc that can’t be had anywhere else.
“Honoring works which transport and transform the player through a skillfully crafted experience.” ——-
Eternal Castle [REMASTERED], by TFL Studios, didn’t just master the hallway fight — it chucks your brain into another dimension like a gosh damn shot put.
It’s hard to get more meta than The Eternal Castle… This game sells itself as a retro game from the past, but is from… the present? Maybe from the future? Who knows? This game is a fully original love letter to videogames like Another World, Prince of Persia, and Flashback, but can easily stand on its own in terms of the sense of wonder it elicits in the player. The retro color palette conjures a sense of nostalgia, but even moreso, a sense of wonder and amazing visual confusion that invites an in-depth exploration of its often hostile, barely comprehensible, but expertly designed world.
IndieCade Jury Prix
The IndieCade Jury Prix Award is for a game the jury wishes to confer honor for separating itself from the pack through its craftsmanship, innovation, and /or design.
“Honoring the game that impresses and surprises with depth, innovation, and artistry.”—–
Wide Ocean Big Jacket, by Turnfollow, is about a camping trip, but it’s so much more than that: it’s the beginning of a coming of age story for its kid protagonists. There’s a wide ocean, and there is a big jacket. The game feels full of possibility, the same way life does when you’ve just started to grow up.
On the surface, Wide Ocean Big Jacket might appear as a straightforward narrative camping simulator, but like any good book, don’t judge this story by its cover, or in this case by it’s Steam page screenshot. Once you start this journey, you are treated to 4 of the most real to life characters you will ever want to join for a campfire ghost story or a touching discussion of relationships, mosquitos be damned. With a wonderful mix of heart, humor, and an extra helping of hot dogs, this might be the coziest game of the year and trip you won’t forget, even after washing off all the sunscreen.
IndieCade Grand Jury
The IndieCade Grand Jury Award represents the best of IndieCade’s best. This is the one game out of tonight’s 36 nominees, and the hundreds and hundreds of submissions to this year’s festival, that not only captures how far independent games have come, but how much farther they can still take us. Past winners include Her Story, 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, and last year’s Oikospiel Book I.
“Recognizes the game among our 36 nominees bringing together the best qualities of this year’s festival.”——
Mutazione, by Die Gute Fabrik, is a chill-fable about taking care of people, and growing an empathic garden. It’s the garden you’ve always dreamt of and the instrument you’ve never imagined being able to play. In the disaster that is 2020, Mutazione is an oasis for humans and all living things, one that we all needed this year.
From the opening boat trip to the island where the bulk of the game takes place, Mutazione is using music to bring its world to life. This feeling of being carried away on the currents of waves and music is elevated when, about half an hour into the game, the player is given the ability to use music to help tend a garden of plants, helping them grow far faster than nature allows. The quality of the performances are astonishing, and the dynamic audio events that integrate into the gameplay so fluidly bring players ever further into the life of Kat, making their own journey of discovery right alongside her.
WINNER – Holly Gramazio
Bernie DeKoven Big Fun Award
This annual honorary award was created in collaboration with Bernie DeKoven, to honor his legacy and to recognize creators significantly furthering the field and impact of new, big, and physical games. We love big, pervasive games, because of the way they bring people together and forge connections on a large scale.
“Honoring big and pervasive games and the standout creators who bring them to life.”—–
Holly is a writer, curator and game designer, originally from Adelaide, South Australia and currently based in London.
She’s curated events including Now Play This, a festival of experimental game design which she founded in 2015 and directed until 2019, and which runs at Somerset House as part of the London Games Festival; and Game Changers, an exhibition looking at how chess, billiards and mazes have changed over time and been reinvented by contemporary artists. Prior to Now Play This she curated the Sandpit, a night for artist and game designers to try out new physical game ideas, which ran from 2007-2013 at venues including BAC, the BFI, the Southbank Centre, the ICA and many other venues across the UK.
She’s made work independently, as part of Matheson Marcault with colleague Sophie Sampson, and as Lead Game Designer at Hide&Seek. These projects include Art Deck, a collaborative drawing game originally commissioned by NYU for No Quarter; One Easy Step, a playable installation transforming the Quad at King’s College London with patterns and mirrors; and 99 Tiny Games, a series of ninety-nine site-specific games, with rules on posters installed at 99 locations across London.
Her recent writing includes working with Bernie De Koven to complete his final book, “The Infinite Playground”; writing the videogame “Dicey Dungeons”; and “How To Play”, a series of wide-ranging essays for Wellcome Collection looking at play in different physical contexts.
WINNER – Derek Yu
The IndieCade Trailblazer award is an honorary prize given by IndieCade every year to a working creator who has made both great contributions to the field of games and captures the independent and pioneering spirit. The Trailblazer award is for distinguished accomplishment over a career of creation, and recognizes those personalities without whom many of us would have never fallen in love with the field. Past Recipients include Tim Schafer (2010), Megan Gaiser (2011), Elan Lee (2012), Tracy Fullerton (2013), Alex Rigopolous (2014), Brenda Laurel (2015), and Rand Miller (2016).
Derek Yu created the Spelunky series, co-created Aquaria, and was editor-in-chief of TIGSource, an indie game community and news site.
WINNER – Zuraida Buter
Game Changer Award
IndieCade’s Game Changer Award celebrates an individual who has impacted the gaming landscape in a significant way, a positive disruptor who has brought a paradigm shift to our community. Whether it’s advocating for independent developers or creating space for conversations to take place, a Game Change is someone who makes us proud to be part of the industry. Past recipients include anna anthropy, Toni Rocca, Rami Ismail, and Blast Theory.
“An individual whose extraordinary contributions to games deserve special acknowledgement.” —–
Zuraida is a playful culture curator based in the Netherlands. She curates, initiates, consults and documents events focused on playful culture and games.
She has curated projects such as Incubate Arcade, Screenshake Game Expo, New GameGrounds, Dig it Up and IndieCade Europe, showcasing a wide range of different game projects and artists throughout the years.
Zuraida co-founded Playful Arts Festival in the Netherlands in 2012, which explores and highlights the intersection of interactive performing arts, visual art and playful design with a focus on social interaction. It features a festival, Art of Play masterclasses, meetups, and a variety of other playful events, bringing people together across disciplines.
She founded Women in Games NL (WiGNL) in 2011 to stimulate diversity in the Dutch game industry, which regularly runs meetups organised by different members.
Previously she initiated Dutch game showcase INDIGO in the Netherlands as project manager at Dutch Game Garden. She was worldwide Executive Director of the Global Game Jam until 2014 and founding board member of Global Game Jam, Inc. In the past she has been a lecturer at different universities. For 8 years she taught game design theory at Interactive Performance Design at the HKU University of the Arts.
In 2020 she took on the role of program curator for A MAZE. / Berlin 2020, which took place online for the first time in its history. She invited people from around the world to be part of the A MAZE. line-up in different ways and implemented a few new formats such as the A MAZE. Live Cooking Show and the A MAZE. Chain Zine.
More info: https://zo-ii.com
The Performance Award honors a game with a unique or particularly sublime performance: voice, motion capture, video, live and more. As games grow in cultural weight and professional development, the field of independent development has involved a larger variety of artists from all disciplines. The brilliant pacing, empathy, and understanding of the best performers have been harnessed this decade to make some of the most arresting play experiences we have ever seen. This award celebrates the actors doing the amazing work in the field of play.
“Honoring the craftsmanship and artistry of vocal and physical performers elevating works of interactivity and play.”——
Tangle Tower by SFB Games is a wonderful game, deeply enjoyable and explorable, that juices up almost every point of interaction through natural, heartfelt, incredibly charming dialogue — it is not a game about dialogue or a game about acting, it is a game that harnesses the craft of acting to enhance every part of its design, and it does so with great aplomb.
Tangle Tower is a beautiful and deeply entertaining murder mystery narrative puzzle game. It is driven by its characters, how they are defined by the world of the game and how their explorations and examinations of that world define them and unfold a story that only they could tell and experience. These charming characters who drive both narrative and play are brought to life by excellent vocal performances that enlighten the player to motive, nature, predisposition, and emotion while drawing an auditory image worth a thousand pictures (each worth a thousand words!). The jury considers this mystery to be exceptional and driven by a core of talented performance and charming characters that open up the world, the story, and the experience of Tangle Tower.
Procedural Design Award
The Procedural Design Award honors a game that leverages randomness and algorithmic content or behavior to create unique and innovative interactions. Procedural Design is a growing skill with new discoveries made in many fields related to game development – graphics, narrative, level design, meaningful randomness, artificial behavior, and more. This award celebrates the amazing design of procedural and random chance that drives amazing discovery in the field of play.
“Honoring the craftsmanship of algorithms and procedures that help create innovative and responsive works of interactivity and play” ——
I Was A Teenage Exocolonist, by Northway Games, is a game that allows for a perceivable set of starting conditions – of randomness to go through its core procedures (gameplay) and create emergent experience – this perceivable leveraging of procedurality is a delicate and difficult design challenge but one that lets the game truly leverage the craft of procedural design as a part of its play rhetoric.
I was a Teenage Exocolonist is a life sim and also a choose your own adventure of a million possible lives as it plays out in strange possible futures. It explores the ideas of slightly different starting points and subtly different choices have large scale ramifications on a life, and what it means that that life could still be much the same or very different. The jury believes that the emergent properties of exploring these worlds and situations and the wildly different outlooks and lives that are possible through those choices is the cutting edge of playable stories and that narratives that capture the elements of emergent narrative within traditional story are a deeply exciting future of play.
Audio Design Award
The Audio Design Award honors the craft of auditory engagement, used to drive interaction and build theme, context, and meaning. Games have only begun to scratch the surface of music as feedback, audio as generator of meaning, and the power of audio to guide interaction and connection. The craftspeople creating deep emotion and meaning in the audience through thoughtful and powerful audio are driving innovation in what games talk about.
“Honoring the craftsmanship of music, procedural sound, and auditory feedback used to create meaning and emotions in environments and experiences.” ——
The sound of an ancient technology (by today’s standards, anyway) in NUTS — the fax machine, the VCR-style click buttons — ages the ingame environment in a way that suits a large forest. The game’s ambient soundscape is very soothing and pleasant, and the various environmental sounds do a good job of both responding to player proximity, helping players navigate through the forest, and punching through that ambience in a way that keeps players immersed in the environment. The voiceover is excellent, and brings important meaning to the game’s objectives — it’s a great professor voice. There’s an immersive quality to the sound mixing here that few other entries approached that brings this green and orange world to life.
NUTS, by Joon, Pol, Muuutsch, Char and Torfi, is a very stylized game with a low-color environment that is absolutely brought to life by the forest’s excellent ambient audio. In addition to excellent nature sounds, the sounds of technology in the caravan are a brilliant contrast to the forest, and it’s all brought together by a very believable voiceover of the professor with whom the player works. The spatial positioning on all of this furthers the immersion, and it quickly becomes easy to imagine yourself as a junior scientist solving the mysteries of Melmoth Forest.
Visual Design Award
As games grow across boundaries, platforms, and formats, the craft of animation and art are harnessed in an ever growing number of ways. The delicate work of creating a living, breathing world through design of environments, the movement of characters, the color of the sky, the shape of the text and icons, and more has become a defining field for games and play. The Visual Design Award celebrates accomplishment and innovation by these masterful artists.
“Honoring the craftsmanship of animation, modeling, and more used to create worlds, meaning and emotions in playful experiences of all kinds.” ——
Labyrinth City is a game with core mechanics stemming directly from its visual design, rendering, and animation. That is builds compelling gameplay and a fascinating word from these elements is commendable, and the art itself is gorgeous and amazing to look at, truly an accomplishment of style as substance.
The developers of Labyrinth City have managed to pull off the seemingly impossible: to make maze games fun to play! This beautifully rendered and animated game, based on the Pierre the Maze Detective book series, brings the “where’s waldo”-style gameplay to life with a huge amount of triggered and surprising events along the way. This makes finding dead ends worthwhile, as every character, monster, or item has a story to tell, and one that elevates the entire experience of playing this game to so much more than just a maze.
Location Based and Live Play Design Award
The oncoming frontier of play and experience design includes the amazing worlds of immersive theater, themed experience, virtual and augmented reality spaces, escape rooms and more exploration of bespoke, physical experiences often designed for groups of people and social engagement. The Location Based and Live Play Design award rewards experiences innovating in these spaces and creating magical new spaces for play.
“Honoring works which leverage spaces and human bodies in space to create playful, crafted experience.” —–
Terrarium, by Fourcast Labs, builds on an established genre — the Alternate Reality Game — by integrating new and exciting modern media into the design of the game, working at an intermediary scale and for a specific audience, it created an experience that was meaningful in a micro way to all its players lives and in a macro way that addressed the real world, and does so seamlessly within its fiction, highlighting the joy and excellence of what an Alternate Reality Experience can be.
Seventeen hundred freshmen entering the University of Chicago in Fall 2019 found themselves at the center of an online transmedia multiplayer scavenger hunt. This scavenger hunt was actually part of a five months-long alternate reality game called Terrarium. Players gathered across web sites, a Discord server, and a Twitch stream with “inverse escape rooms” where they helped live actors playing characters from multiple timelines in the year 2049 “escape” the room. Terrarium resulted in a “Futures Design Challenge” where students pitched their ideas on how to combat climate change. IndieCade recognizes this ARG’s achievement in creating a repeatable, customizable demonstration of the power of games for public engagement and community-building.
Tabletop Design Award
Staring across a board, a hand of cards, or even a chaotic pile of detailed paper notes, games played at the table, often with friends, leveraging the imagination of players to create unique and companionable experiences is the heart of games for many of us. The Tabletop Design Award celebrates the indie tabletop games of the year that innovate, surprise, and delight the heart.
“Honoring works crafted to be played with words, paper, and objects, leveraging the human imagination as a processor and human companionship as a reward.” ——
We have selected Tim Hutchings’ Thousand Year Old Vampire as Indiecade’s Tabletop Games award winner because it is elegantly packaged, thoughtfully written, and provocative. In short, it is a triumph of smart role-playing game design.
Thousand Year Old Vampire is a solo role-playing game staged in a gorgeously opulent tome and played through a series of written journal entries that you, the vampire, complete in response to prompts. Counterintuitively, it breathes new life into the role-playing game genre by showing the genre’s untapped potential for engineering a gripping, evocative, and at times beautiful single player experience.
The Impact Award honors a game which explores social, cultural, and/or political issues in a whole new way. It may take us out of our comfort zones, and confront us directly on social progress yet to be done, or mark a real change in the industry. Impact isn’t simply about diversity or doing good in the world. It can be creating new access points for unlikely players engaging with unlikely topics, new points of connection for people across the globe, or new shared experiences that resonate in our modern culture.
“Honoring works that seek to expand understanding, compassion and insight, with a focus on changing the world we live in through the practice of play..” ——
For bringing awareness to how climate change disproportionately effects immigrants, trans people and disabled people while balancing these issues with guidance from a comforting dog and astute AI, it is our honor to award for Impact Sin Sol / No Sun and its gamemakers micha cárdenas, Marcelo Viana Neto, Adrian Phillips, Kara Stone, Abraham Avnisan, Wynne Greenwood, Dorothy Santos, Morgan Thomas, Zia Puig, and Clara Qin.
Sin Sol / No Sun is an augmented reality art game that calls on us all to be with the grief caused by climate change. Taking place fifty years in the future but reflecting the present, walk through the poetic tellings of trans Latinx AI hologram Aura as she conveys being trapped inside because of wildfire smoke. The environmental collapse of her past is our 2020 present. IndieCade recognizes the immense timeliness of this resonant game that unveils disparities faced amidst a climate crisis.
As games grow across boundaries, platforms, and formats, an ever growing array of narratives are communicated in an ever growing number of ways. The delicate art of creating a living, breathing story through design of spaces, characters, conflicts, and more has become a defining art for games and play. The Narrative Award celebrates accomplishment and innovation in this amazing and emergent art of interaction driven narrative.
“Honoring works innovating the ways that we communicate meaning and play with stories.”—–
The narrative of Journey of the Broken Circle, by the Lovable Hat Cult, is the perfect streamlined blend of visual storytelling and a minimalistic, yet emotionally impactful dialogue, where no word is wasted and every encounter makes you feel something. In an age where one can feel empty and numb to all the noise without substance going on around us, like the titular character itself, its journey found a way to make us feel whole again and that is why it’s IndieCade’s pick as narrative game of the year.
Journey of the Broken Circle is an adorably beautiful minimalist adventure game that effortlessly rolls through an endearing story examining some of life’s biggest mysteries. From personal fulfillment, to love, and even existentialism, this well rounded narrative covers it all, with enchanting visual storytelling and dialogue that never stops making you feel all the things. This is a game about finding out what will make us whole and a sublime tale of trying to make new connections with others, which is the perfect antidote to a year where it’s almost physically impossible to do. Play it and have yourself a ball.
IndieCade Choice Award
The IndieCade Choice Award is voted on by nominated IndieCade Festival developers.
“A game from the festival selected by fellow developers, a true honor among peers”—–
Mini Motorways is a game that starts with just a simple sound or two. One destination connected to one residence. Like its predecessor Mini Metro, the ever-expanding network of transportation with roads, bridges, tunnels, traffic lights, and more eventually becomes too chaotic for the player to continue to manage. Somehow, amidst all this chaos, the game’s audio transforms from a “bleep” here and a “bloop” there to a fully-realized, aleatoric soundscape ensuring that no play-through of the game feels the same. The minimalist aesthetic in the game’s soundtrack works very well and the effects of speeding up and speeding down time are effectively driven home with a pitch shift that helps drive home how tense real-time city planning can be.