Do I know enough of the people there to attend an independent games festival? Have I done enough myself to prove that I belong? Am I just an imposter? My life has been full of chaos, never knowing where things will lead. These were the thoughts that ran through my head prior to attending this year’s Freeplay.
The theme for this year Freeplay independent games festival was Chaos and Grace.
It was aptly titled theme for how I felt. In spite of all the chaos in things that have gone wrong or turned out differently to how I planned, there has been grace as well. You never know how it will turn out, and this is not necessarily negative. You can’t predict what will be the outcome of the chaotic bits and pieces that you throw together.
Mare Sheppard (co-creator of N) was the international keynote speaker. N is an indie game success story, but as she said in her talk, it wasn’t always that way. When N was entered in the 2004 FlashintheCan Festival, it was beaten by Starsky and Hutch Pinball.
And yet now N is a hit, with the console version N+ having been commercially released on Xbox Live, and Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP.
However, in the chaos of the early days of the game, she couldn’t foresee the grace that would appear later. You never know how it’ll turn out.
I arrived in Melbourne on the Wednesday afternoon. There was a game in Federation Square as part of the Freeplay program that night called Spies by Night.
We gathered around unsure of what to expect. The game was adapted from The Potato Game by Pippa Johnson. We divided into random teams and spent the rest of the evening stalking around Federation Square, attempting to move our secrets and steal secrets from the other teams. It was a good ice breaker.
The remaining days of the festival were full of interesting talks and panels on a variety of topics pertaining to games. As I listened on the final day about the need to not just be merely optimistic, but instead resilient, I smiled and something clicked in my head. Mere optimism can lead to wishful thinking, but resilience is the knowledge that in spite of chaos that surrounds us, there can be grace when you stay focused no matter how dark and uncertain it becomes. There have been times when I have stopped and broken down when faced with one dead end after another. But I was still here. I was still going.
At some point during Sunday, I wandered around the room of the Melbourne library where all the games that had been submitted for this year were being demonstrated. The many developers eagerly showed their games to me and I was fascinated by the variety of ideas. The creativity in the room was abundant.
That night was the awards presentation.
I was excited for everyone nominated and by the winners. It makes me want to finish a game of my own before next year’s Freeplay and submit it.
I started the week unsure if I would know enough people there, but by the end of the week, I didn’t want it to be over and I’d met a whole bunch of kindred spirits. I left Freeplay feeling encouraged and inspired. I wasn’t an imposter. I was in exactly the right place at the right time. Through the chaos, there was grace.