An Actor’s Truth, the Future of Indies and the End of the AAA Everyman
It’s a thrilling time for independent games: leading the medium in formal experimentation and diversity of representation, they are rapidly expanding our perception of what games can be, and who can both make and be depicted in them. In recent years, they’ve swiped peer-given award nominations from bigger, more established developers, many of whom cite indies as inspiration for their work – or for going indie themselves. Many independent games have even become household names, as widely recognizable as Call of Duty or Halo.
Sarah and Ash would like to point out that indies’ special commitment to the specific over the generic is also the long-standing foundation to creating a good performance as an actor.
We will share aspects of our performance and character development process to connect strong acting decisions with this principle of inviting specificity. We’ll discuss the principle at play in modern successful indies with previously underrepresented protagonists, such as Gone Home, Mainichi and others. We’ll take a look back to debunk the legacy of games as exclusive purview of white male teenagers, and explore the impact of genre trends on representation – tying the current fracturing, reimagining and cross-pollination of genres to the flourishing of character diversity.
The future of indies is the future of games, which looks much like the present and in some ways the past – but even more fearlessly, joyfully crowded with diverse empathic opportunities.
Ashly Burch and Sarah Elmaleh are actors and game voiceover artists/siblings. Ashly is lead actress and co-writer/creator of hit web series Hey Ash Whatcha Playin’? and can be heard in games such as Borderlands 2 and Gravity Ghost, Children of Liberty, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Saints Row 4, Awesomenauts, Towerfall and Guided Fate Paradox. You can also hear her goofin’ in cartoons such as Adventure Time, Bee and Puppy Cat and Attack on Titan. Sarah’s indie game roles include goody two-shoes older sisters, often to Ash (Gone Home, Gravity Ghost, Children of Liberty), a strong-yet-vulnerable Latina doctor (Resonance), a cranky flapper (Blackwell Epiphany), an eager British spy handler (Codename Cygnus), fiercely opposing Japanese goddesses (Skulls of the Shogun), and your classic insidious shipboard computers (Gemini Rue and Redshirt).
Ashly Burch is a voice actor, writer and raps about representation and issues of gender and identity in the games industry. Well, she doesn’t actually rap, she just speaks about it. She thought saying the word “rap” would make her culturally relevant. She realizes she’s failing. Ashly is best known as the star, writer and co-creator for the web series “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?” and as the voice of Tiny Tina in Borderlands 2. She is also the voice of Sasha Braus in Attack on Titan. You can (or will soon be able to) hear her in these other fine pieces of entertainment: Adventure Time, Bee and Puppy Cat, Awesomenauts, Chainsaw Richard, Saints Row 4, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Guided Fate Paradox, Gravity Ghost, Children of Liberty, and Seedlings. You can see her flail about on screen in Baked Goods, Board With Life, and School of Thrones.
Sarah Elmaleh is an actor who loves to voice games, and also chat animatedly about them. (That’s not a pun. She sees now how it could look like one, but she would never do that to you on purpose.) She can be heard in a motley collection of indie titles including Gone Home, Skulls of the Shogun, Johann Sebastian Joust, Redshirt, Resonance, Gemini Rue, Codename Cygnus, Children of Liberty, and soon, Gravity Ghost. She’s also written about games at outlets such as Kill Screen and Kotaku, helped curate Boston FIG and Kill Screen’s OUYA contest, and spoken about games and voiceover at the Tribeca Film Festival, the SAG Foundation, PAX Prime, and the NJ Institute of Technology.
Check back for the full event schedule and more 2014 speakers as they are confirmed!
Kara Stone – Mental Health and Video Games
Mental Health and Video games will explore depictions of mental illness in video games and the possibility of affective games. Most mainstream video
Kara Stone is an art-maker interested in video games, interactive arts and traditional crafting. She achieved an MA in Communication and Culture at a joint program at York and Ryerson University, focusing on mental health, affect, feminism, and video games. Creating games such as Medication Meditation, Cyborg Goddess, and Sext Adventure, her work has been featured in Vice, Wired, The Atlantic, and NPR. All her work is feminist art with a focus on gendered perspectives of affect but is much more fun than it sounds.
Lindsay D. Grace – Affection Games: Loving Your Way into the Hearts of Players
This presentation outlines the rarely discussed world of affection games. Affection games require players to flirt, hug, kiss, and make love to meet their
Lindsay D. Grace is the designer and developer behind one of the strangest and most loved affection games, Big Huggin’, involving a giant 32-inch teddy bear controller. Also, he was born and raised in New Bedford, MA, so he holds a special place in my heart for the Boston Festival of Indie Games.
Maddy Myers – Hacking Games Journalism: Indie Game Marketing 101
Games journalist Maddy Myers has been working for press outlets since 2007. She wants to give indie game makers the tools they need to tell her — and other
Maddy Myers is currently the Assistant Games Editor for Paste Magazine; she also freelances for other media outlets. She previously worked as a games columnist, features writer, and web producer at the Boston Phoenix for six years. Her writing about video games has also appeared at re/Action, Five Out of Ten, Gameranx.com, the Border House, and Kill Screen.
Michael Mosley – The Mind of a Freelance Journalist
What is it like being a freelance videogame journalist and how does somebody get into the field? Using his own experiences, Freelance writer Michael Mosley
Michael Mosley is a freelance writer/photographer and PR representative, he has been writing about videogames for over five years starting off as a news reporter and quickly became a featured writer on ‘For The Love of Gaming’ and ‘Omnigamer’. Michael has done live coverage of New York Comic-Con and BFIG, currently he serves as PR for the videogame website ‘A Pixelated View’ while also writing a comic book.
Pete Vigeant – Fun Things Are Fun
The third and final installment in his Karl Rohnke trilogy, designer Pete Vigeant will explore the lessons in game design from a master of field games. This talk
Pete Vigeant is a game, media and experience designer that creates large group live-action and digital interactive experiences. As a Senior Designer for ESI Design, Pete draws upon his passion and expertise in game and youth-focused design to develop interaction, media, concept, and game design for numerous ESI projects. Pete is a founding partner of The Completely Surrounded, a consulting group that has worked with camps, colleges and institutions to bring large games to thousands of participants. @greenghoulie
Xiao’an Li – Five Steps To A Better Soundtrack
This talk aims to provide indie developers with the tools to work with composers more effectively, eliminating unnecessary revisions and making your dollar go as
Singaporean composer Xiao’an Li has toured as a performing guitarist and frontman, playing in jazz festivals and at events with thousands in attendance, recording guitar for chart-topping platinum music artists and producers along the way. He has composed for video games, commercial spots, and has also arranged music for concerts in Boston involving music industry luminaries. He is currently music director/resident conductor of East Coast Scoring (www.eastcoastscoring.com), which provides services in orchestral recording and production. You can follow him on twitter at @lxiaoan
Heather Albano – Narrative Design and Player Agency Are Friends
We tend to think of player agency and narrative design as opposing elements – either your game herds its players down a railroad or is a sandbox of emergent stories that never coalesce
Heather Albano likes telling stories. She divides her time between writing traditional fiction and creating games / interactive fiction, and finds the line between the two growing fuzzier all the time. She has co-authored five titles released by Choice of Games, including the award-winning Choice of Broadsides and Choice of Zombies, and was lead writer on the critically-acclaimed interactive radio drama Codename Cygnus, released by Reactive Studios. You can find out more about these and her other projects at www.heatheralbano.com.
Rick Berry – Let Art Think
In Game Design, what causes one image to grip the imagination as to opposed to those that don’t? What are the neurophysiological underpinnings of perception? Of cognition?
Rick Berry started at 17 in underground comics, expanding into popular culture with art for: Halo; WOTC; Marvel and DC; Sandman by Neil Gaiman; novels by George R.R.Martin and Stephen King. Berry did the world’s first digitally painted cover, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, 1984; co-created the cyberspace climax for Gibson’s feature film, Johnny Mnemonic; Keanu Reeves’ cyber-stunt double/SIGGRAPH Reel. Collaborator with Amanda Palmer in ART’s Cabaret. Berry is collected internationally. November exhibition/Liquid Art House, Boston. — rickberrystudio.com
Darren Shield, Esq. – Navigating Trademark and Copyright Law in Video Games
Using famous brands or people in your game can instantly get players’ attention and bring them right into the gameplay. After all, who doesn’t want to race a Lamborghini or fight alongside
Darren Shield is a New York-based media and entertainment attorney at Powley & Gibson, P.C., specializing in copyright, trademark, and privacy law for video games and other interactive media. He is a graduate of New York Law School, where he was an associate at the Institute for Information Law and Policy, and is a frequent guest lecturer on Intellectual Property Law at Marist College and BostonFIG. You can contact Darren firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @darrenshield.
Michael T. Lin – Simulator Sickness: A Research Overview
Simulator sickness is a phenomenon similar to motion sickness that is sometimes experienced by people interacting with simulated environments, such as those in video games. This talk
Michael Lin is a game designer and researcher who has recently returned to the Boston area. His work on simulator sickness is a continuation of his master’s thesis research. Michael has worked primarily on games for education and research in both his undergraduate studies at MIT and graduate studies at USC, and intends to continue doing so in the future.
Hannah Foell – Beyond Yes And: What We Can Learn About Game Development From Improv
As a veteran of improv comedy and game development, Hannah Foell will share her unique perspective on what these two seemingly different worlds can learn from each other. Hannah will
Hannah Foell is an experienced comedian and game developer, who specializes in improvised comedy and production. Since 2007 she performed sketch and improvised comedy with celebrated groups The Dowry, Marjean and Maxitor, hosts and producers the monthly sell-out variety show The Kerfuffle, and is currently one of the co-founders and producers of Fine Line Comedy. Hannah worked as a recruiter and producer at Turbine on Lord Of The Rings Online, where she helped oversee the Riders of Rohan and Helm’s Deep expansion packs.
Joshua DeBonis – This Old Game: Bringing Players Together Through Cabinetry
Using famous brands or people in your game can instantly get players’ attention and bring them right into the gameplay. After all, who doesn’t want to race a Lamborghini or fight alongside
Andrew Plotkin – Interactive Fiction Tutorial
Tanya X. Short – Designing Procedural Generation Algorithms
This talk will contain no actual programming, but instead look at the details of how tech and design can and must intertwine to achieve ultimate replayability and the best player experience,
Guard Up™ Presents Live Action Story Based Modalities…and Vampires
Join Guard Up™ as we host a conversation about using a live-action interactive story to engage, entertain, and educate a diverse population of players. Learn how we turn any location into an adventure, and transform players into heros with our Wizards and Warriors system. Beware! We have
Brad Thibodeau has been studying psychology and sociology since he was a child. For over a decade he created and implemented anti-bullying, rape prevention, self defense and therapeutic classes and events as a full time educator and addictions specialist at the Psychological Center in Lawrence Ma. He is an avid mountaineer, traveler, swordsman, stilt jumper, singer/songwriter and holds several black belts and certifications for martial arts and performance athleticism. Since May of 2012 Brad has utilized his diverse and unique skill set as Faculty and Operations Manager at Guard Up! Inc. He is rarely seen before sunset…
Christopher Wiley is many things to many people: a double major
in English and Theater, a practiced fencer and stage combatant, a licensed middle school science teacher, and an occasionally-monetarily-compensated actor. Professionally, he is the Program Director for Wizards and Warriors Camps and the Director of Instructors for Guard Up, Inc. Casually, he is a gamer and kid at heart. Chris is the heart and soul of the Creative Design team at Guard Up. When monsters strike, he is the one to follow. Bottom line, there is no one more qualified to lead the zombie apocalypse.
Kitty‘s background, education and experience are equally as diverse and impressive as her adaptability and competency. She is an extraordinary member of the Guard Up team, keeping the office running like a well oiled machine and teaching classes and events as well. When Kitty is not performing or helping customers or students she is most often perched above her post in the main office. As a lifetime advocate and protector of animals Kitty was granted 9 lives by an Unknown Greater Spirit.
Dan has been with Guard Up! for over a year and has used his unique skill set as a father, veteran, and proud geek to bring a fresh perspective to story and game based learning through a myriad of characters both real and imagined. Dan has been able to teach physics as Sir Isaac Newton, French culture and language as the musketeer d’Artagnan, and presented various historic and fantasy based demonstrations to schools and libraries all over Massachusetts. He also knows a thing or two about swords.
When not inhabiting the world of Sidleterra, Dan enjoys creating his own worlds as Dungeon Master of a weekly Dungeons & Dragons campaign and creating stories for his favorite audience of all, his 5 year old daughter Cambria.
Meghan has worn many hats in her life… from Underwater Videographer to a Black Belt Martial Arts Instructor. She has a motorcycle racing license and likes to breathe fire as a hobby. With all of her varied interests, one thing has remained a constant: Her desire to learn. And throughout her journey she has found that the two best vehicles for education are games and stories. Defying the judgment of an adult during her childhood that “Dungeons & Dragons will get you no where in life”, she went on to create a story-based educational summer camp called Wizards & Warriors. Games are just practice for real life… and stories are how we make sense of it all.
Video Game Jeopardy: How to Commercialize Your Video Game
Do you have a great idea for a video game or mobile game app? Do you know how to position your game for high-value commercial opportunities? Presented as a game show, this session will explore the business, finance and legal perks and pitfalls of video game commercialization. The speaker will
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
- INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DOS AND DON’TS
- TIPS FOR MONETIZATION
- FINANCING 101
- BUSINESS BEWARES
Chinh Pham co-leads Greenberg Traurig’s Emerging Technology Group and is a member of the firm’s Video Game & Interactive Media Team. A registered patent attorney, Chinh’s video game, interactive media and mobile tech experience includes Brass Monkey, World Gamer, Game Show Network, Metaversal Studios, and more. Chinh serves as a speaker and company mentor for a number of technology accelerator programs, including MassDiGI, MassChallenge, Harvard iLab and Northeastern Idea. He can be reached at 617.310.6239 or email@example.com.
Daniel J. Blanchard is an Associate in Greenberg Traurig’s Corporate Group. Representing clients in a wide range of industries, Dan’s practice focuses on securities regulations, compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital transactions. He advises digital game companies and investors on a variety of commercial transactions, and represents digital game clients in transactions involving intellectual property assets. He also has experience structuring and negotiating collaboration and license agreements. Dan can be reached at 617.310.5207 or blanchardd@GTLAW.com.
Game Devs: The Next Generation
Games: the final frontier. These are the continuing tales of five college students. Their mission: to explore strange new titles, to seek out new genres and platforms, to boldly go where no one has gone before. In this episode, the young developers learn the black art of making a game over eleven
Paige Coblentz is currently at RISD studying Animation and has a passion for 2D animation, character design and puns. She worked as the art director on Cat Tsunami during MassDiGI’s SIP14 and hopes to continue working in game development in the future.
Andrew Krischer is currently at Northeastern University studying Computer Science & Game Design. His favorite hobbies include petting cats, petting dogs, and competitive gaming. He was producer and programmer for Limbs during MassDiGI’ SIP14.
Pat Roughan is currently at WPI studying Interactive Media and Game Development as well as Professional Writing. This past summer, he was the lead producer and minigame artist on Many Mini Things in MassDiGI’s SIP14.
Loren Sherman is currently at MIT studying Computer Science and Media Studies. He was lead build manager (he now flinches whenever someone mentions provisioning profiles), and worked on programming, technical art, and trailer creation for Midnight Terrors during MassDiGI’s SIP14.
James Spavold is currently at Becker College studying Game Development and Programming. He was lead programmer for Limbs during MassDiGI’s SIP14.
Tim Loew is executive director of MassDiGI. Prior to starting up and joining MassDiGI, he held senior positions in business, development and academic planning at Becker College. Before Becker, he worked in financial services and as an independent management consultant to clients in the technology sector.
Monty Sharma is managing director of MassDiGI. Prior to joining MassDiGI, he was co-founder/general manager of Vivox, a voice chat service provider in the games industry with key relationships to EA, Sony, Ubisoft, Nexon, Bigpoint and many others. Before Vivox, he held senior positions at Jamcracker, Novell and MT&T.
The Next Generation: Making Games for Kids and Families
Millennials who grew up playing games are now making games and having kids. Lets talk about games for kids: what there is, what there should be, and what there can be – with a little help from you! We are looking for developers and as many kids and parents as possible. Let’s talk game genre,
Nicole Tompkins-Hughes is a mom, gamer, writer, and activist for all things pertaining to the gaming community. She’s a freelancer, regular contributor to Pixelkin.org, and a community moderator for Polygon.com.
Sean Baptiste is a designer and designated talker out of Cambridge’s very own Fire Hose Games. He is currently working on a mobile debating game called Let’s Quip that encourages wit and grammar. He previously worked on games like Go Home Dinosaurs and Harmonix’s Rock Band franchise.
Jenna Hoffstein is a Boston-based game designer with a mission to make meaningful and personality-filled games. In the summer of 2013 Jenna founded her own studio, Little Worlds Interactive, to make the best possible educational games; games full of fun, adventure, and high-quality educational content.
Early Access Panel: Get Involved with this Panel as it Develops
Love it or hate it, Early Access has been adopted by many indies, and many digital distribution portals – like Steam, IndieGameStand, Desura, and Gamersgate – support the model. But which kinds of games work best for Early Access? Which don’t? Is the whole thing a scheme? Why not just run a
Ichiro Lambe is Founder and President of Dejobaan Games, LLC, an independent Boston-area game development studio. Isn’t that fantastic? He’s worked in the industry since 1993, co-founding Worlds Apart Productions (later Sony Online Entertainment Denver) in 1995 and Dejobaan Games in 1999.
Jenna Hoffstein is a Boston-based game designer with a mission to make meaningful and personality-filled games. In the summer of 2013 she founded her own studio, Little Worlds Interactive, to make the best possible educational games; games full of fun, adventure, and high-quality educational content. Jenna has experience designing and developing across a number of platforms, and has worked at larger studios including Turbine and Stomp Games, as well as a number of indie studios. She delights in discovering new things and wants to share her joy with the world!
Dan Silvers is the founder and Resident Game Designer of Lantana Games, having spent the last three years running the company on family and Kickstarter assistance. Dan’s current in-development title is Children of Liberty, a stealth platformer about the hours leading up to the start of the American Revolutionary War. Dan is also a proud founder/producer of the Boston Festival of Indie Games. He holds a BFA in Interactive Design and Game Development from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Becky Taylor is the Marketing Director for 3D Realms. She has worked on games such as Toy Soldiers, Ascend: Hand of Kul, and Robot Rising as they all went through Beta Stages or Early Access on Steam. In the wild, Becky can be found collecting lazer cats. Read her tweets at http://www.twitter.com/omglazerkittens.