An IGF'ers take on the IGF posted 3/28 at 3:20:34 PM PST by Mason McCuskey
Whew. I'm back from the GDC, and have finally recovered from the few days of aftershock it always manages to induce in me. After all, once you've spent several days surrounded by the sensory overload that is the GDC, it takes your system a little time to adjust to normal levels of stimuli. But, I am happy to report that I have recovered and have come back from the GDC essentially the same way I left, but with more t-shirts. So, now that my faculties have returned to me, I wanted to write up a quick article describing my impressions of this year's Third Annual Independent Games Festival (IGF).
By far, the best new "feature" of IGF 3.0 was the student showcase. The student showcase was basically a non-competitive version of the IGF for students. Students from traditional colleges, as well as schools like DigiPen and Full Sail, submitted their work to the IGF judges, who chose the top games from the pool, and put them on display off to one side of the IGF area. The students got a single pod, complete with a 21" monitor and a fat pipe, to show of their creations.
The student showcase was a definite Good Thing, if for no other reason than it helped to showcase a section of the indie scene that's been previously neglected. Also, it gave the students a chance to talk about what life was like at their schools - by talking to them, I learned what a typical day in the life of a DigiPen student was like, which was cool.
As a side note, I think it's unfortunate that some game development schools keep the rights to their students' creations - this goes against the norm for other creative schools in other mediums (say, art and film), where you basically pay to learn and use the equipment, but retain rights to the things you create using that equipment. Oh well, I digress - that has nothing to do with the IGF, it's just a sad thing I wanted to call attention to.
Back to the Good Things: It's nice to see that the organizers kept the IGF outside the Expo again this year. Once I had spent some time in the Expo, browsing the achievement award pods, I was even happier that the IGFers were outside. The fact is that the Expo is a cacophony; most of the time you can't even hear the person next to you, let alone any sound effects from the games you're playing. Sounds, flashes of light, and now, thanks to iSmell, odors, of all kinds come in from all directions, and giving each title the attention it deserves is next to impossible.
Also, having the IGF outside the Expo gave you something to do when the Expo was closed. I believe that the IGF pods get a lot of attention simply because they're set up and running before the Expo opens, when a crowd begins to congregate outside the doors. If given the choice, many game developers would rather play a game than sit around idle.
Moving on, another great improvement this year was having Gigex host the IGF finalists' demos and movies. This is the sort of marketing I like - instead of providing the finalists with rubber phones or Slinkys, the Gigex and CMP folks provided something most IGF finalists actually need - bandwidth. When my game was announced as a finalist last year, my bandwidth usage went through the roof. It's quite probable that some of last year's finalists had to pay their ISP piles of twenties in excess bandwidth charges, and it's good to know that this year, the organizers went a long way towards solving that problem.
Also this year, we witnessed the awards ceremony changing. Essentially, it was split in half, with the merit awards occurring the first night, and the big prizes (Audience Award and Seumas McNally Grand Prize) announced on the second night.
I have mixed feelings about this setup. On the one hand, I don't think there's enough awards to justify splitting the ceremony. The Academy Awards are split because they dole out dozens of awards; the IGF does less than ten.
On the other hand, if it helps solicit a larger crowd, maybe it's worth it - I know that people's schedules over the GDC are tight, and if breaking the awards ceremony down makes it fit into a more accessible timeframe, I'm all for it. Splitting the awards also gives the winners of the merit awards a night to bask in their greatness without being overshadowed by the Seumas McNally and Audience award winners.
I want to end this little article by throwing one more opinion at you: I think the IGF is getting better, not worse. It started out as a great idea, and in my opinion has only gotten better every year since then. I've attended all three IGFs, and have spoken to most of the finalists of each one, and over the years I've seen several teams that were previously unheard of get some much-deserved attention, and occasionally a publishing deal, because of the IGF. I believe that's what it all comes down to - getting talented teams some floor time and recognition for their hard work, and in that respect I think the IGF has succeeded admirably, and continues to succeed a little more each year.