For the October 2013 IndieCade Festival Stephanie Barish asked me to build on my work from the 2012 festival and create a new attendee guide and metagame. I worked with Sean Bouchard, Robyn Tong Gray, Talia Rose Gruen and Elizabeth Swensen to create the final product.
The booklet contained a bunch of useful information about the festival including a very handsome map, entries for all of the games, some good sponsor advertising and the lovely cover you can see above. But we also used it as the delivery mechanism for a bunch of the activities in and around the festival.
Companion Vital Statistics:
52 pages 8.5″ x 5.5″ Staple-bound 2000 printed
We came up with the idea of the name “Companion” because we didn’t want to call it a “booklet” or “handout” and make the festival feel like a meeting. I was familiar with things like The Sandman Companion being both attractive books but also useful, desirable objects and thought it fit well.
We chose the size to make the book feel a little more unusual while also being a printing standard. I was amazed with the job Talia did, particularly with the cover and the map with input coming from so many different directions.
The IndieCade Button Mash
The metagame for 2013’s festival was called the IndieCade Button Mash, for reasons that should become clear. It was based on last year’s passport game where the central mechanic would be encouraging attendees to explore the festival and see everything it had to offer. Early on in development Max Temkin, the designer on The Passport, put us in touch with Busy Beaver Button Co., a Chicago-based pin-back button (badges to my friends in the UK & Ireland) manufacturer. They agreed to sponsor the metagame by providing us with 5000 of their buttons. We quickly settled on having these buttons, with our own custom designs, be the festival’s collectible item and built the metagame around this. I did the bulk of the game design as well as some concepts for the buttons which were then beautifully designed by Robyn.
So the button mash name comes from “mash” being another word for party and “button mashing” in video games since IndieCade is partly a video games festival. Y’see? Clever. The best way to explain how it worked is just to show you the page from the Companion: I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. One thing I should point out is that Busy Beaver encouraged us to use their custom finishes on the buttons so Night Games was glow-in-the-dark, Trade Sequence was holographic, Game Developer was metallic and Tournament Champion had a faux gold finish. Folks at the festival seemed to really enjoy the buttons. We saw them pinned to a lot of lanyards and more than a few bags.
The IndieCade Trade Sequence
This was something I had wanted to do at IndieCade since my first time volunteering at E3 in 2010 and I got my chance last year. It’s based on the trade sequences from the Zelda games, most notably A Link to the Past. The basic idea is that you start with a simple item and by finding someone who needs it, they trade you something else (possibly more valuable) for it. I thought this would be a great way to get people exploring the festival space and interacting with people. We had a 6-item sequence that started with a red paperclip and finished with the Trade Sequence button.
The paperclip was included in the companion with a gentle nudge as to what to do with it. The full sequence was paperclip – paper flower – plastic jumping frog – love letter – mini magnifying glass – button. We got the paperclips from an office supply store and ordered the flowers, frogs and magnifying glasses from Oriental Trading, a party supply store Elizabeth introduced me to. I was thrilled when I found out the magnifying glasses existed. We put each of the items in a bag and gave 6 festival volunteers a bag each. We also had them wear a green headband that identified them as a questgiver. I asked everyone involved to come up with some tale as to why they needed these silly items; I needed a magnifying glass – my story was that it was to read the fine print on some divorce papers. I was the last link in the chain and awarded players with their button. Not many people got to the end, but those who did were thrilled.
The Love Letter
Part of the trade sequence tasked the attendees with writing a love letter from one questgiver to the next, since he was having trouble expressing himself. This was to give the activity a little more interactivity and let the players get more creative. I have a ton of letter and I’ll do a separate post detailing their content. They range from predictably coarse to surprisingly heartfelt and poetic.
I had an amazing time working on the project and I’m keen to improve on the ideas at this years festival. I’m currently serving as IndieCade’s Community Manager so you should totally follow the account on twitter. The gallery below is some more pictures of the project. Enjoy!