IndieCade, Micropalooza and Incredible Ape

Announced today were the 2012 IndeCade nominess, a list of 36 that included DYAD, Botanicula, The Stanley Parable, Guacamelee, Splice, and Analogue: A Hate Story.  I mention the games I’ve heard most about — actually, they’re just the the games I would most enjoy playing because — Ok, wait. Yeah. I have not played a single game on this list. What is wrong with me.

Botanicula indiecade nominee 2012

I don’t and unfortunately have never owned a Playstation, so that rules out DYAD and I’m sure a lot of other games too… no, it looks like pretty much all these games are on PC. Some are playable in-browser. Worst of all, I already purchased Botanicula, and I’ve never even booted it up. I’m really, really sorry, indie world.

It’s weird that I’m so behind because I’ve been feeling more and more “in tune” (wait for it) with my own Neighborhood Gaming Community. I’m helping out with Portland’s newest (first?) chiptune zine, an actual physical object devoted to chip music and the brainchild of an industrious pretty-much-cofounder of the Portland Indie Game Squad. We’re both newcomers to the genre, so we”ll be actively digging up what bonds us to this music and asking ourselves why the cords are so thick. That is to say that we cannot and will not be elitist about this music because we’re still figuring out why we love it, if we love it, what’s to love.

Micropalooza 2012 Mechlo at Ground Kontrol

For that zine I’ll be writing up a “review,” a personal essay sort of piece on Micropalooza, the annual chiptune extravaganza that happened to Portland last Sunday. Between Micropalooza’s two concert sets (which I’ll describe more fully in the zine piece, which should have some sort of online portion) PIGSquad had the crowd to themselves for about two hours. They set up a projector, two microphones and an Xbox, and then Josh Schonstal and Ian Brock – aka Incredible Ape – let loose their ingenius co-op sidescrolling jetpack shooter, PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewon an unsuspecting and pleasantly intoxicated public.

In PewPewPew, two players cooperate to control one cosmonaut, an all-American looking fellow with a golden-blonde hightop and voice-sensitive technology. Yes, voice sensitive – each player is equipped with a microphone; the microphones control either the jetpack or the blaster. So, one player moves the astronaut up and down with the volume modulations of his best impression of “the Inception noise,” and one player shoots baddies with as many distinct noises-per-second as he can manage – hence, “pew pew pew.”

When they’re not penning titles more unwieldy than Terry Cavanagh’s URLs, Josh and Ian spend their time attending game jams, during which they apparently think up these unassumingly brilliant game mechanics to take all the way to IndieCade. PewPewPew (or at least its fundamental core) was the result of one particularly inspired jam, and it eventually won a well-deserved finalist spot in IndieCade 2011 — “well-deserved” if the volume of laughter in a bar can serve as a reliable metric of quality, which, in the case of a cooperative “party game,” it can and should.

Meeting these guys was exhilarating because the line between superstar geekdom and my little local diorama started to shimmer and wane. I’m hanging out with a couple of super friendly, down-to-earth Portland dudes at a bar, but they also happened to show a game they made to Douglas Wilson and Pendleton Ward . (On blaster duty in PewPewPew, Mr. Ward allegedly opted for beatboxing over “pewing.”)

Josh Shonstal and Ian Brock, Incredible Ape, at IndieCade 2011

Ian (left) does the art; Josh does the code

Hearing about Incredible Ape’s trip to IndieCade makes gaming seem so small and intimate – like a real community. Also, good guys who make good things will always win, and everyone nice hangs out all the time, and someday I’ll be successful and fulfilled. Until then I’ll be playing Incredible Ape’s / ESCAPE \ (just $0.99 in the Apple Store!)

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