This past weekend I was given a great opportunity by the Games for Change organization to be able to visit the Play NYC event put together by Playcrafting. While there are many conferences for the games industry every year, Play NYC had a feel very few can reproduce. Unlike your every year E3, Comic Con‘s, and frequent PAX events, Play NYC felt like it was truly about the industry and love for gaming rather than just a place to go to play games from big studios flexing their influence. Many of the developers there were smaller independent studios and groups that had a love and a knack for game creation and innovation, leading to wild wacky games that no big studio would ever dare make. Breathing life and wonder into the games they make, these devs really show why gaming is so popular in today’s climate and important in every artistic sense. Come with me as I outline a few of the beautiful games I was able to experience, and portray what it takes for these devs to bring these masterpieces to life.
Most of the games that were shown off at this event were still in development and still had some work to be done. Although the concepts were solid and inspired, execution for most of these projects is well done yet ongoing. This concept is exemplified in a game by GrahamOfLegend called “Super Space Club,” which is a top-down space shooter reminiscent of classic games such as the old Atari game “Asteroids.” Graham had given me the opportunity to talk with him about his game as well as his inspirations for the game while I was waiting to give it a try myself. Inspired by games in the space genre, Graham had set out to create a new game that had a truly classic feel but with a modern twist that would push the game to new heights while keeping the controls simple and accessible for all.
Although the game was an early version, there were so many tiny details that showed the passion and skill of the dev. Outside in the game looks beautiful yet a little simpler when watching someone play, but these looks can be deceiving. With only two buttons (boost and fire) and a control stick, the controls are easy to learn but take some time to master as you can’t fire and boost at the same time. On its own, this wouldn’t be all that challenging in concept, but the real kicker here is that everything you do uses your health, meaning every time you shoot or use boost your health is reduced. Mentally the game is challenging as you are balancing your attacks and defenses as you play, weighing if destroying one more enemy is worth the risk during a fast-paced firefight. “Super Space Club” was originally made with a traditional black and white space color scheme but Graham was fed up with the idea that these space games had to all be the same drab dark colors, and because of this, the game is now a beautiful array of colors that change as you play. Musically it holds up a fun and relaxing vibe that perfectly matches the visuals allowing a great gameplay experience.
As I talked to Graham, it became very apparent how much he really cared about his creation, which is refreshing in an industry that has become filled to the brim with remakes and reboots that seem relatively passionless from the outside in. While he has taken some inspiration from classic games and some of his favorites such as StarFox, “Super Space Club” is truly a game of it’s own that when completed will be loved by all who play.
Now I would be remiss if I did not mention Games for Change. Not only did they give me the ability to go check this event out but their intentions fall in line with ours here at Grow-a-Generation. We take pride in allowing kids to create truly meaningful projects that allow them to make a positive difference in the world while also expanding on what they love. Games for Change creates and distributes games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts, as well as encourage others to use gaming as a positive impact in the world. After seeing what they showed off at Play NYC, it couldn’t be more clear that they are serious about their mission, and with so many people gathered around their booth, others were just as excited to see what they had to offer.
On the track of games with purpose, there were many creators there who all want to make positive impacts through the medium of games. “Spywatch Lex” by Scholarcade was an outstanding example of the positive possibilities of game creation as it is meant to teach you a language as you play. You play as a spy trying to take down an evil organization by visiting foreign cities to gain insider intelligence to take down the organization from the inside. Unlike other language learning tools, “Spywatch Lex” focuses on gameplay and fun in an exciting RPG rather than creating a language tool and creating a game as an afterthought. One of the biggest problems with how these games are normally done is that the games aren’t engaging or fun but a game like Spywatch Lex is what can change that and really make a difference in the language learning industry.
Play NYC isn’t the biggest event out there, at times it had seemed a little tight even, but it was well worth the trip are really displayed what is to come in games and the passionate people behind them. Playing a lot of games can skew our perspective of the simple yet greatly fun games that come out all the time, keeping us under the allusion that, because they are easy to understand and easy pick up and play, they must be easy to design and make, but the nuances of game creation is easily lost on those who don’t make them. These creators pour their heart and soul into making these games. Whether they make an impact on the world through messages or meaning, helping us learn, or just brightening our days through fun times and competition, the art form is growing at a rapid pace bringing a little something for everyone. Although in the media today you may see a negative connotation of gaming from time to time, these creators are doing what they love and are making our lives better and more enjoyable in the process. I, for one, am excited to see where these creators will go with their talents and games as they grow and learn.
And for those interested in some of my favorite games that I think we should all be excited about, I will give a small list of games and developers, some that I’ve already mentioned and some I haven’t, who deserve some love.
Kung Fu Kickball – WhaleFood Games
Super Space Club – GrahamOfLegend
Spywatch Lex – Scholarcade
DogFight – Petricore
Chromavaders – Corundum Games
Groove Catcher – Vizmoo
Tendar – Tender Claws
Spencer D’Hondt is a computer science major at Penn State Behrend and a game development intern at Grow a Generation. He also serves as a mentor to the Pa Distance video game Odyssey Fellowship Terms of Service.