Bit Bash brings indie game developers to Chicago

The following story originally appeared in The Torch, the student newspaper of Roosevelt University, on Sept. 13, 2014.

Bit Bash brings indie game developers to Chicago

By Dominic Gwinn

On Sept. 6, over 30 independent video game developers gathered at the headquarters of the Threadless T-shirt company for Chicago’s first indie games conference.

While D.J.s churned out electronic music, and “Blade Runner” was projected against the wall, a crowd of several hundred were able to get their hands on a selection of independent video games from all over the world.
Bit Bash, Chicago’s first large-scale independent games showcase and interactive arts festival, was the brainchild of Chicago’s own artists and developers, Indie City Games.
“It started with a little over 10 initial people invited on an email,” recalls Jamie Sanchez, Bit Bash’s Creative Director and Indie City Games member.

“We just started to ask what kind of ideas merge, and what we can possibly pull off by the end of summer…It took a while for us to determine, as a group, who we wanted in the show–like what games were ‘festival quality.’ We wanted games that maybe had interesting control schemes or were maybe a little subversive for the genre. Things that people wouldn’t necessarily pick up and play at home. We wanted a specific, unique environment.”

As an interactive exhibition, many of the games on display defied the definition of a video game, while others embraced the term.

“Choosatron,” by Jamie Belich, resembled the interactive book series, “Choose Your Own Adventure” by reprogramming receipt tape printer.

As players progress through their tale, they press one of four different buttons, which allows them to create a story that is gradually spat out.

“I did the ‘super hero’ story,” attendee Daniel Beleck said.

“I chose ‘run and help the lady in distress,’ so now she’s impressed with how strong I am, but then a knife falls out of [her attacker’s] pocket. I bend down to pick up the knife, but I’m too slow so he wrestled me to the ground, and…then he kills me. I want to try it again.”
Other games on display, such as Chicago resident Andy Saia’s farcical “Last Tango in Paradise Simulator,” utilized an old “Dance Dance Revolution” pad, bad motion capture animation and a personal passion for dance to amuse and delight.

“You actually don’t control the character, what you control is the tango, and in turn, the tango takes control of you,” Saia said. “It’s a passionate romance simulator…I felt this made a much more immersive experience for a show like this.

While volunteer coordinator Kyle Bailey helped check in the hundreds of attendees, he marveled at the crowd through a sigh of exhaustion.

“I’d say there’s probably over 500 people that showed up today, but I honestly lost track. There’s a lot of kids, a lot of parents, just a lot of first timers and a lot of support.”

“I want them to tell their friends because many of these games are scalable and available on Steam,” said Sanchez. “I want them to go out of their way to indoctrinate their friends, and get their friends excited about these things. A lot of individuals who look at video games think that it’s all “Call of Duty,” “Halo”, or the other AAA titles–like “Skylanders.” We’re definitely showing the creativity of these independent developers. We’re sharing the love.”

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