Remember Flynn’s Arcade? You know, from the opening scene of Tron. Jeff Bridge’s character was an ex-software dev turned arcade owner and host of the titular cabinet. Blah blah blah. I don’t need to give you a summary of Tron here, you’ve seen it or know it, but if you’re like me then something in particular sticks out about Flynn’s Arcade.
I grew up in a small podunk town where the closest thing we had to an arcade was the Pizza Hut that housed a single sad Galaga machine. There was a time in America, though, when arcades were huge. The origin of video games was social, more at home in adult oriented bars and arcade clubs than the archetypal dark basement. Games and Sports have been social events for the vast majority of human history, barring the occasional lone game of Solitaire. Arcades were no different, but in the ensuing years of the slow demise of arcades, the only thing left today are busted up Chuckie Cheeses, the kid equivalent of a destitute Las Vegas weekend trip.
Juegos Rancheros is a monthly meet-up hosted by Brandon Boyer, founder of Venus Patrol, and the chairman of the Independent Games Festival. I’ve been going to Juegos for about half year now and it’s consistently the most thought provoking and fun local event I go to. You should go too.
I decided to cover Juegos this month for Loser City because they were presenting Sportsfriends, an indie game compilation that encapsulates the scene fostered by Juegos. Four Games: Pole Riders, Bariball, Hokra, and Johann Sebastian Joust.
So when I saw that these games had been collected into a single package for commercial release, I was pretty excited. Aside from Pole Riders, available online as a flash game, none of these games have been released publicly. They’re in person games only. This art gallery inspired approach has been gaining traction in indie game circles for the last few years. Another example is the recently release Nidhogg, which has toured all over the world before finally coming out on Steam this April. The format works best for socially focused games that have a finely tuned competitive aspect, and Sportsfriends are some of the finest examples of that game design philosophy.
Games have been social for most of human history and really only in the last 15-20 years that we’ve come to think of them as 1P only events. Sportsfriends brings that back.
Let’s start off with Pole Riders.
Next up is Hokra.
Hokra Trailer from Ramiro Corbetta on Vimeo.
BaraBariBall was the new addition, and my favorite that night.
BARABARIBALL TRAILER from noah on Vimeo.
Last was Johann Sebastian Joust.
Johann Sebastian Joust from Die Gute Fabrik on Vimeo.
I honestly believe that 20 years from now people will look back on Austin’s indie game scene as historically important for the development of the medium, in the same way that people look back at the Café Guerbois as being historically important to the development of painting, or CBGB for punk music. The people making indie games here today are some of the first of a generation of people who not only make video games, but grew up with video games. We are a multimedia literate generation, and that aspect can be seen in the tone of the community that Juegos Rancheros encourages. Its roots are in video game culture, but also in music, and movies, internet jokes, animation, TV, books, and the personal relationship you foster over a beer. It’s as much a scene as any music scene and perhaps a far more important one as the fledgeling new medium of videogames and other forms of interactive art have bounds of untapped potential and more room to grow than any previous medium that has come before. Call me an optimistic bag of wind, but I truly believe that interactive forms of art are the future, and we will look back someday and remember that we saw some of that future in it’s infancy ourselves.