I had a wonderful time at IndieCade in Culver City last weekend, and it was great to have Blue Lacuna participate as a finalist. I'll have some more things to say about the festival and reactions to my game later in the week, but I wanted to first devote a post to what was, for me, the best moment of the weekend.
Saturday afternoon I attended a keynote address by Brenda Brathwaite. Most recently in the news for last year's controversial game Train, Brenda spoke about the larger series of games it's part of, "The Mechanic is the Message," which explores human tragedy on both personal and stunningly epic scales. Starting with a joke that "tragedy in most games is not having enough hit points," Brenda moved on to speak about the power games can have to move us emotionally, and connect us to stories and histories through simulation and reenactment. Originating with a desire to help her daughter understand that the slave trade was not just about "black people going on a cruise," Brenda has spent several years crafting a series of games and meta-games exploring the systems behind violence perpetuated on groups of people, saying "wherever there is human on human tragedy, there is always a system." In the same way we can understand a system of urban planning by playing SimCity, Brenda wants to make games that help us understand the pervasive systems of exploitation, coercion and complicity behind genocides and removals, and how individuals who think of themselves as moral can get caught up in these systems to perform acts of terrible immorality. The talk was incredibly powerful, and led to a lot of self-reflection on my own projects and ideas for future work.