Ten Candles is an interesting game. Billed as a “roleplaying game of tragic horror,” the game revolves around a group of survivors who are trying to survive in a world that has “gone dark.” As the game progresses, ten lit candles are gradually darkened until none remain. At this point, all of the survivors die. Stephen Dewey, the game’s creator, made the purpose of the game clear: “It’s meant to tell a story. Nobody is supposed to win or level up or anything typical of a standard roleplaying game. The players know the outcome going in.”
It is this attitude of thinking outside the box and shattering common tropes that brings together the developers, artists, and players at the Boston Festival of Indie Games. The first BFIG was held in 2012, and since then it has ballooned in size, consuming two floors of MIT’s Johnson Athletic Center. The Festival has garnered sponsorships from the likes of development companies, such as Unreal and Gamewright, as well as educational institutions, such as Becker College and the New England Institute of Technology. Most game developers and creators at BFIG are from the New England area and the greater Northeast Corridor, and many are graduates of local schools such as MIT and WPI.
Unlike most other gaming conventions, the developers here at BFIG are not really trying to sell you their game. They are trying to make connections, to show off their creativity and uniqueness, and to network and engage with others who love the same things they do. Some developers are at BFIG to foster laughter and fun, by peddling games such as “Cheer Up,” a mix-and-match card game inspired by the infamous Cards Against Humanity, and “Now Everybody Get The F**k Out,” where the player must rid their dorm room of partiers while they try to study for an exam. The latter in particular was developed by a recent graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and was based on his own experience. Other developers are there to make a change and raise awareness, like the developers of “Perception,” a game where you play as a blind person, and “Gerrymandering,” where you attempt to manipulate voting districts to in order to indirectly “rig” elections.
The description of the event is in its name. It is not a convention or an exposition. It is a festival; a celebration of self-made success, of fun and enjoyment, and of artistic vision. The very existence of an event like the Boston Festival of Indie Games signals a clear shift in culture not just for gamers, but for all consumers of media. This represents a shift that has been occurring continuously for decades; a shift away from corporate and mass-produced entertainment and toward the underdogs, the small businesses, and the one, ten, or fifty-person armies who create media out of sheer passion and enjoyment rather than a lust for cash and fame.
When asked about comparisons between his game (Ten Candles) and other, more mainstream tabletop RPGs—namely Dungeons & Dragons—Stephen Dewey made a statement that truly embodies independent culture in gaming:
“All of the big and profitable ideas have been done before. Why not try something different?”