Boston FIG Fest 2018: A Focus on Passion and Hard Work

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About a month ago I was in search of some video game events happening in and around the Boston area. Naturally, I turned to the old Google machine to aid in my quest for fun-filled gaming events. Lo and behold, one of the first results to turn up was FIG Fest 2018, being held on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After a quick read about the event, I obtained my pass and went hands-on with some rad, locally developed indie titles this past Saturday.

FIG Fest has been established as a way to showcase many different types of independently developed games. This doesn’t stop at the video game level either. There is an entire showcase of tabletop games on display as well. Covering two gymnasium floors with tabletop and video games was an impressive feat, no doubt, but what jumped out to me was how many developers were local to the Boston area. Living in Massachusetts my entire life, it’s been apparent that the bulk of the video game scene is located on the west coast. I was completely unaware of how deep the independent developer scene in the Boston area was. Giving developers a platform to showcase their games when most, if not all, of them are creating these on top of working a full-time job is one of the more genuine aspects of FIG Fest. There is no secret that this event is for the developers just as much as it’s for the attendees.

 The developers were just as excited as the attendees.

The developers were just as excited as the attendees.

While I was there, I had the chance to speak with multiple different developers (three of whom we recorded interviews with that will be released in the coming days). Each individual I talked to had their own unique story as to how they started creating their passion project, or how they even broke into the industry in the first place. For example one team was a father and son who worked on creating a mobile and tablet game called Loose Nozzles. The father, Chris Foster, is a game designer who took an idea from his then five year old son, Ian. From there they’ve worked together using Ian’s drawings as the art as well as his voice for the sound effects. What they’ve created so far is a wholesome experience that has a knack for leaving a smile on the player’s face. One common trait that I noticed with the majority of these individuals is that they are working on these games as a side project. That means that they work a full-time job and, basically, work another full-time job that may or may not yield any financial gains. In order for these creations to see the light of day there needs to be real passion behind the work. With every developer I conversed with it became abundantly clear that the passion was palpable.

Over the course of the next few days we will be releasing the interviews I conducted with Bennett Tyler of Bomb Shelter Games, Chris Venne and Khalil Abdullah of Decoy Games, and Josh Jacobs, the creator of Super Crome. One of the more fascinating details about the interviews is that they all start off similar — “What inspired you? How long has the process been? What were some unforeseen obstacles?” — but turn into uniquely personal conversations with three completely different developers making three completely different games. Connecting them together is that shared passion for games. In my conversation with Chris and Khalil about their upcoming game Swimsanity (a fast-paced, underwater, multiplayer experience), Kahlil mentioned how excited he was that FIG Fest provided him the opportunity to finally showcase his hard work to his family living in the area. While he said the words, I could feel the true sense of pride and excitement he had for the work his team had done. If I had to describe what FIG Fest is all about in one word I keep falling back towards only one choice: genuine.

After quite literally stumbling into this event by sheer luck, I can say with 100% certainty that this is now on my “can’t miss” list. From the moment I walked in the door, to my last conversation with some outrageously talented and driven developers, I felt a true sense of belonging. While I surely do not possess the same technical skills as the men and women exhibitors at FIG Fest, the one trait everyone in that building shared was a passion for video games. FIG Fest opened my eyes to the reality of how deep the independent developer scene in my own backyard is. I played some incredible games such as Super Crome, Swimsanity, Save Your Nuts, and Loose Nozzles, and I talked to some even more incredible people. If you’re in the Boston area, then do yourself a favor and add FIG Fest to your radar. I’m sure glad it showed up on mine.

 Co-founder of Decoy Games Ahmed Abdullah providing a tutorial of their upcoming game  Swimsanity .

Co-founder of Decoy Games Ahmed Abdullah providing a tutorial of their upcoming game Swimsanity.