May 23, 2014 5:30 PM | John Polson
The developers behind IGF Student Finalist Palette, Rooms, Sugar Cube, 6180 the moon, and semi-secret indie organization GameAde have joined together to bring a bit of Experimental Gameplay Workshop-inspired curation to Korea.
Jonghwa Kim, Sun Park, and Jay Jaewoo Jeon together run Out of Index, which has begun taking submissions to the first showcase. The event was inspired by the wildly popular GDC session, the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and will be inclusive in that any nationality, status, or age may submit, but only games with 'unprecedented, innovative game mechanics' will be chosen.
Submissions are due a month from now on June 22, and even though some of the details still need to be hammered out for the event, the developers sound passionate for the cause, as revealed in this online chat.
Where and when will the exhibit be? What companies and people are helping support the cause?
We've set the showcase date to July 19th. The place hasn't fixed yet, but the date wouldn't be changed as default. And about sponsorship. We're still trying to get great sponsors. Still not fixed anything but now we're talking with some companies for it. I think we could announce about sponsors within 2 weeks.
What will happen if you don't have a location for the showcase?
That is unlikely to happen. We already have a few candidates and trying to get the best place among them. Just as it is an experimental game festival, this event itself is an experimental for us, too :D
What other events or developers will be at this festival?
The festival will be showcase + party in a casual atmosphere. Selected developers will have time to present their game and talk about their experimental process, and audiences will have time to play selected games during the party. We are assuming audiences will mostly be independent game developers living in Korea and some press.
Have you attended before or learned of any public showcases or galleries of games in Korea?
Last year, number of indie developers organized a booth in G-Star to showcase their games last year. It was probably the first attempt to show independent games, and they raised some money through social funding in Korea.
Virtually, G-Star is the only game showcase in Korea, but this is mainly a marketing place for online games and major companies, which reflects the lack of variety of games in Korea.
There are no independent games showcase with diverse entries such as INDIECADE, IGF, PAX in Korea. This led us to start Out Of Index, so that we could find experimental games and encourage creating them.
What are your thoughts on South Korean games?
There are many great game developers and games they made. However, recently the whole game industry is overly biased toward mobile games based on messenger like KakaoTalk. The characteristics of these games can be categorized as F2P, grinding simple or minimum mechanic, competition through score, and gambling(gotcha system based on luck). It is a similar situation with the days when most game companies were making MMORPGs. It feels like the creative vision of developers is ignored for the sake of marketability. Yet, there are some game developers who keeps their vision, and the number of such developers keeps increasing.
Is there any evidence that there is a demand in South Korea for experimental or innovative games in the market?
Firstly, for the last 2-3 years, the Korean game industry was bombarded by mobile messenger-based games via Kakaotalk. However, the overall income and user number of Kakaotalk games is decreasing. Too many games were only focusing on one platform, and mindless clones have been pouring in. This worked for a while, but users are gradually turning away. (You can imagine what happened with Zynga and Facebook games) As a result, many small teams and companies are starting to break up. As many put 'Winter is coming', another Atari Shock seems like coming to the Korean game industry.
Secondly, so-called Shutdown law, which bans the youth (under 18) from playing games between midnight to 6am, were constitutionalized and confirmed to be legit by the court recently. Besides the unfairness of this law, we think many game developers and major companies in Korea are also responsible for it. Since they have not been making games diverse enough, games have been branded as harmful media. In Korea, games are considered as one type of drug.
Lastly, it should be game developers who are thirstier for the new type of games than players. Most of commercial big hit games in Korea have been the copycat of successful games from abroad. They just 'introduced' it a little earlier in a 'Korean' platform, and made billions of money. Some of them are even called to be successful and respectful figures of game developers. To be fair, this does not seem like an issue only to Korea - you know, the recent 'Flappy Syndrome' or Threes and 2048 case. Gamers who have been playing games long ago and game developers in Korea seem to be sick of this situation where mindless copycats gaining power. So do we! That is why we made Out Of Index.
*The organizers collectively participated in this Q&A, with Jonghwa Kim translating.