IndieCade 2021: Interviewing Founder and CEO Stephanie Barish

Annabel Guo

Tune in this weekend for IndieCade 2021: Anywhere & Everywhere! This year’s festival will be featuring 48 of the newest and most innovative indie games from around the world, as well as exciting activities with our very own faculty from USC. To get an inside look at the event, we held a Q&A with IndieCade founder and CEO Stephanie Barish.

Q. How would you describe IndieCade’s mission and core values, and how have they become what they are today?

A. IndieCade is an international festival of independent games at its core. That’s what we were established to do, but we’ve branched out to be much more. Our mission is to really show that games are culturally important—that the work they do is meaningful and fun—and to put them on par with all the other media forms that are out there, as well as other art forms. Games are a little bit behind film, and getting that kind of recognition they deserve—all of these gamemakers really deserve that.

This is our 17th year, so we were really some of the first people out there trying to show what games can be. We have seen such an impact from our work, which is so rewarding. From the beginning, we’ve had a really diverse group of games. We were some of the first people to not just look at digital games, but also tabletop games, live role-playing games, alternative control games, VR games, and games that don’t even have genres yet—so that’s been very rewarding and exciting.

Q. With so many games being produced, it must have been difficult to choose the nominees. What made these games stand out?

A. We have a very, very lengthy and rigorous nomination process. It is really competitive to get your game selected. We don’t just look at the games: we look at the documentation, we look at the artistic statements of the gamemakers, and we look for innovation. We’re not looking for the “best of,” because it’s so subjective. We’re really looking for people that are innovating in ways that are meaningful, and we’re really interested in celebrating not just the people who win, but all of the people who are innovating.

Q. This is IndieCade’s second year online. How does it compare to meeting in a physical space?

A. People begged us to be online beforehand—in part because indie developers are coming from around the world, and they don’t necessarily have the funds. This really offers an opportunity for this population that’s really always struggled with that particular issue of accessibility. It’s both wonderful and really hard—for instance, we’re dealing with a million different time zones trying to show the games. We will definitely come back in some form in person, especially because a lot of our games are ones that people play together in outdoor spaces.

Q. IndieCade has grown so much since it began. Moving forward, what does the future of IndieCade look like?

A. Over the pandemic, we started something called Horizons—which is now our spring showcase—and that is focused on student work, because we realized it wasn’t getting the attention it should. Last year was our pilot. We had 30 schools participating, and we expect a lot more this year. We’re already working on it, and it’ll be in two parts this year: one part is for everyone to mix and interact, and the second part will be a full-on showcase. What we’re doing in the future is just a continuation of what we’ve always done, which is finding new ways to let new voices and creativity be heard.

Q. What will the experience be like for attendees, and what should they expect from the programming?

A. This event is going to be great. It’s basically got two components: one is a stream on Twitch, which is free and open to anybody. It’s going to have all 48 games shown in short bits. You can tune in and out, but every 15 to 20 minutes you’ll get a new game. We also have an Iron Game Design Challenge that will take place on Friday; in fact, USC is going to be one of the competitors. We also have a show-and-tell that will take place on Saturday, and then we have the awards show. Everyone who registers for free is going to have access to everything that’s playable, as well as the demos!

The three-day event will be streamed on Twitch beginning Friday, October 22 at 8:00 AM PDT, and the awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, October 24 at 12:00 PM PDT. USC Games is excited to be a partner with IndieCade. Register now for free to gain exclusive access to discussion, gameplay, and more!