IndieCade CEO Stephanie Barish operates at the heart of the independent-development community, running shows throughout the year that highlight some of the most innovative, thoughtful and beautiful games the industry has to offer.
This year, IndieCade sponsored the #ResistJam, an international competition “about creating games that resist oppressive authoritarianism in all its forms.” The #ResistJam took place in March, not long after President Donald Trump unexpectedly signed a contentious, and ultimately unenforceable, executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US. Protests sprang up around the nation, and the jam was meant to give game developers a unique outlet for activism, organizers said.
But, the “resistance” theme wasn’t something IndieCade or any of the jam founders forced on developers, Barish told Engadget at E3. Instead, she said the theme was a reaction to developers themselves — they were building experiences about marginalized communities and demanding an outlet to express their political displeasure.
For these same reasons, the IndieCade booth at E3 was packed with personal projects and socially aware stories, including Borders, The Cat in the Hijab, RIOT: Civil Unrest, Tracking Ida and O for Oppression. Some of these games — The Cat in the Hijab and O for Oppression, for example — actually popped into existence during the #ResistJam itself.
For many developers creating resistance games, these projects aren’t just themes or stories; they’re reality. One developer, SnowVR creator Ali Eslami, decided it was too much of a risk to travel to the United States from his hometown of Tehran, Iran, considering the President’s attempts to block and detain people from the region.
“They could not attend based on all the travel restrictions and visas and personal concern for coming,” Barish said. “So, we’re so delighted because other developers — it’s so collegial and so kind — came to showcase their game for them. It’s really neat to have this community and everybody coming together.”
IndieCade has a history of supporting games with a strong stance on political issues and providing a space for social commentary. Last year, the full IndieCade festival highlighted titles including Killbox, a game about the dehumanizing aspects of drone warfare, and 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, an award-winning game that was recently included in a UN-commissioned paper on digital conflict resolution.