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The Best Of Indie Game And Installation Festival "ACT/DESIGN"

Preview some of the best indie games of 2011, and see how installations are becoming even more engaging.

We’re huge fans of video games—who wouldn’t love a medium that combines the best of film, visual art, music, narrative, comics, and game mechanics into one glorious, neat little package? But the ones that really get our thumbs blistered are the indie titles, which tend to appeal to the philosopher in each of us with their abstract, existential themes or their avant-garde, artful designs. They’re also the ones most likely to be displayed in 80s-style retro arcade cabinets (a la Babycastles), which is a nice nostalgic flourish we can’t help but appreciate.


Last weekend the Global Creativity Forum in Shanghai held a massive exhibition called “ACT/DESIGN” focused on indie games. The survey exhibition celebrated the best of what the indie genre has to offer, and was organized by the Shanghai Theater Academy in conjunction with the Polytechnic University of Milan, and curated by digital entertainment professor Ding Zhaochen and Italian indie game designer Pietro Righi Riva.

Three sets of events took place: “UNARCADE-Shanghai” and “Digital Entertainment Jam-Lite,” which showcased video game-based works from seven countries including 10 outdoor commercial video game works, and the “One Button Workshop,” where designers and video game lovers worked together to develop simple and interesting video games.

We’ve assembled a list of our favorite works from the show—a group of games we can’t wait to get our games (or fingers?) on…


Lexaloffle Games: Voxatron

Voxatron is a multi-shooter adventure game for the PC assembled from voxels. Depending on how many monsters the player can fend off, prizes like sushi or chocolate are awarded, and extra lives are packaged as wrapped presents. The playful animations and cute design and 8-bit soundtrack definitely underplays the violence in this one.

Coco & Co: WAY

WAY is a free game for Mac and PC that is based on communication with an anonymous partner in order to solve puzzles. The catch? The players are not allowed to express themselves through language, only via gestures.


Terry Cavanagh: At a Distance

At a Distance is a two-player game designed to be played on two computers placed side by side. “It’s a game about solitude and shared experience,” says Cavanagh.

Twisted Tree Games: Proteus

Proteus is a wilderness exploration game where the different worlds unveil (with weather, seasons, day and night) according to your movements. Although there isn’t a final destination, the soundtrack by David Kanaga and the vivid visuals are pretty and enjoyable.

Broken Rules: Chasing Aurora

Chasing Aurora is an aerial-focused multi-player game, in which you must fly through the Alps and fight the Bird People in order to return Aurora (the dawn) back to the skies.

Coconut Island Studio: Crossout

Crossout is an action survival played using only one key. Embodying an ancient African war god, your goal is to hit and destroy enemies with your tail.

Interactive Installations

Mr. Beam: Living Room

Using only two projectors, Mr. Beam gives a drab living room a variety of 360-degree projection mapped makeovers.

Karolina Sobecka: Sniff

Sniff is an interactive installation projected on a shop’s storefront. When a person walks by, a camera grabs his or her shape and movement and projects a virtual dog that reacts to the person’s motion. Sniff’s software development was led by James George of Antagonistic Applications.

Matthias Dörfelt: Selective Memory Theater

Selective Memory Theater is a memory and perception “machine” that distorts, mixes and blends the newest images from Flickr, giving light to both our short and long-term memory processes.

Timo Arnall and Jack Schulze of BERG: Nearness

Nearness is a short film that explores interaction without touch though the use of RIFD tags and a Rube Goldberg Machine.