For a festival dedicated to the celebration of video games, the first Tribeca Games Festival dove deep into the influences and inspirations of other forms of entertainment and how the convergence of other mediums has helped games grow as an art form.
In partnership with Kill Screen Media, Inc., the inaugural Tribeca Games Festival took place on April 28-29 at Tribeca’s Spring Studios in New York City. The festival featured many famed developers both big and small from the gaming industry, such as Sam Lake, Ken Levine and even the legendary Hideo Kojima.
Along with important game developers, the festival also featured many accomplished film directors such as Brett Leonard, Neil Burger and Doug Liman. The festival included many other independent developers and filmmakers who are unique innovators in their mediums.
The first day of the Tribeca Games Festival featured a crowd-play of the beginning episode of Telltale Game’s “Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series,” allowing members of the crowd to interact with the developers as they demoed the game.
The second day was the real substance of the festival, featuring retrospectives of award-winning games, the keynote conversations from the top game developers in the industry and cross-cultural conversations between game creators, artists and filmmakers.
The morning program featured “X Post Conversations,” which were discussions between leading game developers, filmmakers and virtual reality developers on the innovations of their medium in relation to storytelling. The overarching theme stemming from these conversations was the concept of convergence and how these mediums are drawing techniques and styles from one another while innovating them in their own creative ways.
Ian Dallas, creative director of the indie game studio Giant Sparrow, spoke about their most recent game, “What Remains of Edith Finch,” and how storytelling in games has evolved from objective-based exposition into something much more free-form and exploratory.
“It’s a game about the unknown. There’s something about living in that world that’s appealing to players,” Dallas said. “We’re at a point with games where people aren’t surprised that they don’t have specific challenges or objectives.”
The morning and afternoon programs featured “Retro Active” discussions from developers who’ve pioneered and perfected innovative storytelling techniques, art styles, themes and motifs in the last five years of game development. Creators of “The Stanley Parable,” “Watch Dogs 2” and “Firewatch” all described their motivations and inspirations to write, create and develop their games in their unique styles.
The final afternoon program featured the “Keynote Conversations” of the festival, all streamed live on Twitch (twitch.tv/tribecagames).
The first conversation featured Lake, creator of the critically-acclaimed “Max Payne” series, “Alan Wake” and most recently “Quantum Break.” Also on the panel was Burger, the director behind the “Divergent” and “Limitless” films. The two discussed the paradigm of storytelling between film and games and compared each of their mediums’ limits as well as their capabilities.
While Burger focused on the linearity of perspective in film narrative, Lake described balancing the juxtaposition of world-building and storytelling.
“You chose what you want to take in, you chose what or how much you want to explore,” Lake said. “There’s an incredible mood that’s created and you can sort of go at your own pace.”
The second keynote conversation, with Kojima, was perhaps the most anticipated. Kojima talked about his personal experiences with film and how it influenced his life as well as inspired his game design. Kojima discussed his opinions on virtual reality and also gave a development update on his latest game, “Death Stranding.”
He also talked about what inspired his creative process in developing video games. When writing his critically-acclaimed “Metal Gear” series, he wanted to explore the concept of why a player should perform certain tasks, like in the original “Super Mario Bros.” Kojima said, “Why is Bowser kidnapping the princess? That’s what inspired me to start making games.”
The final keynote conversation was a discussion between veteran game developer Levine, famous for the “Bioshock” and “Thief” series, and Liman, the director behind the “The Bourne” series and “Edge of Tomorrow.” Liman described how many of the themes in “Edge of Tomorrow,” such as the evocation of emotions like frustration, fear, failure and anticipation, were all inspired by video games and gaming culture. Levine discussed narrative choice, such as what’s seen in “Bioshock,” and how to create a unified vision and desire as a development team.
Overall, The Tribeca Games Festival was a discussion on the future of video games as a medium, and how that future will be shaped by the technological and stylistic innovations of other mediums and the convergence of these ideas.