Independent Games Festival Awards Celebrate the Best Indies on the Block

The Independent Games Festival Awards Ceremony kicked off with notes of euro-techno music, blinking neon lights quite a bit of smoke, and the roar of a jubilant crowd ready to see indie games given their due.

This is the 14th year that the awards ceremony has been held, honoring amateur developers who sunk time, tears, and quite a bit of their own cash to make their dreams come true. The competition is fierce, but the rewards are great: In addition to the fame and recognition of their peers and gaming fans around the world, there’s a total of $60,000 at stake, with the Grand Prize winner receiving a publishing deal that sees their game brought to market on PCs, the Xbox 360, and Windows Phone 7.

The evening’s host, Pocket Watch Games’ Andy Schatz, likened indie game developers to ancient Polynesian seafarers--intrepidly traveling bare-skinned, discovering amazing new worlds, and bringing fresh experiences to the people.

Such a long and painstaking journey is one Phil Fish and Polytron have undergone in the development of their game FEZ. They took home the Seamus McNally Grand Prize, handed over by Mojang’s “Notch” (the developer of Minecraft)--another great honor.

“Thank you so much, this means the world to me,” Fish said in his emotional remarks. “It’s been five [redacted] years. I don’t know what to say. Seriously… thank you, thank you.”

Alexander Bruce, developer of the game Antichamber, was equally emotive as his game received the award for Technical Excellence. Donning the lucky pink suit he wore a year ago when his team was up for the Nuovo Award he urged the amateur developers to keep at it: “The key is, I never stopped trying; and I hope you never do too.”

Robert Briscoe, Dear Esther’s level-designer, accepted the prize for Excellence in Visual Art, saying that his involvement with the project was at first recreational when he started three years ago, but it evolved to so much more. We had a chat with Robert Briscoe in the run up to the rewards ceremony, and he had quite a bit to say about the game development process.

Derek Yu and the Mossmouth team walked away with the Excellence in Design award for Spelunky. We had a conversation with him too, about the challenges he faced putting this dream together. Yu, up briefly, gave a sweet thanks to his parents.

Other 2012 IGF winners included Carnegie Mellon University’s Way for Best Student Game, Simogo’s Beat Sneak Bandit for Best Mobile Game, Amanita Design’s Botanicula for Excellence in Audio, Daniel Benmergui’s Storyteller for Nuovo Award, and Mode 7’s Frozen Synapse, which took home the Audience Award, decided by the public.

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