Also known as Tokyo Sandbox, Tokyo Indie Fest is an event that caters to fans and developers alike who all share a passion to promote indie titles to the world. Games range from simple mobile titles to the more lucrative such as the PS VR along with the Oculus Rift, with every title providing their unique experience. The event is meant to gather everyone together to help build the indie scene and to help small companies establish credibility in the vastly evolving game industry. It’s an exciting event since anyone can walk in and take a look at all of the hard work and dedication so much of these teams put into their games to see it succeed. With over 80 developers in attendance this year’s Tokyo Indie Fest is stacked and so there’s much to see and play at the event.
It should come as no surprise that Tokyo Indie Fest is generally catered towards the indie scene, so once you enter the venue at Akiba Square you’re walking into a gaming laboratory filled with an array of masterminds at work promoting their products. It’s truly a gamer’s dream to be part of Tokyo Indie Fest since it all takes place in Akihabara, the main hub for all things pertaining to Japan’s anime pop culture. Think of Tokyo Indie Fest as your modern day indie arcade, where you walk in and you’ve people waiting in line eagerly to try out the unique titles, while having a chance to strike a conversation with the developers themselves. It’s a great atmosphere to be in because every where you turn there’s something fresh and innovative to try out, and you never really know what to expect to be honest. That’s the sheer thrill of being at Tokyo Indie Fest because you’re never too sure what you’ll be in for, but chances are once you walk out of the event everything will resonate in your mind. Whether you’re into console gaming with such consoles as PC, Nintendo’s Switch, or Sony’s PlayStation 4, or prefer the on-the-go flow with mobile gaming, Tokyo Indie Fest has it all for anyone to enjoy and it’s one experience we recommend you try out if you ever come out to Akihabara.
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
If you attended business day like we did, then it’s imperative that you bring your business cards so that you can meet and greet with the developers, and share contact information for future business endeavors. Since the event is in Akihabara (3 min walk from the station) we assume that shopping will certainly be on your mind, so having a pocket full of yen would be essential since you never know what may pop up that may be enticing. With such a variety of games on display it’s hard to imagine that there’d be no merchandise, so make sure to come prepared in case you want to buy an exclusive Tokyo Indie Fest T-shirt for example. This applies not only to those attending for the business day but also the public day since a lot of developers would love to hear your feedback, so buying a copy of their game not only helps them in the long run but also helps to promote the game in some way, especially if you enjoy it.
Lastly, a camera is perhaps your most important weapon of choice when attending Tokyo Indie Fest because there’s just so much to soak in, so having some memories to cherish after leaving is quite satisfying. It doesn’t have to be any state of the art camera but as long as you have something to capture the energy and passion within the venue, that’s enough to get by.
What to do While There / What is Available
As we stated earlier, Tokyo Indie Fest is an event that helps to promote indie companies with the help of Twitch to stream everything live for fans to tune in. Everyone gathers under one roof to share the very same passion, and that’s to play games while also watching various companies get their time to shine during interviews. The minute you walk into the event, you’re immediately greeted by like minded people who all share a collective love for gaming and so, if you’re a gamer too then it’s like an indie paradise! There’s an cornucopia of titles to choose from, ranging from RPGs, to unique PS VR titles such as Gattai Games’ award winning mic-enabled sound game Stifled, which uses pulses from your voice in order to create new paths for you to see. The only issue is that the enemy can also hear your voice too, so it becomes a game of knowing just when to be silent but strategically using pitch to open new routes to avoid being attacked. We took our sweet time to check out what was in attendance, but the place was jam packed and everyone was eager to test out these new titles. Sadly we didn’t get a chance to visit every booth but we had an absolute blast in the VR section. Perhaps the reason VR stood out to us most in the whole event was because the platform is still evolving, and with so many unique ideas being released for it we wanted to see just what to expect. One title that we were totally blown away by was Headbutt Factory by GemDrops Game Studios. The game not only had spectacular visuals, but instead of using a controller you’d use your head to lob balls at obstacles that lie in your path. It felt a lot like soccer practice as you’d line up your head with the incoming ball and aim for the targets ahead of you. At first it felt a bit awkward since getting the right angle on the ball was a little tricky, but the more you continue playing everything starts to feel more fluid and as the obstacles become even harder you really start to get into the game. The character designs are very cute with the level design feeling very much like a fantasy world. If you’d like to know more about Headbutt Factory, check out our latest press release on them.
Students were also in attendance to show off their unique titles, with some using bananas as controllers while others take inspiration from childhood classics like Whack-A-Mole, and put their own spin on it. This kaleidoscope of ideas just kept trickling down out of the blue as we wandered around, and the student area was arguably one of the best parts of Tokyo Indie Fest. It wasn’t just about showing off your digital prowess but demonstrating that even the games we grew up with can still be enjoyed with a more unique twist attached to them. These young and upcoming enthusiasts are just the right individuals we need in order to help keep this community growing, because they are the seed of the future and Tokyo Indie Fest was the event to help nurture their craft.
Tokyo Indie Fest shines its light predominantly on games but it’s important to note that while games are the focal point, one aspect that perhaps gets overshadowed is that it’s multicultural. People from all different parts of the world come together to share their passion for games and that’s such a beautiful thing because not only do you get a chance to see everything in action, you also get an opportunity to develop a better understanding of the cultural differences. This becomes very clear in the games themselves and is what makes playing every game such an endearing experience, because in a way we’re getting a taste of culture through gaming. One major booth that caught our attention was Holland, where two bright individuals were at the event to help promote the Dutch gaming culture in Japan. Ashley and Luite were kind enough to share their insights on the event and stated that their mission was to help others around the world get a better glimpse of the Dutch culture, and using Tokyo Indie Fest to promote that was perhaps the best choice. It’s such a remarkable thing to experience because you come to learn about each country’s unique characteristics, personalities and appeal through simply picking up a controller or even watching a trailer. We always try to look for the gems and Holland’s booth was certainly one because it nailed two things, educating gamers about Holland’s cultural authenticity while bridging that cultural gap by using games to drive the message home.
That’s perhaps the beauty of gaming as it stands at the moment, much like the human race, there’s so much to learn and discover from everyone and everything you encounter. Gaming has no boundaries and just about anyone can participate in this event whether you’re a solo artist looking for a big break, or a relatively large indie company looking to expand on an international level. With so much diversity both culturally and on a gaming level, Tokyo Indie Fest is like the UN for gamers who are passionate about what they love and use that to build long term friendships and help to unite a community. Whether you’re from Canada, Japan, China, Singapore, or Korea, it doesn’t matter what language you speak because in the end gaming is universal and it’s a language that’s understood no matter where you go.
Honey's Anime Final Thoughts
While the event has come and gone, it’s presence can still be felt in the ever evolving city of Akihabara. No matter where you go there’s always something new to see and do in this electric town, and perhaps that’s a very fitting place to have such an event like Tokyo Indie Fest. The indie scene much like Akihabara is constantly changing with the times, and as generations pass more and more ideas will start to pop up which will only breathe new life into this unique culture. We’d like to thank all of the developers who made an effort to share their projects with the public and we wish you all the best on your gaming endeavors! If you’re ever in Tokyo next year and want to check out some of the best upcoming indie titles, then be sure not to miss Tokyo Indie Fest because it’s worth every penny.
As always, for everything sweet be sure to keep it locked here on Honey's Anime!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!