This weekend, the second annual LudoNarraCon convention kicks off from April 24 to 27. It's a festival of narrative games that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home. Sponsored by Steam in association with Australian-based Fellow Traveller, the online-only event will be chock full of more indie games to demo this year and include more panels and livestreams.
Fellow Traveller's Chris Wright spoke with TechRaptor about what to expect from this year's ultimate celebration of narrative games.
TechRaptor: How did you come up with the idea for LudoNarraCon?
Chris Wright: We used to go to a lot of events. PAX in Seattle and Boston, Gamescom. We started to see a pattern, we were building our calendar around going to events. In those environments, narrative games don't really thrive because they're noisy and crowded. But, everyone was "on the train" for attending those events. At the end of 2018, Steam and other developers approached us regarding streaming to their page. A lightbulb went on and that's how the convention on Steam was born. In 2019, we pulled out of PAX East and decided to use those resources for LudoNarraCon. It's become our central event every year. We realized that digital events can have a powerful effect.
TR: What's your background?
CW: I have 20 years of industry experience. I worked in PR in tech and youth culture, which included video games. I worked on early esports, the original Xbox and early music services. I ended up working at THQ in marketing. We focused on the Asia Pacific territories. Then I worked for two Australian TV studios. As someone who'd worked with indie labels in music, I wondered if the same could be done for games. And here we are, eight years strong.
TR: What do you think is the timeless appeal of narrative games?
CW: The potential for surprise. I've been playing games since the early '80s. In the '80s and '90s, people were still figuring games out so there were constant surprises. There's a lot in narrative games to be mined. I find the things around the edges exciting. Games are a unique storytelling medium, particularly the interactive aspect. With a game like Papers, Please, we see that we can have feelings through gameplay systems. Gamemakers have the potential to tell stories only the way they can. There are so many stories to explore.
TR: I know this is a difficult question, but what are your top 3 narrative games of all time?
CW: That is hard. I'd have to say Elite, which is an '80s. It's not narrative in format, but you really have to write in your own story. As far as point-and-click games, I'd say Beneath a Steel Sky. It was the first game I got a sound card for...! Papers, Please opened my eyes to how strongly narrative games can deal with serious issues.
TR: How has this pandemic affected the way you organized this year's LudoNarraCon?
CW: Hasn't affected it much. It was designed for this situation, but we didn't have this situation in mind when we designed it...! We started out as niche. We're interested in seeing if this will change how attendees come. We have a higher number of media attending this hear. Our platform is something people can build off of.
TR: What are you looking forward to most with this year's event?
CW: The two days of live content. Last year was much simpler. I'm also looking forward to seeing what exhibitors are doing. One team is doing three livestreams a day...! Will be interesting to see what people come up with.
TR: Why are games important?
CW: Entertainment is important. They're core to life. Games are escapism, which many need during these times. They also bring us together as a shared culture. We explore what it is to be alive. That's what we hope we accomplished with In Other Waters.
TR: Can you tell us about that game?
CW: It's about a xenobiologist who goes missing on planet. You play as AI in a diving suit who goes in search of him. It's very abstract, surreal. It's like an old school text adventure with an incredible interface. It's coming out at the end of the year.
TR: What other games do you have coming out?
CW: Paradise Killer and Suzerain. Paradise Killer is a first-person, open world murder mystery. Suzerain is a political strategy game set in 1950s Europe. It's similar to 80 Days. Another game we have coming out the end of the year is Genesis Noir, which we introduced at last year's convention. The story is set before, during and after the Big Bang. Over the next six months, keep an eye out for our games to drop.
This feature was written by Sonya Alexander.