Play NYC has come and gone yet again. The second year of this Manhattan-based gaming convention created by Playcrafting's Dan Butchko had a lot of changes including a new venue (the Hammerstein Ballroom in the Manhattan Center), more developers, and a whole sea of people from TechRaptor going to cover all of the wonderful things to play.
This year, I was fortunate to be joined by Courtney Ehrenhofler, Robert Grosso, and Samuel Guglielmo as my convention comrades-in-arms, with Taylor Lyles unfortunately not being able to make it in the end despite plans to do so. Media was able to get into the venue an hour early for a bit of time with any exhibitors we wanted to see without having to worry about thousands of attendees milling about. The four of us more or less made it on time and got cracking.
At 10:00 AM, the convention was open to the general public and attendees started to trickle in. There were over a hundred video games and tabletop games spread across four floors in the Hammerstein Ballroom. The building itself is quite old, and the staircases were a bit of a confusing maze; one particular path required that you head upstairs and then back downstairs to actually make it up to the next floor.
Even with the borderline-Escherian architecture, the Manhattan Center proved to be a much more serviceable venue for this type of event compared to Terminal 5. Terminal 5 is well-suited to concerts or parties, but a convention requires room to move around and decent lighting. Just like last year's Play NYC, there were thousands of attendees happily playing games all throughout the provided space.
Although the Hammerstein Ballroom is technically smaller in terms of square footage as compared to Terminal 5, the space is arranged in a much better way for setting up booths and moving around. With the exception of the second-floor balcony, I had absolutely no problems navigating the convention in my 21 hours and change at Play NYC 2018.
This year's show had over a hundred developers and nearly 150 games, all of which were playable. There was something for everybody at Play NYC, and I think that's part of the magic of collecting a bunch of super-creative and very talented indie developers all under one roof. Here are just a handful of the highlights I personally saw:
Wicked Apples is a like a really evil version of the classic memory game. Every player is given four random apples. Every apple has an effect, but one of the four apples is a wicked apple that instantly kills you. You get to look at your four cards before placing them down and never looking at them again. Each turn, you can either pass a card to someone else at the table or peek at one of the cards in front of you. I specifically made time to play with Courtney, Sam, and Rob, and we had an absolute blast with the game. So much so that Robert Grosso bought a copy for himself right then and there, and I strongly recommended it to one of my friends who's an absolute nut about tabletop games. You can buy it on their site right now.
Battle For Humanity is part social network, part game. Supported by PeaceDay365, Battle For Humanity aims to get people out and about actually solving problems rather than just arguing about them through a series of user-created (and, of course, moderator-approved) missions. It's an ambitious project, and I have my doubts about how it will fare once its out in the real world on a large scale. It's nonetheless an admirable goal, and I think it might be an interesting thing for socially-conscious people to check out.
Cell to Singularity is an idle clicker game much like Cookie Clicker. However, this particular title falls under the rare category of "educational games that are actually fun." You collect stuff and progress along a tech tree, but the tech tree in this game is the evolutionary path that led us to where we are as a planet today. The game begins at the microscopic level and is set to end at the technological singularity, a theoretical future point where technological growth ramps up at an alarmingly fast pace. You can play it for free right now. You should absolutely check it out if you're a fan of idle games.
Scuba the Submersible's Ocean Odyssey is but one of many VR titles at Play NYC. This too was an educational game that was actually fun to play—a rare treat indeed. You take command of a robotic underwater drone that was likened to WALL-E by the developers. It's your job to pick up plastic bottles littering the ocean floor and blast apart huge chunks of garbage. The demo ended on a depressing note, sadly—right as you finish your cleanup, a passing ship dumps a barrel of toxic waste overboard. This will be a problem you can probably fix in the more complete version of the game, which will feature around 30 levels and all sorts of crafting and exploration in your quest to clean up the ocean.
Kingdom Bash is a PvP twin-stick shooter that I had first seen at a previous Playcrafting event but was unable to play due to time. On the second day of the show, I wrangled Rob and Sam to come play it with myself and the developer. I got absolutely demolished, and Robert Grosso picked up the game rather quickly and became a surprisingly dangerous opponent. The game is currently in alpha as a shared screen local multiplayer title and can be picked up on Itch.io for whatever price you want.
Aquamarine is a title that fans of Faster Than Light are absolutely going to want to keep their eyes on. Players command an escape pod sub that crashed into the ocean of an alien world; you'll have to do your best to manage your resources and safely make it back to your downed ship before getting eaten by a giant enemy crab. I thought it was a well-executed concept, although it's still very early in its development, and it will be a little while before we see more about the game. For now, you can follow the developer on Twitter.
Of course, Play NYC had some big shots there, too. Red Bull took up a double-wide booth for people to play soccer games at—an unsurprising choice considering that they sponsor New York State's Major League Soccer team. Avalanche Studios was front and center on the first floor with Mad Max and Just Cause 3 playable and Just Cause 4 footage playing throughout the day.
One of the strangest (yet most interesting booths) was that of FancyDannn, a Twitch streamer I had honestly never heard of before. My advance research showed that he was just getting his start, and I was curious why he spent the money on a booth for Play NYC at such an early point in his streaming career. His response? He loves streaming and he thought it would be fun—simple as that. He was a great guy.
Charitable causes made a showing, too. Ablegamers, Extra Life, and GaymerX were all represented at Play NYC, advocating for their respective causes. Thousands of gamers congregating in one place is a rare opportunity, and these organizations sought to ensure that some genuine good comes out of the show amid all of the fun and games.
One of the most interesting highlights of the show was the six Graffiti Games, purpose-built games created by immigrant developers on commission for Play NYC. Each of the games occupied one of six opera boxes in the Hammerstein Ballroom. They ranged from the pedestrian-racing experience 127 BPM to alpaca-feeding simulator The Llama Express. The Graffiti Games brought interesting and unique experiences for all to Play NYC, and some of them will surely go on to be developed as fully-fledged titles in some form.
Play NYC 2018 was an absolute blast. The new venue is fantastic and all kinds of interesting developers turned out to show off what they're passionate about. The only downside about the whole thing is having to wait an entire year for it to come around again. I had so much fun attending it with my colleagues and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Playcrafting has in store for the future.
What do you think of Play NYC? Does it sound like a convention you would be interested in attending? Let us know in the comments below! Check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub.