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  • Writer's pictureNate and Julie

Summer Game Fest 2024: A vibe check on Day 2's showcases

Day 2 of Summer Game Fest was full of peril for us here at VGG HQ (read: our internet died again and again during our livestream), but jam-packed with some of the best showcases of the summer for the rest of the world.

From the burgeoning normalization of accessibility in game design showcased at Laura Kate Dale’s Access-Ability Showcase to the truly award-worthy indie horror film that Devolver produced, Day 2 was inspiring all throughout. This is what video games are all about, folks.

Geoff Keighley even defied the odds and talked about layoffs! A true “when pigs fly” moment!

To summarize the day, we’re giving each showcase its very own vibe check: summarizing each show by how they made us feel and shouting out one game from each show that perfectly captured its vibe.

Let’s use our big hands for gaming to get a read on the vibes.

A gauge that showcases a quick look at the vibes assigned to each of Day 2's showcases. From left to right, Joyful is assigned to Access-Ability. Back on Track is assigned to Summer Game Fest, Truly Independent is assigned to Day of the Devs, Horrifying... in a good way is assigned to Devolver Direct. And horrifying... in a bad way assigned to a Furby-esque creature holding a soda can.


Vibe: Joyful

Laura Kate Dale’s sophomore showcase felt right. It felt optimized, tuned up, and all around improved after an already impressive debut. It balanced beautiful testimonials from disabled gamers and accessibility advocates with genuinely stunning looks at games that embody accessibility in all ways. It was well paced, it was informative, and it was a great show.

But what makes Access-Ability such a welcome addition to the summer lineup is just how joyful it is — how much it celebrates making gaming available to as many people as possible. How it educates folks, both those developing games and playing them, about the ways gaming can be made for all. 

It’s also an essential addition to this game-centric hype week because, too often, disabled gamers have to proceed with caution knowing that a newly announced game that sets their heart ablaze might not actually be accessible or playable for them.

When we watched it live, learning about the ingenious way the city-builder Cellular City was adapted for blind and vision-impaired gamers, I had one thing to say: if any developer says it’s impossible to make their game more accessible, they’re just not trying hard enough. We were lucky enough to have Laura herself in our chat at the time, and she noted how when developers share their accessibility tools with others and showcase them in shows like this, it helps show others the way forward. And that steady normalization of accessible game design is what we’re here for and why we’re excited to see what Laura might do with the show, including her big announcement that the Access-Ability show will be testing a winter placement later this year.

As Whitethorn Games’ Usability and Accessibility Specialist Zoey Reyes put it, “Our greatest strength is sharing knowledge we gain with each other, because together, we can make video games a more inclusive space for everyone.”


Periphery Synthetic was a game that host Laura Kate Dale loved its concept so much that she recorded a special segment to show it off, even though it wasn't able to get a formal trailer together in time for the showcase. If that doesn’t embody joy, I don’t know what does.

This game, from shiftBacktick, is a nonviolent Metroidvania about exploring a planet’s surface and slowly upgrading your ability to do so by gathering the planet’s resources. With a focus on its musical audio design, Periphery Synthetic is a game that can be played completely without visuals, making it a perfect game for folks with visual impairments. Check out the demo now! It's set to release in Q3 2024.


Vibe: Back on track

No, there was not a whiff of Dragon Age: The Veilguard (formerly Dreadwolf) or Kingdom Hearts 4 to satisfy some of the most frenzied gaming communities’ unlikely — not to mention, officially quashed — Summer Game Fest predictions. But something almost as improbable did happen. Geoff Keighley commented on the elephant in the room: the widespread layoffs and studio closures demolishing the stability and progress of the gaming industry.

It was neither specific nor scathing enough, all told — especially not when contrasted with publisher New Blood Interactive’s LA billboard publicly recognizing and naming several of the most recent losses of talent, including Arkane Austin, Roll7, Tango Gameworks, Volition Inc., London Studio, and everyone else laid off, downsized, and made redundant.

But still, Summer Game Fest left us with some air of hope that there are genuine efforts right now to resuscitate the industry as it’s being gobbled up by corporate mergers, acquisitions, and then the subsequent tightening of budgets; some inkling that there are people out there trying to give small or beginner teams the chance they deserve to use and develop their talents.

Firstly, we did see signs that Keighley’s beginning to listen to feedback — featuring fewer white guys in blazers, making greater efforts to invite speakers, presenters, and devs who better represent the diversity of gaming communities; and, of course, acknowledging (even in his own somewhat sugar coated way) the state of the industry today.

And while we appreciated the showrunner’s efforts, it was a couple of today’s announcements that truly reinvigorated our optimism…


Innersloth, the creators of Among Us, hit it big with their game — probably bigger than they’d ever dared to hope — after starting out with a tiny indie team fresh out of college. Today at Summer Game Fest, the team announced a new side project, Outersloth: a fund for indie developers looking to sustainably and freely make the games they want. They noted it’s an opportunity to say thanks to all the players and peers who have supported them and to offer the kinds of deals they would have wanted when they were starting out.

It was, for us, one of the most heartwarming things we took away from the show, in part because of the impact they’re setting out to make on small teams by leveraging their resources and influence, and in part because it’s just cool as heck to have seen their own journey to the top. You always hope to see people who climbed the ladder reach a hand back down to pull other people up; it’s less common that you actually see it happen. We came away with an even bigger respect for Innersloth today.

We also were blown away by Blumhouse Games’ hard and fast entry into the world of games. The new division of the popular horror film and TV studio Blumhouse (Paranormal Activity, M3GAN, Five Nights at Freddy’s) brings its resources and prestige to partnerships with original indie horror game devs of all calibers. Not only does their roster look amazing — their six announcements included PS1-era survival horror game Fear the Spotlight, murderous farming sim Grave Seasons, and Project C from Half Mermaid and Sam Barlow (!) — but they also discussed the mission of Blumhouse Games and the ways they’re hoping to grow the horror genre and support developers’ creativity.

Blumhouse CEO and founder, Jason Blum, said, “We’re going to look for creators and give them a platform, and encourage these creators to be weird and subversive, and find the most effed up, scariest things they can, and put them into really cool games.”

We’re stoked to see these partnerships and, hopefully, to see genuine investments made in new ideas and voices that will bring something special to the art form.


Vibe: Truly independent

Day of the Devs is always such a beautiful celebration of what’s possible in the indie space. A curated selection of some of the most inventive games in the industry, showcased alongside the incredible minds that make these games possible. It’s one of our favorite shows of the week every time it comes around but this year was special for one specific reason.

Days of the Devs has gone extra indie itself.

As of January of this year, Day of the Devs registered as a 100% independent nonprofit property, a full-on 501(c)(3) dedicated to showcasing and celebrating the creativity and diversity of gaming for years to come. The events it puts on, both digital and in-person, have always been entirely free for all involved, and by going legit like this, they are now able to pursue better funding opportunities and directly ask the public for donations to keep it going.

For all the ways the industry makes gamers feel helpless, watching studios big and small fade away with no way to directly affect change, Day of the Devs now offers you a place to donate your time and money to support independent initiatives all across the industry. And that’s so cool.

But then you look over the list of games featured and you see just how independent things get here: a sliding puzzle adventure game, a game that’s actually 50 games, and a game where your friends’ choices directly change the world around you. It’s just a special show.

GAME THAT CAPTURED THE VIBE: Building Relationships

Building Relationships is weird. Weird in that way where you know you have to get your hands on it as soon as possible. Weird in the sense that you think about it long after Summer Game Fest is over and tell everyone you know about it. And when its lead developer, Tanat Boozayaangool, tells you that it’s “like A Short Hike, but stupid”… you believe him. And immediately tab away to put it on your wishlist.

In Building Relationships, you spend a day rolling around an island as… a house. A house looking for a date. You’re asked things like if you’re a bottom floor or a rooftop. You go fishing… for cars. You learn how to wavedash. It’s the kind of thing that’s only possible in the indie space, and the kind of thing that shows like Day of the Devs are capable of uplifting in a way that no one else can. And we love that. Go check out the demo and wishlist it if you’re ready to meet some hot, single Bachelorx Pads near you.


Vibe: Horrifying (in the good way)

This year, Devolver may have produced their most filmic showcase yet. And that’s saying something considering the grindhouse gorefest we saw in 2023, and the practical effect-laden showcases of years past.

This year, Devolver stripped things back and focused its story on one man. One man with an obsession for Devolver’s catalog and, in particular, Devolver’s strange vole mascot, Volvy. His entire house is decked out in Volvy memorabilia, he ritualistically dresses up as Volvy’s human companion from the strange ’90s Volvy cartoon, and no, he doesn’t hear that weird thumping and whining coming from the attic. Do you? DO YOU?! … Good. Good.

This tension-riddled short had some genuinely chilling shots that rattled us… just as much as the sudden shifts into discussions about Devolver’s upcoming lineup of games tickled us. Like when the police come to check up on the noise complaints, only for our hero to hallucinate the protagonist from Anger Foot charging his door and literally kicking us out of the short and into the game’s trailer.

Devolver continues to surprise us with its offerings, and this year’s might be our favorite yet. Even if we’ll go to bed for the next week with Volvy’s muffled screams for help ringing in our ears…


Okay, so you might be asking yourself, “How in the world is the game where you film a drama-filled dating reality show horrifying? Especially when it’s as colorful and pretty as Nerial’s Crush House?” But once I say one name, you’ll know exactly how this game can dig into your skin and horrify you: CHORBY.

A Furby-esque creature with teal fur and a pig nose holds a can of "Rush Juice" in a strangely human hand. Text above and below reads "Here Have a Crush Juice Cause Yuo're Ebic."

This Furby-ass motherfucker is horrifying even before the trailer makes it clear he’s up to no good. Those big bulbous dead eyes. That pig nose. That dollop of whip cream placed delicately on his beautiful he- I MEAN HORRIBLE HEAD. 

Knowing he’ll be watching us as we film the contestants fighting, making out, and fighting again puts a chill down my spine. But I’ll keep an extra eye on him for everyone when Crush House launches August 9. Check out the demo now and wishlist it to help keep tabs on that FREAK.

Ready for more? Saturday, June 8 brings the Future of Play, Wholesome Direct, Latin American Games Showcase, Women-Led Games, and Future Games Show in succession from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. PST. We'll be co-streaming it over at Twitch.TV/Naetoid. And check out the rest of our Summer Game Fest coverage for more show recaps, highlights, and game and demo features.


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