In 2012, game designer Tim Schafer – the man behind fan-favorites Psychonauts and Brütal Legend – decided that he wanted to create a different kind of gathering for video game fans. Inspired by the indie spirit, he wanted to build something that was the antithesis of the most high profile game show – the noisy, big-budget Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The gaming festival that he ultimately created, Day of the Devs, is now in its fourth year and will be holding its largest event yet this Saturday in San Francisco. It is completely free, open to anyone, and attendees will be able to check out more than 50 hotly anticipated indie games before their release.
Schafer attended the first of the annual E3 industry trade shows in May of 1995. At the time, he was a designer at Lucasarts – the game studio attached to Lucasfilm – in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he created quirky, hilarious graphic adventure titles like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle. His work topped the charts and developed an ardent cult following, but at E3, it was literally drowned out by the spectacle on the show floor in Los Angeles.
E3 is ground zero of the console wars, and publishers and platform holders compete to see who can build the most elaborate booth, and who can create the most deafening din. “There were lasers everywhere, and the sound was cranked to 11,” Schafer says. “There were no limits on the sound a booth could pump out back then.” (People working the booths nowadays carry decibel recorders so they can make sure that no one is violating legal limits on noise.)
Schafer recalls being so overwhelmed by the cacophony and the chaos of E3 that he literally had to flee the convention hall. “I was hiding behind the Port-A-Potties out back and just panting; I was so relieved to be out of that,” he says.