Take a quick peek outside and you’ll see that Spring is almost here, which means in a short few weeks the Independent Game Festival will be rolling into San Francisco as part of the Game Developers Conference. Taking place between the 25th and the 29th of March, the IGF is perhaps the most important date on every indie developers calendar. Thanks to an increased media presence in recent years the festival has become an amazing exhibition platform, essentially giving the latest indie titles worldwide exposure.

Now in its fifteenth year, the centerpiece of the festival are undoubtedly the IGF Awards. Divided across seven categories, each housing five nominees, the awards celebrate excellence in visual art, narrative, technical skill, design, audio and innovation. Previous winners, such as Fez, Limbo and Amnesia: The Dark Descent have gone on to achieve both critical and commercial success. Did I mention that there is a total of $50,000 up for grabs between the different awards?

With that kind of exposure and prize money available it should come as no surprise that gaining entry to the contest is pretty tough. This year there were a whopping 567 games submitted to the competition for consideration. These were then whittled down to the final five per-category by around 200 acting judges. On January 7th the finalists were unveiled, they are as follows…

Excellence In Visual Art

Incredipede (Northway Games and Thomas Shahan)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Guacamelee! (Drinkbox Studios)
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)
Year Walk (Simogo)

Excellence In Narrative

Thirty Flights of Loving (Blendo Games)
Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company)

Technical Excellence

StarForge (CodeHatch)
Perspective (DigiPen Widdershins)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Intrusion 2 (Aleksey Abramenko)
LiquidSketch (Tobias Neukom)

Excellence In Design

Samurai Gunn (Beau Blyth)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Starseed Pilgrim (Droqen & Ryan Roth)
Super Hexagon (Terry Cavanagh)
Super Space ______ (David Scamehorn & Alexander Baard/DigiPen)

Excellence In Audio

Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)
Bad Hotel (Lucky Frame)
140 (Jeppe Carlsen)
Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)
Pixeljunk 4AM (Q-Games)

Nuovo Award

Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Spaceteam (Henry Smith)
Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante)
Bientot l’ete (Tale of Tales)
7 Grand Steps (Mousechief)
MirrorMoon (SantaRagione + BloodyMonkey)
VESPER.5 (Michael Brough)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Hotline Miami (Dennaton Games)
FTL: Faster Than Light (Subset Games)
Cart Life (Richard Hofmeier)
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)
Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer)

Now, for the reason I’m telling you all this: I’ve decided to spend the run up to the awards by playing as many of the titles nominated for awards as I can. I won’t be able to play them all, mainly due to time, financial and hardware constrains, but also simply because some of the games listed are unfinished and therefore haven’t been released yet. (Gone Home, I’m looking at you!)

I won’t be aiming to play each game to completion either, instead I’ll be putting an hour or so into each, maybe a little more if something grabs me, so the words you can expect read on these pages over the coming weeks won’t be reviews per se, but more like impression pieces. Consider them your spotlight on the IGF 2013.

Oh, and before I forget, IGF also run an Audience Award. You can vote for your pick of any of the finalists at http://www.igf.com/audience.php. You should totally go do that now.