About three weeks ago, I went to Bento Miso’s Bit Bazaar Winter Market and since then I’ve been trying to focus on what struck me the most. I was made aware of the first Bit Bazaar, the Spring Fair, through the Toronto Comics Arts Festival and its second Comics Vs. Games creative jam and exhibit. It is an opportunity for video game creators, art-makers, and food distributors to sell their wares and have some face-to-face relation with their current and potential fans.
Bento Miso itself is a collaborative work space for independent video game developers, graphic artists, game journalists, start-up businesses, and other individuals and groups. It is also inclusive and it attempts to make itself into a minority, women, and LGBTQ-friendly safe environment. It also functions as a community space and, this year; it was really in full swing. The Bit Bazaar Winter Market covered two floors this time around: with food and drink vendors upstairs with a wide variety of games, and Torontrons and various comics artists, designers, and other exhibitor tables selling various products and awesome samples on the main floor.
What stands out for me is what the organizers and planners of the Winter Market did this year. Henry Faber, the co-founder of Bento Miso, the game designer Damian Sommer and others created a card game called Battle of the Bazaar. Essentially, what they did was they made forty-five cards (with a forty-sixth one being a rule card) that represented a majority of the exhibitor tables, specifically the main games, comics, creations and foods of the exhibitors and gave them numbers of power and special abilities. The particulars of the rules can be found on Bento Miso’s site, just as Daniel Kaszor of the Financial Post‘s “Post Arcade” goes into more detail on its creation in an interview with Henry Faber himself but what I would like to note is that each of these vendors and exhibitors possessed their cards. In order to get all of them for yourself, you had to go to each of their tables and either get one from them, or trade cards.
It was potentially a very useful tactic when you think about it. In addition to creating cards that embody the works of their exhibitors, as well as displaying the website information of all those involved (kind of like creative contact cards), the cards make up an interesting game, and the collecting of them made for a potential ice-breaker. It is true that you could go to a table near the entrance that sold the entire decks but part of the fun is collecting the cards and interacting with the exhibitors that had them. It definitely made for some interesting conversations of my own. When I wandered upstairs I began playing Apotheon, in a player verses player death-match with ancient Greek black-figure graphics (the kind you would find on pottery) in which you have to throw weapons at your opponent. After my opponent killed me brutally with a pleasant and friendly smile on his face as I barely figured out how to use the controls, I got this awesome looking “Thetis” card from the exhibitor table and it was how I became aware of the cards and eventually figured out what they were about.
I spent a lot of time at the Golden Gear Games table where I played Fate Tectonics: a game where a pretty 16-bit goddess sprite hovers over you as you attempt to build a world out of land pieces and you hope that she won’t strike you down with lightning if you get the puzzle sequences wrong. I actually bought the game in the form of hollowed out Gameboy cartridge USB port, along with some pins, a poster and a delicious brownie. I also went back and forth from that table to trade some cards with them (once I got their “Worldbuilding” card of course). Towards the end of my time there, I saw the software and game developer Alex Bethke who not only helped make Fate Tectonics but also collaborated with Dames Making Games in creating three interactive animated short stories in the form of comics. I even had the opportunity, after briefly speaking with Cecily Carver of Dames Making Games, to converse with Katie Foster on her multimedia game The Disappearance of Emily Butler. It is about a girl that returns to Newfoundland and discovers parts about her past that are more than she bargained for. What is really interesting about this game in development is that it is a point and click adventure that has an interactive comics element, with Foster being one of the Dames in Games that Alex Bethke and Golden Gear Games has created an electronic comic for. All of these interactive comics can be downloaded as the Swipe Comics Anthology Vol. I app for the IOS: which Katie Foster had on display at her table. It is truly remarkable and as someone who is fascinated in the comics medium and its interaction with video games, it is definitely something I’m going to keep an eye on for the near future.
I traded cards between these the DMG table and Golden Gear Games, making my rounds and finally making it to Christine Love and Nadine Lessio’s Interstellar Selfie Station where I got and traded some cards with her. I’ve written on Christine Love’s games at Mythic Bios and even mentioned her Twine Workshop at the WordPlay Festival that helped me in my own creative endeavors and I was definitely going to meet up with her. Her card is “*Old Mute” and after you use its power, it makes all of your subsequent, future cards have a minus one to their score. If you have played her Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus, you will realize just how appropriate this power truly is.
After passing by many other tables towards the end of the evening, I finally caved in and came to the Pianocade Table to find out what was being soldered and put together there. Basically, I got to play with a Wii Remote that created various sound effects depending on what buttons I pushed and how I swung it. Eventually, I came across Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Asteroid Base‘s table. I’d seen this game in passing at my first CanZine Festival and I actually had a twitter conversation with Jeannie Faber, another co-founder of Bento Miso and the Event Director of the Bit Bazaar. I was actually looking forward to meeting Jeannie Faber but we never had the opportunity to run into each other and as that table was very busy, I ended up just taking a card.
As the night drew to a close, I’d managed to accumulate forty-one of the forty-five Battle of the Bazaar cards. I didn’t get to converse with everyone, but I now have leisure to look at their information and get a better sense of what their products and wares were about along with what they as individuals or teams actually do.
On the Battle of the Bazaar card “Bento Miso” card, there is this specific description. It states, “At the end of the game, if you haven’t won a round, you win the game.” Three weeks ago now I didn’t get all the cards, do everything I wanted, or even knew what to do but I think as I walked out that night, watching my fellow geeks, couples, groups of friends, and families interact I felt as though I won the Battle of the Bazaar anyway: just by simply being there.
If you are interested, Bento Miso is selling packs of its Battle of the Bazaar cards, but there are only eight decks left for $26 plus $3 dollar shipping so you’d best hurry now. They are definitely cool to have.