Game City 5

It has not been long that I have been going to Newport Uni and already I am off on a trip to Nottingham to participate in GameCity. This is a games festival with a difference, and one of the most surprising factors for me is that it will also feature an exhibition of third year work from my University. So it should also prove both motivating and terrifying seeing the standard that is expected of us current first years by the time we reach the third year!

The map of GameCity in the city of Nottingham. There were things going on in many different places. (Note not all are noted on this map.)

As with most of these events there is usually a lot going on that it would be hard to take everything all in on the first visit, especially if it is also the first visit to Nottingham also. The city itself I think is well suited to this festival with enough space to accommodate the varied events, but also provide enough distractions if the event listing isn’t to your taste that day. One such distraction for me was the large Waterstones store there and the independent comic book store Page 45, which was also promoting local comic artists alongside the video games from Newport in the main tent. Something like this was great to see as it is a convergence of mediums that I think the video game industry needs more often. What was even more surprising was the board game event in the main exhibition tent mid way though the celebrations – this was something I personally enjoyed as it has been a long time since I was around people that enjoyed playing games that required paper and imagination. I believe this was run by the local group called Gambling Lambs who arrange gaming get together and were invited to take part in GameCity a few years back.

As the event catered for a lot of different gaming tastes and gaming ways there was a lot going on, and I sadly didn’t get to go to all the things I saw on the event listings. The ones I am gutted about missing the most was the PixelJunk talk and the playground talk from Keita Takahashi. So I know for next year that I need to prioritise more and stay on at the event a little longer too!

This is only a small selection of what was available, there were also a lot of mini-events going on as well.

As for the events I did get to go to each one was either useful, enjoyable, informative or all of the above! The first day was a time of great confusion though as everything was still being set up and a lot of people were rushing around and no-one appeared to be able to direct me and my friends to the right areas. So we ended up taking refuge in the shopping centre on the search for the My Go exhibition, not video game but something that was nevertheless interesting. It was certainly very different to the main GameCity tent where fitness instructors were shouting as passers by to take part in EA Fitness!

Later on that day though the next event that I was able to get into was the Working Lunch, this days topic was “Who Should Save Videogames?” with one of the speakers being Tom Woolley from the National Video Game Archive an interesting and ambitious project and one that has intrigued me. As I wonder how it would be possible to actually archive something that is as dynamic as video games – as they are not only trying to capture the games as there were made with original consoles and control methods but also part of the culture that has arisen around them. Something I wondered about when working in games retail the amount of promotional material that stores get is immense, and some of it quite ingenious, yet it is often thrown away at the end the end of the promotion yet isn’t that too part of the culture of games as a commercial titles success often hinges on the acts of it’s marketing team. Now this was something I was asking about in the debate during the lunch among a few other things, but there just wasn’t enough time to cover it all. However being one of the few women in the room at the time I was approached afterwards by someone who was interested in the points I was raising. She was a long time GameCity attendee and local and we hit it off and soon I had a guide for the rest of the event!

The next few days were a bit of a blur and time seemed to go so quickly, there were lots of things that I found out about thanks to my new friend Elsa so therefore even more to see! The few things that stick out in my mind though:

  • The Guardian Games Blog Breakfasts hosted by Keith Stuart. A great breakfast served with interesting gaming debates with people in, around and from the industry.
  • The various talks and shows such as the Listening to Limbo event which was almost a lesson on good game sound design. And the live performance of video game music by James Hannigan in St Mary’s Church which provided some fantastic acoustics.

The impressive St Mary's Church host to an audio acoustic delight and live owls.

  • A comedy club night where the people from One Life Left tried their hand and stand up comedy involving video games, a night full of surprises including 8/16Bit game music remixed along to Dubstep. (Which oddly worked in the club – not sure it would be as great outside of that atmosphere!)
  • Kinecting With Rare a chance to see the Xbox motion control in action! It was something I was dubious about, but watching people play the game in the event hall it looked like a lot of fun and it certainly had the hall of people in hysterics. The Rare spokesman was also very good! It was also interesting to learn that to develop for this new form of controller they had to rearrange their offices as the cubicle style no longer worked when trying to emulate a football kick in front of the dev kit!
  • Seeing the new game Spy Party and hearing the ethos behind it from the creator Chris Hecker. I loved the fact that it was taking the Turing test and turning it on it’s head and asking the player to act like an NPC rather than the other way around.
  • Taking part in Tea and Lasers an event inspired by Spy Party which asked participents to make it through a laser maze without setting off the “bomb” and grabbing the bower hat at the end, this was hosted by Lee Rosy’s Tea a wonderful little shop which also happened to sell the best tea and coffee in Nottingham!

The last event though was one that should be hosted at any gaming event really, a real life version of Pacman! Called PacNotts for the event in Nottingham is it a Urban Pacman game where people have to use team-work to win the game. The idea is that each ‘Ghost’ and ‘Pacman’ player has a partner on a mobile phone back at the base directing them around the streets of the city. It requires good communication as the players on the streets need to relay their position to the players back at base who then move digital versions of the ghosts or pacman on a specialised map. The digital version allows the ghosts to see each other but not Pacman, who can see the ghosts, the idea is for the ghosts to work as  team then to track down Pacman through sightings, co-ordination and luck!

The paper map used for navigating the streets of Nottingham Pacman style.

This was the map handed out to the players one of the streets for the outdoors players, one for the indoor players using the custom Pacman game on the computer. A time limit is set and it is then up to Pacman to avoid the ghosts for as long as he can! When I played there was the ghost team was primarily other students from my course and the group of people I had become friends with during this week. I did not know who the Pacman was but he didn’t last long!

Pacman soup anyone? 🙂

This was taken just as the ‘Ghosts’ returned, which was fairly amusing as the Pacman player suggested that he would follow just after so that the ‘Ghosts’ could return with the ‘skin’ (the yellow t-shirt) and ‘head’ (the chest piece) of the defeated Pacman.

After this we all had another go this time with the the game’s creator standing in as Pacman – the reports from that one were that he must have been a sprinter in a previous life as the ghosts had a hard time keeping up with him let along catch him!

From left to right: Niomi aka "Clyde", Chad aka "Inky", The Creator, Pacman, Nathan aka "Blinky", Mark aka "Pinky". (The first three ghosts are fellow course mates of mine.)

Anyway the GameCity event overall is huge thing and even though I tried to sign up for everything before hand there were a lot of things that I missed as they clashed or were quite busy. It certainly gives the incentive to go back again next year though! I just wish I had known about this event sooner, as it was much more enjoyable that other things I had gone to in the past such as the MCM Expo or EuroGamer Expo. I guess the credit goes to the course organisers at Newport Uni, as I don’t think I would have gone to this event for a while if it weren’t for them organising it all.

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