GameCity7 – A Week of Passion (Part 1)

It has now been a week since I came back from GameCity7 in Nottingham, the week has flown by as I have had University work, the flu and a cat that decided that a surprise vet visit was needed. Me and the cat are feeling a little better now though. ūüôā

The week of GameCity however went by even quicker and it feels like a dream already, it is a wonderful festival of games in all their forms that is organised by a group of very hard working and dedicated individuals. It is¬†attended¬†by some of the warmest and amazing people, and the speakers are always interesting and engaging. Above all though one thing stands out and that is how passionate everyone is about games, be that video, board, ARG etc. It what ever form play is central to our lives whether we realise it or not and once in a while it’s good to celebrate the makers, players and¬†enthusiasts¬†surrounding this very large and varied industry.

So I have written up all that I can remember here and provided links out to places, people and games when and where needed just in case you (the reader) don’t know of/or would like to know more. I apologise in advance for the length of this post, I have never been very good and staying concise. ūüôā But this is also for my benefit so I have everything in (nearly) one place to refer to later, as the one thing I learned from last year, it is almost impossible to try and remember everything otherwise. (Also I kinda hope this provides those that didn’t go, or couldn’t go a taster of what it’s like to take part in this fantastic event.)

Anyway here is my overview of GameCity 7! (Part 1 Рotherwise it is a very long post!)

For the first time this year the Festival ran over eight days instead of it’s usual four, it was nice to be away for a whole week as it always feels too short in previous years, however nights in the pub plus the eight days makes for a very tired group of people near the end. ūüôā I still think it should be longer than four days, but maybe not eight…oh well iteration is the key here I think.

Day 1 – Saturday

The view from our hotel room!

As we arrived at the hotel on Friday we were able to take Sat as a nice chilled day, I had arranged to meet up with my family this day as well as my little brother really wanted to see what was going on in the tent set up in Market Square this year (previous year his half term didn’t match with the festival.) So we spent the day making things out of paper and playing the games on display. Here I did take some pics though:

The little Katamari like character that I coloured in to look like NiGHTS.

Mr Saturn as drawn in chalk by little brother.

My mum thought that the little fellow looked like a spaceman, I think it fits nicely. ūüôā

The we all pitched in to create a paper and chalk Pacman on the chalk boards. ūüôā

Then after a go on a game controlled by a trampoline it was time for my family to go home and for us to seek out food for the evening. It was a nice chilled start to what was going to be a very busy week!

Day 2 – Sunday

Easing into the festivities Sunday was another chance to check out the tent and do a spot of window shopping around Nottingham (note Page 45, Gee Dee Models and Forbidden Planet being the main ports of call). The two events of the day though were fun though, the first was the UK¬†Premier¬†of Lego Lord of the Rings¬†presented by¬†Jonathan Smith head of Production at Traveller’s Tales. He was assisted by his children who knew the game very well it seemed. I have to admit I loved the Lego Star Wars game by these guys and I have a feeling that this game might end up on mine and my brothers Chirstmas list as well.

It’s then time for dinner before the next presentation so we head over to the very nice Broadway Cinema¬†cafe to chill with people and catch up with friends. We end up bumping into Jim an old friend from Brighton which was a complete, but very nice, surprise. (If you have an iDevice of some sort I highly¬†recommend¬†checking out one of his games: Sploosh!)

After that we are a little late to¬†Quintin Smith‘s¬†presentation about board games¬†(which is available online here). When the presentation ended not only did me and Devilbod realise that a) we wanted far too many games on that list but b) we can’t currently afford half the games on that list! (At least while I’m still in education anyway.) But afterwards there were games available to play as we lost some hours playing a very interesting game of Munchkin¬†in which we learned that the App is a very clever addition to the card game. ūüėČ (That and Rob picks up games very quickly…!)

Day 3 – Monday

The day that the schedule starts getting a little fuller! The theme of today was video game archiving and video game writing. (Two things I may have pursued when I was younger if I had known they were a thing…) ūüôā Anyway James Newman (co-founder of the National Video Game Archive) kicked off the day with the¬†traditional¬†GameCity Breakfast where we talked about how to leave our mark as game¬†designers¬†and players. It was nice as it tied in with a lot of the stuff I learned in the POCOS event earlier on the year in Cardiff, it was at this point though that I sadly missed the next talk by Leigh Alexander as I started talking to Stella Wisdom from the British Library who is involved in the UK Web Archive project.

This is not the first time that this subject has come up at GameCity and it probably won’t be the last. It is also a subject that has always been a passing interest of mine, which I put down to my Mum being an avid history buff and teaching me how to preserve my favourite books correctly when I was a kid. It is odd as I try to archive as a go with a lot of things I do or I am passionate about, it is almost second nature, I would never have thought of¬†attempting¬†anything on the scale that the Web Archive and the Game Archive are trying to do was possible.

At least I now had my answer to a question I asked three years ago at GameCity: Why can’t the games be archived at the same time they are submitted for age rating approval? As with most things it turns out it is mainly due to the bureaucracy¬†of the way laws are made/amended. In the meantime it is up to the people who are passionate about a game (or any subject for that matter) to try and preserve what they can for future generations to enjoy and future historians to learn from. This doesn’t always work of course but there is no easy answer to this problem and it is another whole other subject matter I would like to talk about, but for another post I think. ūüôā

Back to the topic on hand the next event we made it to was Mike Bithell‘s ‘Gets the Advice He Needs’¬†panel. He is the creator of Thomas Was Alone, a simple but effective¬†platformer¬†born out of a game jam. Each lunch time this week he is hosting this panel in which he offers up himself and his game to be used as an example to get advice from people in the industry to the benefit of (well him obviously) and the audience. In other words a ¬†great way to spend the lunch at the Antenna¬†each day with very informative discussions on the side. ūüôā Today was about how to promote your game if you are an indie developer or just starting out, gems of wisdom that will no doubt come in handy for myself and my partner the more we pursue our game development dreams.

Next up was Kieron Gillen and Antony Johnston‘s talk ‘Writing for Comics, Writing for Videogames.’ They are both very good writers in their fields and are very entertaining together on stage as well. At present I have to say that most of this panel is a blur as I got to speak to both these wonderful gentleman later on in the week and memories of that displaced this panel apparently. Up next however was the Decompressed: Live Podcast Recording hosted by Kieron Gillen in which he talked Antony Johnston about his latest graphic novel The Coldest City, which is set in Berlin in 1989. It was a very interesting talk and a very interesting graphic novel and I hope it is available soon to listen to again. One nice thing that I remember is that ¬†Johnston talked about not always knowing when to stop researching a subject, something that I am well known for at University too, I just love following the breadcrumb trail and learning as much as I can when given the¬†opportunity¬†to do so. ūüôā

Day 4 – Tuesday

Things start to get a bit blurry here as the schedule really starts filling up! The morning starts with the GameCity breakfast at the Antenna, this time we are talking about GameCity itself with Iain Simons, the director of the festival, covering topics like; how much it costs, what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and are they mad for trying to do eight whole days?! It was really nice to have this opportunity to find out a bit more about the behind the scenes of this festival and truly appreciate how much time and money goes into it. Which in this current economic climate is not an easy task, but they are still pulling it off against the odds each year and I hope it continues. (I just wish I was geographically closer and more financially able to help sometimes.)

Now the one downside of this festival is the amount that they do manage to put together, today was the first day that we didn’t really get to have a chance to look in the tent, which was a shame as we missed Media Molecule who were showing off Tearaway via creating paper craft Elk’s. Instead we went to see Kieron Gillen again, this time talking about Interactive Fiction, my main experience with this is the Hitch Hicker’s Guide to the Galaxy interactive fiction and a few others I remember playing about with as a child but can’t for the life of me remember the titles. Needless to say there is now a long list of these to investigate after this talk. ūüôā (I sense another post adding to my already¬†lengthy¬†list…) ūüėČ

Then after this was another of Mike Bitell’s panels, this time talking to both Kieron Gillen and Antony Johnston about writing in games, notably the writing in Thomas Was Alone. ūüôā This was a very¬†interesting¬†talk that again I hope goes online in some form, also very valuable to anyone wanting to be a writer for games.

Just after we finished lunch it was then off to Antony Johnston’s talk ‘From Comics to Consoles‘, this was of¬†particular¬†note to my¬†house mates¬†who are fans of Dead Space, for which he was involved in. This was very interesting, not just from a writing point of view, but from a design point of view as well, and very¬†applicable¬†to my final major project at University as me and my project partner are¬†attempting¬†to turn an old fable into a game.

Before the seats in the Council House Ballroom got cold though it was now time for anther talk this time by Ed Stern from Splash Damage, this time presenting the issues of being a games writer full time when more often than not gamers skip most of the writing in a game. I find this such a shame as I love narrative and story and do enjoy sinking my teeth into a good book and equally a good story driven game, the latter however is a rare breed and I wish it weren’t so.

The evening quickly approaches after this and we all decide to head back to the hotel for a chill to grab food and then head to the pub for evening. Meanwhile the main GameCity tent is host to the official opening ceremony, but me and Bod are happy right now to chill in the Dragon and play a game or two of MetaGame that Elsa introduced us to earlier this week that we have been playing on and off during the festival so far. This also gives me an opportunity to catch up with my lecturers from Uni who arrived on the Tuesday morning along with students present and past.

However the night is young and even though it has been a long day already the day is not over until tomorrow, when the opening ceremony drew to a close in Market Square the whole tent of people appeared in the pub – which is officially a TARDIS as it is bigger on the inside that it looks from the outside! ūüôā This was a night where I will remember chatting to Kieron Gillen about chasing your passions and¬†choosing¬†the right role model, Antony Johnston about the joy of being able to work for yourself and that having a partner like I have that is willing to put their dreams on hold to help you get to yours is a special thing. Chatting to Terry Cavanagh, the creator of VVVVVV and Super Hexegon, who is a very evil and smart man as his games are very very hard, but equally addictive. ūüôā Then there was a blur of yummy¬†raspberry¬†vodka,¬†fantastic¬†people and then talk about the nature of the human spirit and whether that can ever be captured in digital form to better represent people in games and GC animation while eating kebabs and a chip butty with Bod and Rob till the small hours of the morning. (Something we may regret the next day!)

This is where I shall leave it for now as this is getting quite long and the Green Bay Packers game is due to start soon, so I am off to get my scarf and watch the game eating the slow roasted pork Bod has been working on all day. ūüôā

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