Saturday, 3 November 2012

15 Minutes at Gamecity7

GameCity is a games festival held every year in Nottingham with a focus on getting people involved in things rather than promoting AAA tripe. I briefly referenced it in my previous article which involved the gamecity prize, which isn't for the 'best' game but rather for the most interesting on judged by a load of people from various gaming and non gaming backgrounds.

I attended gamecity5 a couple of years back, and enjoyed it. I took part in the pre-event game jam (and was the only participant to actually make a game) and was then not allowed into the party and the jam was completely glossed over. I also played some 24 player bomberman, checked out some indie games of varying quality, refused to queue up to play crysis 2, and explored an interactive art installation which whilst not mindblowing could at worst be described as interesting.

This year was quite different. Firstly I found it effectively impossible to determine what was happening where and when, and what the events even entailed. The scheduling system was a mess, and didn't even load on mobile phones. Even when I got there the complimentary magazine/brochure had no schedule and rather was filled with interviews with attending game developers prattling on about nothing in particular. In short, I found the whole plan for the event completely a mystery. This was a bad start.

Upon arriving (and swiftly skipping the opportunity to play some shit games from EA) I was surprised to see that about a quarter of the tent seemed to be dedicated to a minecraft party of some sort. It wasn't apparent why, but there were a good two dozen people sitting at laptops enthusiastically wanking around on minecraft. Truly the opportunity to move imaginary bricks around in a tent and take up loads of space is exactly what festivals are about.

Aside from a massively insular  LAN party there were beanbags all over the place in front of tvs, showcasing games that for the most part looked like crap that didn't take more than 8 hours to whip up. Not the kind of material I'd feel particularly proud of showing off at a festival. There were one or two interesting games on display (some sort of multiplayer action rpg for kids really caught my eye) but most seemed like so much lazy arse.

There was a guy on stage at this point, a local student, who was showcasing a few games him and his colleagues had made, one of which was a multiplayer platformer and another being snake with a morality system. It was all reasonably pretty but not really anything I would have been proud of presenting to a crowd of people.

I was then disappointed when I turned a corner to find the plywood Donkey Kong I'd heard about in promotional tweets. I went over to it and tried to operate it, but it was soon explained to me that it wasn't working, and the guy who operated it wasn't there on that day (this being Saturday, presumably one of the busiest days of the festival) and that it was basically some marble slide game that didn't really play like donkey Kong anyway.

Further disappointment came up as I arrived at the AGBIC feature, which is basically a yearly competition to design games based on fictional cartridge covers. I was going to enter myself but various things (moving house for example) got in the way and this was my first encounter with any finished games. Which looked quite nice, but sadly this too had been abandoned in favour of who knows what and instead it was basically just an attract mode of random games. Whoever was running it even took the peripherals with them so there was no hope of getting involved. What a waste.

All the other game exhibitions were busy with people playing slightly boring looking games and not really having an interest in letting anybody else have a go. Eventually we meandered over to the Venus patrol area, which seemed to consist of a couple of trampolines, a rock climbing game that played like twister, and a fairly standard controls game about two people holdings sticks in the air. I had no interest in looking like a twat, thus I exited promptly. Venus patrol have made fools of enough people by charging $100,000 to make a blog about indie games where it you have to pay to comment. They aren't getting me too.

On the way out I saw a stand for some sort of alternate reality game, but everybody on the stand was talking amongst themselves and I couldn't really tell anything about it other than it looked nice (the text on everything was far too small) so I walked away.

Then I complained in astonishment about how disappointing and frustrating the whole affair was to my wife whilst eating a sausage roll, and went home.

I'm not really sure what I expected from gamecity7, but it wasn't this. I suppose I expected to be able to know a damn thing about what was going on. I expected more forthcoming personnel promoting their games and features. I expected more than beanbags to sit down on, which for me would at best be awkward and at worst a trip hazard of my own flailing limbs.

Gamecity's Twitter account won't stop telling me how well they've done and how much positive feedback they've gotten. Clearly, I, a gamer for 22 years and indie developer for 4, was not their target audience. This is reinforced by the fact that 90 percent of the festival took place during a period when I couldn't possibly attend it due to work. I suppose gamecity7 was a festival for children, for students, for parents, and for people with sod all else going on in their lives. It's didn't feel at all for somebody who works for a living and gives a shit about games. It also feels like it's for people with low standards, and for an event with so many children present it was worryingly masturbatory.

 Industry and indie circle jerks are nothing new. I suppose I just expected better.