Melbourne International Games Week wrapped up on November 1st. After a whole week of conferences, exhibitions and lots of alcohol, it's fair to say that I'm exhausted. However, thinking back on the various events, I don't think I've ever left something as inspired as games week made me. I was privileged to meet game developers who were passionate about their craft, and intent on doing right by the player. I thought I'd share my experiences of the week, starting with Game Connect Asia Pacific otherwise known as GCAP.
The theme for this years GCAP was Loving the Craft. And boy could you feel the love. Every talk that I went to was full of passionate individuals who honestly loved their job. They weren't afraid to push boundaries and extend themselves in order for their craft to grow.The creative energy in the air was electric, and I think it's fair to say that the opening keynote was mostly responsible for that.
Brie Code set the tone for GCAP 2015. Most well known as lead programmer on the game Child of Light, Brie delivered an emotional speech about her dedication to the games industry. She covered topics from stereotype threat, unconscious bias and the importance of creating games with empathy and diversity. A quote that stuck with me was one that Brie borrowed from Elif Shafak. "Writers have a duty to build bridges out of empathy". As we work in an interactive medium, couldn't we extend that even further? I remember my excitement building at the possibilities that ran through my head. This lead to topics of interconnectedness and innovation focusing on the importance of diversity. Brie's dedication to diversity was reflected in many of the other talks I attended throughout games week. It was amazing to see the amount of people equally passionate about diversity who encouraged others to do something about it. Brie ended by encouraging us to go out there and make something. We all have a unique perspective on life. No one else knows what it's like to be you, or see the world in the way that you do. So let's use that and make games showing that. Brie's talk left me awed, inspired and ready to learn, a feeling that stuck with me throughout the entirety of games week.
The next talk I went to was The Anatomy of Story, hosted by Jane Cocks, Emilie Poissenot, Katryna Starks and Katie Gall. These lovely ladies were warm, funny and created a great atmosphere for discussion. As a member of the audience I felt included and encouraged to express my opinions and experiences. Stories in games can appear in many different ways. From wordless stories to making your own stories out of relating to games, these narratives were explored and encouraged. Games such as Journey, Gone Home and Flower were used as examples of games that tackle narrative in interesting ways. A topic that resonated with me particularly was the importance of video game protagonists. When playing a game, is the story yours? Or is it the protagonists? In many ways, even the most defined player characters are lost, as we give power to the player. There is definitely room for more highly defined player characters and it excites me that we, as developers, can do something about that.
After lunch I attended Tim Dawson's session on Design with Intent. He walked us through his game Assault Android Cactus and the various design decisions he made. Tim stressed that game design is decisions. If you're not making them then someone else is. So keep in mind the intent of your game and what decisions you're prepared to let go of. When designing a game create design pillars, that express what you want your game to convey to the player. A clear vision is everything. It helps create strong design which is tight, specific and focused. Tim continued to explore notions of play and intent. I enjoyed his talk immensely and it was a great end to my first day of GCAP.
Day two commenced with an electric Game Design Challenge. The participants came up with some innovative games that relied on a smell mechanic. Immediately after that, I attended Stephan Schütze's talk on Everyone at this Conference is a Fraud. Stephan was engaging and exciting to watch. I sat there in awe as everything he was saying described me exactly. Except I was not alone. Those of us with Impostor Syndrome remain convinced that we are frauds and do not deserve the success we have achieved. Judging by the response from the audience, most people feel that way. We assume that what we know is lesser compared to everyone else. Stephan continued by covering the Australian attitude towards achievement. As Australians, we tend to dismiss any proof of success as luck. This is a continues problem in our laid back culture and we should stop. Be proud of your achievements and acknowledge the hard work and ambition that lead to it. While impostor syndrome may keep our ego in check, it is important to let ourselves be proud of our creative achievements. I left this talk comforted that others experienced the same emotions I did and inspired to work as hard as I could
In the afternoon Jenn Sandercock took us through her journey of creating one game per month in her talk Crafting the Hugs. The aim of these games were to provide Jenn with as many hugs as possible. This talk expressed the importance of creating games for reasons other than fame or fortune. If we just focus on those two reasons as motivating factors, it is inevitable that our games will fail. Therefore finding motivating in the form of hugs can inspire our creative energy and create more innovative and exciting products. Jenn's talk left me asking myself what I wanted my games to express. Her passion was catching and I found myself smiling throughout her talk. It was then I realised that I wanted people to smile when playing my games.
Finally it was time for the closing keynote, delivered by Martin Sahlin. Martin took us through his professional journey that lead to the conception of Unravel. His talk was easily the most emotional I experienced over the duration of games week. You could feel Martin's love for his craft, his job and his family. He expressed how in games we can create anything, and that is awesome! We should use that to create more than just entertainment. Games can be so much more than what they already are. In our journey to create more, know that failure is ok and we can bounce back from it. I teared up many times during Martin's talk. His passion was almost tangible and the audience were captivated. Martin expressed that we make games for a living. We have the best job in the world! Therefore let's use that for more. While not all games have to change the world, it would be nice if we tried. Martin's talk left the audience inspired, emotional and excited. Those feelings summed up my entire experience at GCAP.
This year's GCAP was my first, but it definitely won't be my last. It was a place where developers were excited to learn, meet new people and just enjoy our amazing community. It was a great conference and set an amazing electric feeling for PAX. Thanks to all the amazing organisers and volunteers who made it happen!