Last Saturday saw the return after a two year hiatus of Gamecamp. I joined about a hundred games enthusiasts at the offices of eBay in Richmond for another day of talks, games, arguments, hospitality and booze (with Unity graciously footing the bar bill).
Personally, large-scale gatherings of games people (‘for their own sake’ as opposed to LAN parties or trade shows) seem much less of a novelty than they did back in 2008. At the first GameCamp nobody knew what to expect. The number of bona fide gaming luminaries wandering about was startling, many of whom were sorely absent this time. (Not to say that this year’s lineup was entirely lacking – both Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson were there, for goodness’ sake.)
In the wake of the economic downturn, studio closures, the rise of Zynga, etc., it is perhaps only to be expected that our collective enthusiasm has been sapped over the last two years. (On the positive side, nobody was talking about ARGs.)
Gamecamp’s format works so well because the talks are informal, the audience can be assumed to be up to speed, and the subject matter can be literally anything. I attended these ones (ducking into others briefly):
- Emmeline Dobson gave a talk about why bullet hell shooters are great. And importantly for a PC-centric audience, why they’re accessible.
- James Wallis explored games as means of creative expression, where many of the crowd put forth their own anecdotes.
- Alice O’Connor tried to figure out how to make pro gaming watchable.
- Phill Cameron tackled procedural content generation (“Death of the Designer”!).
- Kieron Gillen talked about game narrative, and how it’s peculiarly different from other media.
- Some idiot-hole breathlessly tried to rattle off all the unjust conditions and remedial attitudes that are holding games back in 25 minutes.
- Margaret Robertson gave about a dozen talks, the one I caught being about the intriguing-sounding audio-only iPhone game Papa Sangre.
- Finally, there was a welcome return of the People’s Revolutionary Committee, where Farmville, crap sliding block puzzles, ludonarrative dissonance and Quick Time Events were sent to the wall.
All in all, it was a great success, and hopefully we won’t have to wait two years for another one. (There were some intriguing murmurs about revisiting the format under the Rock Paper Shotgun banner…)