GameCamp 2013 (#gamecamp6)
Posted at 19:36 on 19th May 2013 - permalink

The UK games scene’s very own Treehouse of Horror, GameCamp, returned to LSBU’s Keyworth Centre yesterday.

(You can read about previous GameCamps here: 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012)

The main difference to the setup this year was that attendees were encouraged to bring work-in-progress games to playtest, and as such there were two large rooms set aside for this purpose (one for computer games and one for board/card games).

There seemed to be a higher than average number of talks going on this year, and a less than ideal notice board (tiny cards – typically with tiny text instead of bold titles and speaker’s names – spread over a large, difficult to photograph board) meant that I probably missed a lot of things I’d have liked to see.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I saw and did: (I didn’t give a talk this year.)

1000 – Arrived late, missing the introduction and the first (sparsely populated) talk slot.

1030 – “The Designer and the Body” (@siobhanthomas) – A group discussion that turned out to be about control feel/kinesthetics and the abstraction of manual controls from physical actions. I didn’t get much out of this one (I think I missed too much at the start), but there’s apparently a follow-up questionnaire for those interested in the topic.

1100 – “Mixed Media Storytelling” – A post mortem/discussion about the game-external marketing efforts for Capcom’s game Remember Me, which basically explained what digital agencies have gotten up to since ARGs died. I do wonder if just because social media and ‘transmedia’ technology allows for the back-stories of fictional universes to be fleshed out in depth, this risks leaving too little to the imagination. Some very cool ideas though.

1130 – “Indie Physical Retail” – Two questions were tackled together here, firstly whether there was any way that games retail could be made more attractive (as in, an event setting/arcade rather than a plain old shop), and whether there was any room for indie games to capitalise on such a development. I think the answer is ‘no’, although I do think that we will see a lot more frequent and imaginative offerings of physical products via mail order to support indie games (see: and games sold as systems on a chip. Now when are those Proteus special editions shipping?

1200 – “Super Geek Fighter 2: Turbo” (@YujiLY vs. @Slaktus) – Two fighting game hobbyists offered their alternative viewpoints as to what exactly is going on during a Street Fighter match. Comparisons were drawn to poker, fencing, rock-paper-scissors, chess and debating. I was reminded of Garry Shandling’s remarks on one-on-one basketball, that immediate physical conflict reveals a more honest view of the other person’s personality, as there is no time for the usual conscious editing by the more socially aware parts of the brain.

1230 – “Quizzical Play” (@john_brindle) – An unconfidently delivered lecture about playing games in ways other than the author’s intent followed by a brief, fairly interesting discussion.

1300 – “Lunch” – Somebody decided that green beans on a pizza was a good idea, and I briefly sat in on a playtest of @kierongillen‘s card game about running an games blog, GAMESBLOG.

1330 – “Killing Your Darlings” (@reallyfancy and @carachan1) – A talk about ‘descoping’ projects, with lots of good advice for developers regarding (for instance) ruthlessly culling extraneous ideas, and getting into the habit of implementing experimental projects as complete entities rather than tech demos.

1400 – “In the time it takes a heart to beat” (@steishere) – A preview of Ste’s talk for this year’s Nordic Games conference. I won’t spoil it, but it met and surpassed the standard of previous year’s talks, and of course graphs, music and weird shit from the internet featured prominently. I was surprised to realise that Ste has been working in games development (vs. journalism) for ten years(!) now.

1500 – Wandered about for a bit and checked out some games being playtested. George (@v21) had Tenya Wanya Teens set up which went down well.

1600 – “Make Believe” (@asponge) – Literally a half hour session of playing Make Believe, with cardboard boxes, tinfoil, paper plates, banquet roll and a coconut. Violent, messy and hilarious. Better than all of the physical games going on during the day.

1630 – “Closedown, Pub” – Someone who actually attended the university led a rather dazed and ragtag crocodile of conference-goers to The Ship pub. Lots of interesting conversations were had and a German card game about horse-breeding was played.

This year’s GameCamp felt revitalised compared to the slightly tired and over-familiar vibe of the last couple, probably as a result of the slightly changed format, and riding high from the buzz of last week’s Bit of Alright conference and Wild Rumpus party (which I entirely failed to write up, but both of which were excellent). Plus it came with a free tea towel.

Thanks and see you all next year!

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