London’s leading games unconference, GameCamp, returned to London South Bank University last Saturday after a two year hiatus.
This year the event was relocated to the university’s media building, which turned out to be a more suitable venue than the Keyworth Centre building where the last few were held. The lecture theatres and classrooms available for use were all in close range of the schedule board, and it was easy to drop in and out of sessions with the minimum of disruption.
While GameCamp struggles to gain the publicity of larger, better funded events in the capital, there was still a good turnout, with plenty of new faces. It could be argued that the event has lost a bit of momentum having missed a year (fewer attendees had prepared talks, although there were more playtesting sessions than in previous years), but there was still plenty to see and do.
Here’s a rundown of the sessions I attended (there were multiple events going on in most time slots, so everyone’s experience was different):
1000 – James Wallis (one of the organisers) welcomed us and gave an intro. GameCamp has a tradition of giving a free gift to all attendees – this year it was a wind-up toy robot.
1030 – Implicit role playing in Mass Effect / Playtest of the physical game ‘Democracy’ (nothing to do with the Positech one), which involved players plotting via group SMS before simultaneously taking action.
1100 – At least three things were going on in the same room: The World Is Flat (with yoga ball controller) was playable, a discussion of sports entertainment (wrestling) and a session of the party game A Fake Artist Goes to New York.
1130 – Attendees were given wooden blocks and other props and tasked with devising games using the wind up robots, such as jousting and bowling.
1200 – An ex-Nintendo Europe employee gave a talk about marketing. In the hallway, physical games such as Lemon Joust, Ninja and blindfolded Nerf pistol duels took place.
1230 – Lunch. This year LSBU stipulated that their own catering services were used. A little bit disappointing compared to the bottomless pizza and fresh coffee of past years.
1400 – Kieron Gillen ranted about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (and less angrily discussed the representation of games as a storytelling device – rather than just thematic window dressing – in fiction in general) which I haven’t read but which by most accounts sounds like an insufferable and cynical nostalgic pandering exercise. (Cline’s appearance in Microsoft’s cringeworthy promotional film about digging up Atari’s E.T. cartridges from a landfill put me off wanting to read any of his work.)
1530 – Nothing worth putting in my notes apparently – general chit-chat.
1600 – The GameCamp Awards – a spin on the usual ‘People’s Revolutionary Committee’ closer session, where we shouted out suggested award categories and nominees then put them to the vote.
1630 – A surprise appearance from Ste Curran, who did his talk ‘Kelly’ (about roleplaying Kelly Clarkson in Skyrim) previously performed at Reads Like A Seven.
1700 – Pub – the beer garden of The Ship as tradition dictates, where I was asked “Where do Transformers come from?” many times over. (Not just me I should say – I’ve not been going around claiming to know anything about how alien robots are made.)
I hope we don’t have to wait two years for the next one.
Reports from previous GameCamps (I never got around to writing up #7, a.k.a. the one I gave another really brilliant talk at, but it was very good.)