GameCity 6

Another amazing GameCity, we are in year six now and I’ve attended every year in some form or other. Each year the festival grows and develops in new and interesting ways and this year was no exception. There is no other event like this one, it offers a unique experience to explore and celebrate games, playing, art and their cultural significance. As such it draws a diverse audience from all over and it is these amazing people that really make GameCity the highlight of my year.

So here are some of my highlights and feelings about this year:

Journey and Robin Hunicke

Robin Hunicke presents the development of Journey at GameCity

One of the most profound moments in GameCity history was when Robin played Flower in the arcade behind the Council House, then her talk on creative minds in the same year inspired this blog post. So I was elated to hear she was joining us again this year to play Journey, the latest game from That Game Company.

This year we had beanbags in preparation, with the addition of consoles set up around the tent to play along. Given the collaborative nature of Journey this seemed a great idea and was a natural progression from observer to participant.

Beforehand Robin spoke of the process of creating a game that allowed and encouraged co-operative play, and how to encourage the desired behaviour, instead of griefing and competitive play, so often found online. I always enjoy this insight into the design of the user experience in games.

A special thanks to Robin for finding the time to talk to us afterwards and I hope GameCity will bring us all together again soon.

Uncharted Series, Richard Lemarchand and BAFTA

Richard Lemarchand presents Uncharted3 at GameCity

Over the course of GameCity Richard gave several talks on the Uncharted series, but the one that will stick with me the most was the BAFTA talk he gave, entitled Beauty and Risk which looked at emotions in gaming and how indie games had affected Uncharted.

Any (games) talk that references Donald Norman’s ‘Design of Everyday Things’ get a huge thumbs up from me.

Richard is a huge supporter of the indie game scene and both Robin and Richard are involved in Indiecade, which has I hope will return to GameCity. So as part of his talk he spoke about how the game The Graveyard had influenced the peaceful village in Uncharted 2, allowing the gamer to explore alternative contextual interactions.

The presentation was packed with information, including influences such as William Morris, best working practices and how systems in games are evolving, that are still rattling around in my brain.

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Keef and The Guardian Breakfasts

These panel events are a great start to the day, set in the lovely independent Broadway Cinema with full English breakfast and a debate to kick your brain into action. I was really delighted to hear Keith Stuart would be joining us again this year, his sessions are great balance between insightful panel comments and audience participation. I hope they become a staple part of the festival.

Generously set 30 minutes later this year, an event where people who are more awake than me in the morning have an interesting debate about what we think the past, current and future of video games means. I was pleased to hear my views about Kinect being validated by industry leaders; here we have a whole new and exciting way of interacting that offers so much more possibility than the restrictive buttons on a joypad, however we still don’t know how to build games for it.

No one noted though how we really need additional means of feedback, the haptic feedback from a rumble pad can be subtle but vital in connecting you to a game. I need a Kinect alternative that is more imaginative than wearing a vest to feel bullet hits.

My favourite comment came from Mitu, who spoke briefly on creating games for women or minorities, not by trying to targets games at these audiences, but rather just by not actively offending them. “Don’t be a dick!” If you attended the September GameCity Nights then there’s a lesson in there for Hog Rocket.

TV Dinners

This is was a new twist on the long standing lunch time events. Two hours set aside at Antenna for food, while watching a game designer play through and discuss their game. It was brilliant. Antenna offered a very limited menu, but that meant food was fast, tasty and not too expensive. While Eric Chahi showed us From Dust and Another World and Richard Lemarchand offered some insights into the Uncharted series. From Dust and the Uncharted series are both games I’ve really loved playing so it was fantastic to understand their motivations and challenges in creating these games.

With Uncharted in particular Richard talked about how the game starts and how the player is given the understanding needed to learn the controls and see what the next steps are in the game. It is this affordance that fascinates me as a user experience designer, how we give triggers and build understanding.

Turning a hand to game deisgn

This year I had my first real go at designing a game as part of a research project into privacy. This offered a unique opportunity to work with some friends to look at creating a game to help inform people about online privacy. It was an interesting challenge and I thought the results that came out of it were really good – I wanted to play them all. I hope we get to develop some of them further and play test them. It was great to actually create something and to be given permission to try something new, with feedback from industry professionals.

Kooky and Samarost 3

As part of the festival we saw the UK premiere of Kooky, since the game designer Jakub Dvorsk