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GCAP/PAX Aus 2015 Recap

November 11, 2015

As you may have noticed, I’ve basically been radio silence all the way through October. That was due to a combination of two things: a couple of intensively creative weeks at work and the need to prep for the sessions I committed to for Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) and PAX Australia. Both conferences are part of Melbourne International Games Week (MIGW), which also includes a bunch of other events.

I have to say that my experience at both events (and the accompanying parties) has been amazing.

GCAP is a game developers’ conference, and this year’s theme was “Loving the Craft.” What I saw throughout the two days was more than love for video games, though; that love extended to the community of developers and expressed itself through a genuine interest in helping and supporting each other. Through the various talks, there was a trend of honest and heartfelt discussions about the challenges of developing games. Both keynotes echoed that theme and, in-between, there was an opportunity to see the game design process live, hear about the emotional impact of starting your own studio, and an invitation for more voices to share their experiences because even the greatest creators have impostor syndrome and we simply shouldn’t doubt ourselves so much.

I had met a few of the local developers during the monthly drink night organised by the local chapter of IGDA, but I didn’t quite know what to expect in a more formal setting. I have experience in games, sure, but I don’t have any big games on my resume with the exception of The Sims FreePlay. I moved to Melbourne recently and haven’t had a lot of time to cultivate contacts, so a part of me was scared that people wouldn’t attend my solo sessions. The scariest one was the “fireside chat” which was added at the last minute: two people chatting on a couch and 15 to 20 attendees, not much publicity around it.

I was sure no one would come. That I would fall flat on my face. But they caught me.

All the seats were filled, and we had an amazing hour-long conversation about narrative in games. Everyone participated. Some brought up games I’d never heard about before (and have now been added to my “To Play” list.) It was okay for me to not know all the answers, and it was awesome that people volunteered topics they cared about. We were in this together.

PAX Aus is open to the public and mixes a sprawling exhibition floor with a selection of panels in surrounding rooms. Despite the added crowd, the general trend of helpfulness and support continued. Several panels tackled subjects such as diversity, representation, accessibility, mental health, etc. all of which aimed at helping people understand others’ reality and supporting the growth of our industry. It was great to see how many people attended these panels and how engaged they were. There was also an AFK Room, where people could escape from the stress of the conference to relax and/or get support in a safe space.

There was a lot of love for indie developers, who had a good chunk of the show floor labeled as PAX Rising. I spent most of my time on the floor wandering around that area and trying games. Or at least trying to try games: there was always a good crowd, playing and paying close attention to both the games and the developers present.

The trend of collaboration I had noticed in the general community showed in the games too, either in themes or in the selection of local multiplayer concepts (a couple of those marketed themselves as “out to destroy friendships,” but still…) One of the games that I really enjoyed was The Incredible Journey of You and I, a cutesy cooperative shooter.

YouAndI

Screenshot from “The Incredible Journey of You And I” by Shy Kids Club. Find out more and support this game on Steam Greenlight.

In essence, one player controls the movement through the environment and the other controls the shooting. The trick: the controls switch between players depending on the environment. The level I played was built with constant switches and interesting situations that created a natural flow of conversation between the stranger I played with and myself. It’s intuitive, elegant, and fun.

If it intrigues you, you can learn more and show your support on Steam Greenlight.

So that’s my quick and broad overview of my experience during MIGW. I could talk about all I’ve seen for hours, but I wanted to keep this short.

I haven’t been to a lot of conferences, but GCAP and PAX Aus made it easy to network because the local community is so welcoming and supportive. I had a lot of fun, a lot of amazing conversations, and a lot of hugs.

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