If you were strong enough to have eschewed the allure of last week’s Torontoist Gamercamp preview piece because you don’t like playing video games, congratulations! Your resistance allowed you to miss out on some pretty sweet cupcake action on Saturday. Way to go!
On the other hand, for those of you gamers who wanted to go but were worried that it wasn’t “indie” enough for your liking…well, you lost out on both the baked-goods-eating and video-gaming fronts.
True, we were a little worried when we first received the invite. Another Toronto game conference? Sheesh. What with GameON and Vortex occurring in the same thirty-day period, expectations were high that this would just be another one of those micro-conferences that claims to cater to the indie gamer but turns out instead to be some kind of sponsored orgy of funding seminars and speeches on how to sell your game idea to the highest bidder. And while these kinds of things certainly have a place in the industry, the premise was frankly wearing thin for those who were more on the playing side than on the making side.
What made Gamercamp similar to the recent Toronto gaming shindigs was that we had to sit and listen to people talk about game development before we received our cupcakes and got to play arcade games. What made it different (besides the fact that the latter two activities were conspicuously absent from the more corporate events) was what the people slated to talk were, specifically, talking about…
Of course, the requisite Ubisoft presence was present; however, as opposed to Yannis Mallat sitting on the panel (they are, after all, setting up a Toronto studio in the near future), this time it was only Derek…um…something (there’s no last name on his business card…is this like a Cher thing?), otherwise known as “Ubisoft Employee #1,” who was placed more inconspicuously in the audience with the rest of the attendees. The speakers ranged from lesser-known (in that he’s not a major mainstream player just yet) developer Michael Todd from Spyeart, who spoke of the almost unheard-of notion of creating multiple games in as many weeks, to media darling Nathan Vella of Capybara Games, who strayed from his Vortex speech about production to focus instead on creating fantastic art on a shoestring budget. Oh, and he’s dreamy. That wasn’t mentioned elsewhere, was it?
But apart from the fact that the speeches leaned heavily on the idea of creating games independently (as opposed to having the backing of a major studio), the best part of the whole conference was the fact that it was all about Toronto developers. In Toronto. All told, it was—crazily enough—a celebration of a Toronto gaming industry that existed long before the Ontario government decided that it needed to attract more game-development business to the province with its myriad credits and incentives. And despite its long and storied history, perhaps it took an event like Gamercamp to alert those who may not have known otherwise to the existence of this hitherto-unknown Toronto-based indie gaming community. And perhaps we need more of said events in the future. V2.0, anyone?
All photos by Gavin Hay.