This is part two of my two-part series on my experiences at GameCity. This part is discussing my thoughts and experiences on being at GameCity. To see the last part, discussing the games I played and saw at the Open Arcade, click here.
I was having an interesting conversation with Daz Watford (Mike Bithell’s art guy, @ThatsWhatUGets) at the Marioke event at night on the Friday when I was at GameCity about the nature of Twitter and the internet, and how we as people relate to one another, particularly those we think of as being famous or well-respected or having ‘done something’ worth note. He was saying to me, that, the great revelation of Twitter is that we can talk to people that we respect or admire, and assuming we don’t bother them or whatever, that working relationships and friendships and all manner of stuff can spring up out of it; his example was of how he’d ended up designing what has gone on to become The Doubleclicks’ logo (The Doubleclicks are a famed geek band, who played at PAX Prime last year, @TheDoubleClicks) by just talking to them on Twitter and striking up a relationship with them. Essentially, as he put it, we’re all people, no matter what our perceptions of ourselves or of others are, and if you show respect to people and thank them for the work they’ve done then you can make their day a bit brighter and have a chance of bridging the self-perceived gap between David and Goliath no matter how wide. Also, he said that its pointless to call Ryan Reynolds a dick on Twitter. No context needed. We just both liked Greg Lantern as a movie.
I bring this up, because it fits my experience of GameCity quite well. This wasn’t just my first time out and about as someone who is trying to write about games, this was my first actual experience of a games convention or games industry social event of any sort. When I was at the Open Arcade, I actually only mentioned I was a games writer who is trying to sort out a website once, as kind of an aside to the conversation I was having with a developer. I’m not normally the most confident person among strangers anyway, and barring one person I’ve had lots of conversations with on Twitter, all the people I met at the Open Arcade were total strangers to me whose games I’d approached just because they looked cool. But I think it was more than just a natural thing of confidence to strangers, that I didn’t bring up who I was, mostly; I think there is a part of it that is because I feel like I’ve not necessarily done much when compared to these developers who have these fully fledged, great looking games. I can quite happily discuss games and the industry and their thoughts and things all damn day; hell I spoke to James Coote for a good 20 minutes probably about indies, motion controls, console makers’ approaches to indie and other stuff, and it wasn’t until I was walking off that I kind of actually said what I do and even that was without really saying who I am.
And after the Open Arcade was finished, I can’t deny that I still was having this weird thing about feeling a lack of worthiness. I went off to meet Dan Pearce (@GameDesignDan) and Jack De Quidt (@Notquitereal), aka the guys behind Castles In The Sky (and one of them made 10 Second Ninja) in a Starbucks, after I’d had a Subway for dinner and written up some notes for the other article, and there was definitely a brief moment when I walked into the place and spotted Dan and Jack and two other folks (who I am very sorry to, for having forgotten their names) and I thought “Oh shit, there they are, are you sure you’re like a big enough deal for this?”. As bizarre as that thought process is, its what I had for a brief moment or two. Even when I got to the table, and Dan introduced me and Jack flipped out at the idea that I was me, I was still tentative about the whole nature of who I was with. Like, I’m fine and happy to talk to Dan and Jack on Twitter as if we’re pals on the same level and everything, but there’s just something about extending that into the real world for the first time and it being with these people who are so fantastically talented.
Then there was the Marioke. Marioke, where I spent a good 20 minutes at a table on my own with a drink in my hand, looking like a stunned meerkat as I saw people like Leigh Alexander and Will Pugh walk by and chat to people. Hell, Will Pugh walked in with an entourage. A GODDAMN ENTOURAGE. And here’s me, just stood here with a drink, not even having set up a website to hold my games writing at the time. Thankfully though, by the nature of getting booze into your system and everyone else doing it, and thanks to the fantastic work of Daz as my new PR guy apparently, I met some people and spoke to them about games and plenty of other stuff too and came out of my shell a bit more.
And its then that it really settles in and hits you the nature of what you’re a part of. Its not some indie cabal where journalists and devs and general games industry folk are meeting up and planning out the future of the industry or anything; its more like this little capsule of time and space where a group of adults who know each other and share interests and jobs and stuff can drink some booze, have some fun singing daft songs about games (often badly) and just relax away from all the crap that goes on outside the capsule. It was hard for me to avoid the mindset of it being that this person is way above me or whatever, but once it all kind of settles in and you think about it, its not like I was intruding on these people’s time or anything by just being there, and it was then that I started chatting to folks and having conversations about stuff like how train journeys are horrid and having weird jokey shouting chats about how we could make 170,000 credits a run on Elite if we just ran it with a freighter and cracking up constantly.
So yeah, whenever you might think that devs and journos and celebrity figures or whatever are way above you online or in person, you just kinda have to try and talk to them. Because they’re people too, as hard as it may be to remember that, and as long as you don’t intrude on their space and bother them, then hell, you might get somewhere and make friends and have fun and just enjoy it all and get somewhere. Also, always remember to thank people for doing the work that you love, no matter what part they may play in the grand tapestry of it all. Many thanks to Daz for helping to introduce me to people and really figure that lesson out, so I could pass it on to other people, and thanks to everyone I met for giving me such a good time at the Marioke event.
I also wanted to get a good chance to talk about another thing that I really loved about GameCity, and that really kind of stuck with me for the rest of the day as I went around. While I was going through the Open Arcade, I saw these two young kids there with their parents, and they were playing SimAntics, the Anteater simulator game. One girl, one boy. And they were both there, totally engrossed in this game, and absolutely loving what they were playing. They were having an absolute whale of a time from what I could tell, and them having so much fun actually made the whole experience that much more fun. So that stuck with me, this idea of how these kids have come in and this is probably not their first game but they’re still in the formative years of their gaming hobby, and they’re there, having fun, completely oblivious to all the rest of the negativity and community and all that surrounding gaming.
That was, I think, part of what made GameCity the major recharge I needed, and from what I’ve seen on Twitter on the Saturday as devs finish up and leave now that the convention’s over, I’m not the only person that thinks that. GameCity is this fantastic opportunity to just actually get out there and see people of all types coming into gaming and game development and loving every second of it and having the absolute time of their lives. Its this fantastic opportunity to meet people who share the interests you share and recharge your batteries by just having fun and surrounding yourself with excitement and love for this hobby and interest, and to some, this career. You get away from all the things you have to deal with elsewhere, surround yourself in this fantastic bubble of positivity and wonder and it all helps. Even if, like me, you are only there for the shortest of periods. I can quite honestly say that I don’t regret any part of the hours of holiday I had to move around to get out of work early so I could get there to play games and see the present and the future of gamers and meet people, or the £55 I spent getting there and doing things (read: drinking mostly) while I was there (I don’t earn much so that was a solid chunk of what I can use each month). GameCity was an absolute wonder, especially as it was my first time in a lot of regards, and its hard to even get down in words how much it meant for those 10 or so hours I was there, or how much I am so ready for the National Videogame Arcade to open in that space in March or for GameCity 10 to roll around next October.
Much love and many thanks to everyone that made that event what it was, from the organisers to the staff around at all the events to the game developers showing there to the people who were just there to attend. I hope you’re all enjoying your well-earned rest for creating such a beautiful capsule of relaxed time and space for a gamer looking to make more of his hobby.
Joe Trail is the editor-in-chief of Don’t Be A Pixel. Mostly because he says he is, not because he has other writers to edit over. But such is the life of a busy editor-in-chief, obviously. He’s also an avid writer for the site. Of course.