I went to Gamesforum! Which wasn’t so much a forum as it was lots of impressive people talking to each other about the brilliant things they’re doing, while I hovered around cluttering up the place and lowering the bar for professionalism by a truly breathtaking amount. Why was I there? How did I get in? Who can be sure. Admin error, presumably.
Having irritated the sleeves of stand reps, developers and attendees of such gaming expos as Eurogamer, Rezzed, Gadget Show Live and MCM, I’m somewhat of a veteran of attending shows and awkwardly shuffling about them, getting in the way. But Gamesforum is actually a very different beast to the sort of events I’ve had the chance to attend before, and in many ways, is all the better for it.
Several words ago I claimed it ‘wasn’t so much a forum…’ but that was a cleverly engineered lie so I could write the next bit – a forum, in fact, perfectly encapsulates the event’s purpose in practise. Stretching its newly formed arms right across the fourth floor of the County Hall in Westminster, a place I never go because London is too difficult for me, Gamesforum is a compact set-up with some very big ideas. On this floor were only a handful of game stands, a large area for meetings, eatings and general greetings (professionals call it ‘Net Working’) and no less than three large rooms that would play host to a whole range of speakers covering a whole range of topics.
And it was these talks, panels, interviews, discussion groups, that made up the meat of Gamesforum. Developer talks are a staple of EGX, but here, the emphasis on them and the content of the talks, made the output feel more… concentrated. Like a finely pressed orange juice. With the rooms split into themed ‘tracks’ (Culture, VR and AR, esports etc) and given a single host throughout the day, the structure was fluid and enjoyable.
It’s easy for an event like this to get a little bogged down and muddled in terms of structure – with multiple talks and clashes, similar formats but different themes, and often a winding maze of identical rooms, not missing out is a multi-faceted task. The organisers did a cracking job at ensuring even a simpleton such as I could get about at Gamesforum and see everything there was to see.
Similarly, there were some truly fascinating discussions across the days. At intervals I had to stop and marvel at the quality of the work on display, both in terms of the calibre of the talks, and the event itself. Most notably, the Culture track, presided over by Jordan Erica Webber on the Thursday, hosted a chat with Bossa Studios head honcho Imre Jele, and Andy Payneu who’re currently working on an Animal Farm game. Seeing the passion of the people behind the project and the story that lead to them getting it off the ground in the first place was absolutely enrapturing.
Toward the end of the very same day, in the very same room, I saw a panel on telling representative stories in video games. The speakers featured Hannah Flynn – Comms Director extraordinaire at Failbetter, one my favourite developers – as well as journalist Chella Ramanan and Women in Games CEO Marie-Claire. The insight and positivity in the face of an overwhelming problem that pierces all corners of this industry and beyond from this team of experts was a joy to watch. One of those occasions where you don’t feel quite so outnumbered in your comparatively meager attempts to just, y’know, not be a terrible human being.
I caught a few of the esports track talks as well, chiefly due to my incessant yearning to really get esports. I want to love it, and I certainly do as a concept, but I struggle on maybe some fundamental level that I’m yet to define. These talks absolutely opened my eyes further to the landscape and the stumbling points of a burgeoning new brand of entertainment, that will one day, I have little doubt, be much more mainstream than it has already become. Perhaps I’ll put some words out some other time on my complicated relationship with esports.
Certainly the most positive, growth and future focused track was unsurprisingly the VR/AR track. The talks I got to attend introduced me to a company called Rewind, who’re doing some mind bending marketing experiences in the space, and to nDreams’ CEO Patrick O Luanaigh – who discussed the exciting concept of VR esports and the general growth and mass adoption of VR as a platform.
The thing that really made Gamesforum stand out for me personally, was the inclusive, friendly nature of its attendees. I can’t remember the last time I took part in so many conversations willingly; as opposed to being manhandled into them as occurs on a daily basis. Everybody was excited to share their work and their story, and connecting with people in the bright and breezy fourth floor, centre of London space actually felt easy and enjoyable.
I am more than excited to see Gamesforum grow next year, and watch it morph into the behemoth event it could easily become. For now, it has been noted as an invigorating and insightful coming together of excellent games people that I’ll be visiting again. If I’m allowed. More on the games I played and any other thoughts that somehow escape the garbage filter will be right here on Respawn SOON.