Last night I made my way to the VideoBrains (@VideoBrains) event founded by Jake Tucker (@_JakeTucker) who had kindly invited me to bring Massively Multiplayer Rock Paper Scissors along for all the attendees to play.
What is VideoBrains, well they describe themselves like this:
VideoBrains is a free monthly conference where video games developers, journalists and players give talks and answer questions. We’ve had fantastic talks on everything from indie marketing to the Slender Man to a behind-the-scenes look at Deus Ex.
The speakers at this event included:
Alan Williamson (@AGBear) who gave a talk about nostalgia and Sega. He spoke about how Sonic has changed (for the worse) and questioned whether the original games were as good as we remembered (yes – was his answer by the way). He then spoke about his ‘Get Well’ game, NiGHTS into Dreams and the game that was given away by Sega, Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams. This game is only playable in its true form at Christmas time, otherwise all the skins change to appear the same as normal. He explained how Nights Journey of Dreams for the Wii left him almost instantly cold. I was left considering how nostalgia is often used as a marketing tool, which more often than not seems to work, everyone hoping that this time, this time everything will be alright.
Christos Reid (@failnaut) gave a personal talk which changed between a few subject matters. An emotional highlight was when he revealed how the games he has made have shown not only that he was not alone, but have gone on to show other people that to.
Another high point included the description of how he beat the Final Fantasy VII boss with a dance mat controller at his friends house as they could not find the proper controller. I’m interested in what affect changing inputs can have on game experience, there is certainly lots of potential in this space.
Finally Christos spoke about a new idea he is thinking about which is a VR game experience where players move through a procedurally generated party, going from kitchen to kitchen having to deal with the things that are happening.
Mat Jones (@pillowfort) brought up the disconnect between character death in games and the game’s narrative. A lot of games have character death as a fail state, however in terms of the narrative of the game, this makes very little sense. This seems to be a hangover from video game arcades encouraging people to pay more to keep playing, which the games industry is still recovering from. I think he ended with some very useful advice, if you’re going to have character death in your games at least make it part of the narrative otherwise find another way.
Alex Roberts (@lexicobob) spoke of her experience of entering game jams with little preparation and developing games for the MegaDrive, GameBoy and SNES. I have not personally entered a game jam yet, but I think it would be a great way of getting me to finish a project instead of getting distracted by the new shiny idea. If I ever look into retro consoles as a tool for game development myself, I think I will take her advice and go for the MegaDrive first, apparently it is the easiest.
Mary Hamilton (@newsmary) and Grant Howitt (@gshowitt) spoke in turns about literacy and proficiency in games. Whilst one spoke the other played one of two games, Just Cause 2 or SuperHexagon. Grant could play Just Cause 2, whilst Mary struggled. However, Mary stunned the crowds with incredibly impressive times on SuperHexagon (despite been jet-lagged and playing in front of an audience). We learnt about the different games they had played growing up and how this affected their ability to play new games, and the way that they played those games. Mary wanting to explore in GTA instead of doing what the game designer had planned and taking the van to complete the driving training mission. Something she says is an influence of playing RPG games, where exploration is rewarded.
Another interesting aspect was how they talked about playing games not only with each other, but for each other. One of them could watch and experience a game without having to be in control.
Jake Tucker (@_JakeTucker) gave a talk recounting his experience with Rainbow 6 and how the more recent releases had lost all the parts which made them enjoyable for him to play. This just seems to be the case across the board, with games changing from what defines them. At one point Jake put up a series of brown game images asking us to spot the game he was specifically talking about, highlighting the loss of variation in a certain market of games, with them all moving towards the same space. I suppose, at least, those old games we use to play still exist.
Sadly Paul Dean (@paullicino), had to cancel his talk due to a corrupted presentation file. From speaking to him earlier he mentioned how it was experimental, I really wonder what he was going to present.
I went in to GameBrains expecting to hear some interesting talk about video games, but there was so much more than that. All the presenters were entertaining, funny, informative and most importantly personable in the way they spoke, sharing a little of themselves with us all. It felt like a safe, comfy place to explore games and what they mean to us individually and as a group. I will see you at the next one.