GamerCamp Lv. 3. RoundUp.
This past weekend marked the 3rd incarnation of Toronto’s festival of play and gaming: GamerCamp. Founded by Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo, Gamercamp is a celebration of all aspects of games and play. It’s an indie developers conference, it’s a gaming festival for enthusiasts, it incorporates elements of academia. Needless to say it’s the only festival that I’ve ever seen in gaming culture that strives to be as inclusive as it can possibly be.
Sortly after last year’s GamerCamp, Lv.2, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark and Jaime. When I was throwing the first incarnation of Data Dance, my chiptune dance party and pop-up arcade series in Winnipeg, Jaime and Mark roadtripped all the way out to the Peg from Toronto to demo several indie games from Toronto’s indie gaming community (N+ and Cephalopods Co-Op Cottage Defence, to this day still two of my fave indie games). Needless to say that their enthusiasm was infectious. I had kept up with their activities over the months following and when I found out that I had been accepted to graduate school in Toronto, well, I was very excited about getting to attend Gamercamp.
This year’s Gamercamp was a 3 day affair, but sadly due to school commitments I was unable to attend Friday’s Keynote talks by a variety of speakers that I was eager to hear from, including designer and indie game zine publisher Cory Schmitz. I’ve been a big fan of Cory’s work for a while and regret not being able to make it. Other amazing activities for Friday that I missed where the Board Game Jam (where participants created their own board games!), and the 3 hr long Iron Chef Game Making Competition (in 3hrs indie developers were given a “secret ingredient” and then had to make a game based on it). I did however manage to make it down for the Casual Gala opening party, and see Gamercamp’s emerging artist talks where 4 emerging indie artists talked about the games they were creating and their process. The event was also a fundraiser for Sick Kid Hospital, where local indie developers and designers donated works of art for a raffle. It was a great introduction to the community (some of whom I knew, others I was just meeting), and I have to say that Toronto’s Indie Game Communities are the most open and mutually supportive group I’ve ever been privy to.
Sadly due to an emergency, I was unable to attend Saturday’s proceedings, including a panel on creating a mindset of play for adults (of which I was supposed to be a panelist on, but due to circumstances I could not participate: seriously bummed about that). And a whole other whack of activities at both the Toronto Underground Cinema, George Brown College and out on the streets of Toronto in the evening “Live Action Roving Mario Party”, where gamer camp took games and gamers to the streets for a night of fun!
I am pleased to say though that in spite of adverse circumstances on Saturday, that I did make my way down to George Brown College for the final day of GamerCamp! And it was a fantastic day! Upon entering I was greeted with a buffet of just about every sugar cereal known to man on one table, and the grilled cheese sandwich buffet on another (both of which are now inscribed as gamercamp traditions. So to begin my experience, I grabbed a bowl and a spoon, had some cereal and watched old Rocket Robin Hood Cartoons being projected on the wall.
After becomming sufficiently hopped up on sugar I meandered my way around the building to discover all kinds of great activities, already underway. There was the Snakes and Lattes Board Game Cafe room. For those who don’t know Snakes and Lattes, its a board game cafe located in Toronto. For their room, they brought a ton of games for people to try and play, plus they kept coffee brewing all day long. And even though the sugar high was in full effect, I of course had a cup or two.
Down the Hall and around the corner was the indie game tournament room, where Gamercampers could compete through a series of indie games for prizes and accolades. The room was hosted by Jim and Emily McGinley, the pair behind Toronto’s TO Jam game jams.
Then there was the film room, featuring film screenings with a game theme, co-programmed by Dorkshelf, The Toronto After Dark Film Festival and the Toronto Underground Cinema. On the bill were various films based on video games, or video game themes, but most notable for me was the film Kings of Power 4 Billion Percent by Paul Robertson. A 16 /32 bit style animated short unlike anything I had ever seen before. It’s a pop patische of so many other elements of game, film, sci-fi, pop culture that I lost track of just how many references to other works in the 12 short minutes of this film. Here is the entire short:
And still there was even more going on. In the peripherals room, selected works from the TIFF Nexus peripherals Initiative were showcased. The two I managed to spend some time with were Analog Defender and The Depths to Which I sink, which is a 3D game played with the old style blue and red lensed 3d glasses.
While there I also managed to take in a talk by local IndieDev Demian Sommers called I maek gaems and so can you, in which Demian talked about the software available for those with the desire to make games but without the coding and programming experience necessary to do so. He showed us the variety of warez available and then showed us example games made with each piece of software. It was a really helpful talk for someone like me with an interest in creating games but no background at all in coding.
All through out the halls of GamerCamp where a variety of indie games being demo’d by their creators including Miguel Sternberg’s brilliant and upcoming game They Bleed Pixels. I featured a demo of the game at ArtCadia at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for Nuit Blanche Winnipeg this year. It is an incredible game and I highly recommend that everyone check it out.
Then in the foyer was the PWNAGE series, in which participants could challenge competitive gamers at their own game. I witnessed the Mortal Kombat portion of the event, where all manner of challenger came up against the resident MK expert (a competitive MK gamer) and were summarily defeated. All in good fun.
And it was around this time that all that coffee and sugar began wearing off, so I began to make my way out of GamerCamp. All around an incredible event. What Jaime and Mark have done here have created a festival/conference/gathering that includes all manner of DIY creatives and culture programmers in Toronto. It’s perhaps the most inclusive event I’ve ever been to, walking in to various rooms, each one programmed and facilitated by members of Toronto’s creative community. Gamercamp cuts wide swath through our various cultures of play, and I for one am eager to participate in Level 4 next year.