Another busy day ahead at Gamecity begins with a hearty breakfast meeting at Broadway Cinema. Hosted by Iain Simons the director of the Gamecity Festival the day started with the serious business of Gamecity 8 next year. It was nice to see that contributions made by those present were of importance to the Gamecity team, it is clear that they value opinion on what is good for the festival. The discussion mainly circulated around the financial side of the festival which brings home quite quickly that even in games running a business is a serious affair. After suggestions of scrapping the big tent and replacing it with umbrellas for all was a sure no go there was much discussion about why Gamecity is run and what people want. With it being a majority indie festival; rolling in the big boys whom you’d see at international events such as Eurogamer or Gamescom wasn’t going to be an ideal suggestion. Perhaps offering some form of membership benefits to interested developers or having retro 20p per play machines dotted about were some ideas banded about and all accepted as credible ideas by Iain. But who knows what is going to happen, what does Gamecity need? Will they increase or decrease the venues? Does it even need to change? I’m sure we’ll hear in time but judging by the number of changing booths I’ve seen this week they won’t be short of new games to show the world.
Back to the fun of the games anyway, my next stop was a feedback talk - “Mike Bithell gets the advice he needs”. The brainchild of the game Thomas was Alone was given some pearls of wisdom by writers Antony Johnston (Dead Space) and Kieron Gillen (Phonogram and X-Men). Both writers played “Thomas was Alone” and discussed the game story and characters. From a student perspective this talk was certainly useful, and for myself I wanted to know about character creation and how to flesh a characters personality out, something I have struggled with on my own personal projects. Kieron was more than happy to help me out by throwing a few simple questions at me.
“What does your character want?
What are they prepared to do to get it?
What would the character say and how would they say it?”
But characters aren’t everything in a game, story and narrative were discussed quite heavily. It was highlighted by both speakers that in video games it is important to remember that there are two stories; the player story and the game story, the clever bit is to intertwine the two. Sometimes you don’t even have to tell the entire story; it can often be a case of smoke and mirrors, by offering snippets of narrative a player can put a story together without you even having to think it up. Anthony compared it to a game of Dungeons and Dragons where the Game Master has written a simple story but the players will remember what you intended to be the mundane. It is the same with games; the story doesn’t always have to be obvious and there, a player will often fill in the gaps with their own mind. With so much to consider when making a game it sounds easy to get overwhelmed, but the advice being dished out this week has all been very simple in theory. Lesson learned; keep things broken down and think of things at a basic level.
Minecraft in schools?
After a relaxing lunch and determined to eke out some other Gamecity gems I ventured over to Confetti Media to check out the MinecraftEdu session ran by CEO Santeri Koivisto and one of Confetti’s education co-ordinators Chris Jackson. MinecraftEdu is a tool that is being promoted quite passionately within teaching by Santeri. As a teacher himself, Santeri was originally approached with the idea and on demonstrating it to other teachers and finding them interested, he approached Mojang AB, the developers of the hit game Minecraft. Santeri described how MinecraftEdu can have an impressed effect within the classroom by offering a virtual environment that can be used to convey whatever is being taught. Take biology for example, the study of living organisms. These organisms can be created and interacted within this virtual world and offers a creative platform for youngsters to learn in. I was lucky enough to take part in a taster session which involved the class working in groups of two or three to navigate an intricate obstacle course and then finally build their own home on an island. The point of this exercise was to promote teamwork which just shows the diversity of the tool; and to be honest it was a heck load of fun at the same time. We didn’t win any prizes for our house, mainly because my team partner got lost in a cave looking for diamonds and I am useless at erecting roofs on my own apparently, but it certainly lifted my spirits to hear of a game being used for real life practical applications.