Spoddingham!

25/10/2009

Al Needham explains why you need to get yourself down to GameCity this year


GameCity Squared runs from 27-31 October in Nottingham
GameCity Squared runs from 27-31 October in Nottingham

Attention, geeks of the Shire: your annual dose of fresh air and being with other people (otherwise known as GameCity) is back – and this year’s joypad-jiggling jamboree is going to be the biggest and best yet. Here’s why the city’s very own console convention has already been described as ‘the Sundance Festival of videogaming’…

It’s like other games conventions, apart from the fact it’s actually really brilliant.
As anyone who’s been to one will tell you, your average videogame bash is a bit corporate and rubbish. Not only do you have to put up with the suits licking each other’s bits in an orgy of self-congratulation and some bloke from America going on about a game that’s not due for release until your children die, the queues to have a bang on the new games are longer than the ones at Alton Towers. GameCity isn’t like that at all. Oh no.

It’s the only convention in the world that treats videogaming as a cultural entity.
Despite the fact that the videogaming industry more than pulls its weight both financially and culturally when it’s put against films, music and art, it’s still seen by a depressingly huge chunk of the world as a disposable entity designed to keep the kids quiet for a bit. GameCity doesn’t see it that way at all – so instead of bringing in MDs to prattle on about sale figures and all that boring rammell, they invite the people who actually devise and create the games. After all, if you were running a film festival, who wouldn’t invite a bloke who owns a projection company to give a talk, would you?

It brings some of the biggest videogaming auteurs to the city
Seriously. Previous GameCity guests include Keita Takahashi (the man behind the unbelievably mental Katamari Damacy series, where you have to roll a sticky ball that can pick up trees, cows and mountains) Alex Evans (the developer of Little Big Planet), and Alexei Pajitnov - the man who invented Tetris, for God’s sake. Just think; if you had been there, you could have shook him by your crabbed-up-by-playing-Tetris-on-a-Game-Boy-as-a-youth hand. One of the all-time highlights in recent years involved Martin Hollis and David Doak giving a directors commentary on one of their old games; a little something called Goldeneye 64.

It’s one of the few gaming conventions created for the people who play games.
Even though it’s been going for a short amount of time, games developers love GameCity – so much so that they leave their usual protective screen of PR reps behind and talk face-to-face with the people who actually buy the games. For example, not only did Lego Star Wars producer Jon Smith exclusively unveil the Wii version of the game to an audience of kids, but he also took them through the design process (and in return, got pulled up on his Star Wars knowledge by them).

It’s the only event in Europe that IndieCade bother with.
IndieCade – the International Festival of Independent Games – is pretty much the Fringe of annual gaming events in the US, giving a shine to developers outside the corporate world who are trying to drag the industry away from the cycle of sequels and rehashed games with better graphics. And they’re back for another year at GameCity – and this time, they’re bringing the entire IndieCade experience into the Market Square.

It’s the only gaming convention that has an official curry supplier.
When people give talks at the average games do, they’re usually on a raised platform with loads of screens and it’s all a bit Big Brother-ish. GameCity, on the other hand, holds intimate talks by developers, artists, and creatives in the wonderful confines of the Mogul-e-Azam, across the road from the Royal Centre.

It’s bringing the Godfather of rhythm games to Nottingham.
Everyone who has ever immersed themselves in the glorious post-pub experience of thrashing about on a plastic guitar or slipping on a dance mat needs to assemble in the Square and bow towards Masaya Matsuura when he descends upon us from Gaming Heaven to deliver the BAFTA Vision Statement. Not only did he create Vib Ribbon, he gave the world Parappa The Rapper, the game about a two-dimensional hip-hop dog who has to freestyle his way past a queue for the bogs that includes a kung-fu onion, a driving instructor moose, and a chicken that has its own cookery show on telly. Were it not for him, you probably wouldn’t be able to play Guitar Hero at 2am and would have to watch rubbish on ITV. Somebody praise him!

It’s having a special Elite day.
Oh yes, Elite - the space trading game of yore that can reduce the average fortysomething male to tears at the very mention of it – is being celebrated big style at GameCity, with a reunion of a host of people involved with its creation.

It lets you play on a telly in the Square the size of God’s face.
Say no more. Actually we will, because this year GameCity will be hosting Brickstock, an all-day music festival based around the forthcoming Rock Band: Lego, giving the punters of Nottingham the first chance in the UK to play the game and stroke their (L)ego on the main stage.

It happens all over town.
Previous GameCity locations have included places such as the Malt Cross, Gatecrasher, and cafes and restaurants all over town. This year, Broadway has already been confirmed - more to follow.

It’s absolutely free.
That’s right, you won’t have to lay your 10p down in the corner of the Square and wait for your go; the whole thing costs you nuppence. Little wonder that the trade press are raving about GameCity; no less an authority than The Times call it ‘the most inventively-programmed new arts festival of the year’ and Edge says it ‘shows us how a games shindig should be run’.

GameCity Squared runs from 27 to 31 October. Find out more at gamecity.org.

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