Conference Condensed: Game Anglia Conference 2017

Game Anglia is the latest gaming-related event to hit the shores of East Anglia, a part of the country sorely lacking in terms of local games industry and general game development scene. The annual event aims to help remedy that by bringing people from all aspects of the industry to one place, with surprisingly heavy-hitting names such as John Romero (of Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein infamy), Brenda Romero (award-winning game designer and creative director), Rhianna Pratchett (game script and narrative writer, story designer) and Ben Tristem (Gamedev.tv and creator of game development courses on Udemy) making headlines on the event’s first run.

It was because of these names that I found myself excitedly snapping up a press pass and counting down the days until I could meet some of my game industry hero(in)es and embarrass myself by fanboying repeatedly throughout the day. With the weekend finally rolling around, I found myself somewhere on the northern side of Ipswich’s Neptune Marina, glancing between Google Maps and the small, empty car park with a furrowed expression plastered on my face, confused as to why the place I was sat outside looked nothing like the photos and was seemingly devoid of all life.

Ipswich, The Lord of One Way Systems

Stefan and I were finally rescued by both Jupiter and Dann who directed us to the larger building which  — despite being the other side of the road from us — actually involved a three-quarter mile trip around Ipswich’s rollercoaster of a one-way system to reach. By the time we threw our cars into parking, grabbed our assortment of business cards to fling at every human we saw and had been given an assortment of brightly coloured wristbands by the confused students guarding the doorway, 10am had already rolled past, meaning we’d missed Brenda Romero’s apparently lovely talk on Women in Games. Naff.

Set in the tall and airy Atrium, the event was centred around a student union coffee shop (which for some bizarre reason closed at 15:30) with complementary tables and sofas ringed by a few small game setups including Lost Words, Klink and Twin Diamonds. Talks which focused on broad, high-level topics such as game jams, remote development workflows and basic job application advice were given throughout the day in a fairly small lecture hall attached to the side of the building.

The bulk of the event was the indie showcase section, which was split cross two rooms: the larger of the two housed most of the games, where you could just grab a chair and try out a game for a while. Experimental bird flying simulator Fugl, tile-based dwarf-em-up Dwarves of Glistenveld and the hacktastic Code 7 were amongst the cabaret of games nestled against the edges of this small hall. Next door in a room littered with bean bags and shouting were games which could be played with two or more players, such as knocking each other’s castles over in Balance of Kingdoms or pushing your friends into the rising tides in Alex Simion’s Raiders of the Lost Island.

Game Anglia - Brenda Romero and Rhianna Pratchett
A Fireside Chat with Brenda Romero and Rhianna Pratchett

For Game Anglia’s first event, it went pretty well. Naturally, I wish there had been far more games -—but I have a habit of comparing every event with EGX Rezzed, which is rather unfair — however there were just about enough games at the event to pad out an hour. This would be alright, but given Game Anglia were advertising public entry for the “Indie Game Showcase”, it felt like it should have contained far more than it did. Perhaps opening up demo space to more local indie, student and hobbyist projects with curation would fill the roster out more for the next event.

The main organisational issue I had was that all the talks ran over; the first one went over by twenty minutes due to exonerating circumstances, causing a chain reaction throughout the day. Not an issue in most cases, but considering the day was very precisely scheduled out and contained a couple of mini ten-minute talks I didn’t want to miss, the overruns messed up the scheduling meaning I missed a couple of talks I’d have liked to see. Teething issues, which hopefully will be ironed out next time with more robust moderation.

Game Anglia - Pizza aftermath

Despite these issues, the day went smoothly, winding down with beer and more pizza than I’ve ever seen or consumed in my twenty-eight years of living, which was eaten as quickly as a carcass in a tank of piranhas. Whoever was left and capable of moving ended the night over at the nearby Aurora club where complementary champagne flowed, expensive cocktails surprised many wallets and alcohol-fuelled discussion about game development championed the night.

Despite the issues I had with it, the event was a great success for its first iteration. East Anglia is sorely lacking a games development scene and in general the collection of counties is disregarded by the wider games industry. Being from Norwich, I am extremely keen for anything that promotes and fosters games in my home region, and am grateful that the team behind Game Anglia has made a first step into a professional event to complement the small, public-orientated Norwich Gaming Festival.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be adding articles about the games on show, deftly written by Dann and Stefan; as despite being armed with a press pass and having the specific mission of playing and writing about the games, I ended up whittling away the day dashing between the coffee bar to maintain my blood caffeine levels and the auditorium so I could look professional whilst internally fanboying about the speaker lineup throughout the event.

 

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