On Sunday November 14th, as Gamercamp Level 2 was winding down, Comics & Gaming Monthly’s Eric Weiss, GameNorth’s Don Tam and I spoke with event organizers Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo. For the uninitiated, Gamercamp is a now-annual celebration of the art, creativity and community involved with games in Toronto, featuring everything from developer presentations to retro gaming stations to a nostalgic cereal breakfast at which attendees were encouraged to wear pyjamas. Over the course of our time with Mark and Jaime, we discussed the roots of Gamercamp, their thoughts on the Toronto video games community and what the future holds for their event. Finally, the pair revealed details to us about the recently announced Gamercamp Jr.
Brady Curlew: We’d like to have a general, post-event discussion with you guys to get your impressions about Gamercamp Level 2. How do you think the weekend went?
Jaime Woo: Mark and I are very proud to have organized this year’s Gamercamp. We tried to listen to what people wanted, and it seems now like people liked what they experienced.
Shaun Hatton is a cultural reciprocator: both the product of and contributor to video game culture. A life-long player, Shaun is a co-founder of Canadian games blog Toronto Thumbs and a current host and producer for Greedy Productions’ Electric Playground. Outside of these endeavours, he’s also a musician with Toronto band Cobra, spinner of records as DJ Finish Him and reluctant computer game coder. Above all, he’s a passionate proponent of the best that pop culture has to offer, as well as an outspoken critic of its downsides.
Hatton was, however, not an easy person for me to interview in a conventional manner. We are both prone to tangents, prone to meandering thoughts that reflect our ardent perspectives, opinions and judgments about games and gaming. As such, despite not knowing him before this meeting, my time with Hatton unfolded more like a conversation with a friend than a conventional interrogation. This is definitely not a criticism, but it does produce more topical twists and turns than my usual interviews.
Here Hatton and I playfully zigzag through a discussion about video games as culture and tools for identity formation, the state of Canadian games media and how to implement Canadian content into game narratives, all the while working in mention of Centipede, Phantasy Star and deer electrocution. Enjoy!
If you’ve read the about page for Play Till Doomsday, you know that the approach we’ve taken to address the culture of digital games is all-encompassing. This project aims to bring together the different perspectives of all the individuals, communities, institutions and companies that weave together the fabric of digital games culture.
Obviously, some of the different parts that make up that culture don’t always see eye to eye. This is no more apparent than in the relationship between the businesses who aim to make profit from selling games and those who aim to approach games as something more than just consumer goods, as creative expressions or objects of cultural significance. One of the mandates of the PTD project is to reach out to all sides and get them to share perspectives with each other and foster understanding about how the economic and creative aims of any cultural industry are often intertwined, even if at odds.
At the recent Interactive Exchange 2010 (IN|10) conference in Toronto, I spoke with Jesse Divnich about how the financial side of the digital games industry conceives of games as cultural artifacts, how its analysts may fit into a wider culture of gaming and what impact Canadian consumers have in the games marketplace.
Divnich is the vice president of analyst services for Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDAR), a games industry research and market analysis company based in San Diego, California. Before joining EEDAR, Divnich worked as an independent consultant and analyst for various clients with financial stakes in the interactive media industry. By most accounts (if his multiple appearances on and references in Bloomberg, CNN Money, Wall Street Journal, Industry Gamers and Gamasutra are to be indicators of clout) he’s good at what he does.
I spoke with Ian Kelso on Sunday, August 29 at Fan Expo 2010, shortly after he was featured as part of a panel addressing the state of the local games industry in Toronto. Ian is president and CEO of Interactive Ontario, an interactive media industry trade organization dedicated to fostering the growth and prosperity of digital content creators within Ontario. We discuss here the role and mandate of Interactive Ontario, government funding opportunities for interactive media creation, digital games as cultural products, the state of games at Fan Expo and industry events like it and how changing models of digital content creation and distribution may encourage more social acceptance of video games as forms of cultural expression.
Brady Curlew (BC): Can you please introduce yourself, your organization and its mandate.
Ian Kelso (IK): My name is Ian Kelso, I’m the president and CEO of Interactive Ontario, which is an association of 250 companies in Ontario working in interactive entertainment, creating intellectual property for digital platforms. These companies make not only video games but also mobile media, online media and e-Learning products.
In terms of our mandate, Interactive Ontario is a non-profit organization and our purpose is to primarily serve our members. Our membership is made up of all growth companies, so a lot of what we are concentrating on is finding ways of accessing public-sector and private-sector financing for them, and we work a lot with the government on programs and tax credits but we’re also trying to train investors and venture capitalists about the industry. We’re also involved with cultivating talent and making sure our schools and universities are putting out the right kind of talent for the industry. Those are the two main functions – we do some marketing, working with the Interactive Ontario brand, going to different markets and shows around the world.