Over the past few months, I’ve been left radio silent for a host of not so interesting reasons. But now I’m back, ready to provide more insights into the intersections of digital games, play and culture for which Play Till Doomsday has come to be known.
I’ve also started contributing to CultureGET, a catchall blog site covering the wide swath of “pop-culture awesomeness” in Toronto. I’ll be primarily writing about games, but may try to sneak in some posts about music, books, movies and food, my schedule permitting. Check out my first post, featuring my impressions of Microsoft Canada’s recent Gears of War 3 Beta event.
Finally, I’m happy to support (and join) the Toronto Nerd Mafia initiative, as spearheaded by the guys from Slothy Productions / Lazy Reviewzzz, in an effort to create a collective that empowers the amateur and/or independent pop culture media scene in Canada. See the Nerd Mafia Facebook page for more info.
On November 14th, from the bustling halls of Gamercamp Lv2, some key members of Toronto’s games media sisterhood came together to record an impromptu video podcast. Featured here is Toronto Thumbs’ Jorge Figueiredo, Don Tam of GameNorth, freelancer Dana Russo, who contributes to both Thumbs and GN, Comics & Gaming Monthly’s Eric Weiss, Electric Playground’s Shaun Hatton and me, Brady Curlew’s Brady Curlew. Look out for epic cameo appearances by Zen Rankin’s Super Mario Bros. vest and chiptuners Anamanaguchi.
Since this recording was rather spur of the moment, it’s a nice mix of playful irreverance and insightful, in-the-moment commentary about this year’s Gamercamp. Indeed, we share our thoughts on everything from Mathew Kumar’s pointed Gamercamp keynote which furiously critiqued the state of the gaming press to the corporate evils of those who manufacture Lucky Charms cereal. Residents of Moose Jaw, SK should observe the following with several grains of salt.
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.
In 2001, author Ray Bradbury gave an interview to Salon.com in which he suggested video games were “a waste of time for men with nothing else to do.” Since Bradbury’s judgement is undeniably true, it means the many men who invest time in the culture of digital games are free on the weekend of November 13-14, 2010. I wonder if women players are free then as well?
Let’s hope so, because that just happens to be when Gamercamp Level 2 plays out in Toronto. The enchanced sequel to last year’s inaugural event, Gamercamp 2010 promises to be an insightful and entertaining celebration of games, game makers and game players.
The weekend includes twenty-five speakers, including keynote presentations by Jim Zubkavich, creative mind behind UDON Entertainment, Stéphane Boutin, artist behind the look of Ubisoft’s recent Scott Pilgrim game, exp publisher and journalist Mathew Kumar, as well as the dream team behind the upcoming Swords and Sworcery iOS game. Also featured are talks by, among others, Untold Entertainment’s Ryan Henson Creighton, OCAD’s Emma Westecott, IGDA Toronto’s Lesley Phord-Toy and a host of local indie game development talent.
However, far from being a simple industry event, Gamercamp taps into games as conduits of play that tie together developers and players. Unlike events that focus only on the technical or economic side of gaming, Gamercamp provides an opportunity to bridge the distance between creaters and audiences by being designed to provide insight and context about games and their makers, something organizers liken to the DVD commentaries for films.
I asked Gamercamp’s founders Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo about the root motivations behind organizing an event that aims to provide such context and commentary about digital game culture, while providing opportunities for attendees to engage with, learn about, and get inspired to create games.
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.
What better way to kick start an initiative exploring games, play and culture in Canada than with coverage of Toronto’s Fan Expo, a massive, multifaceted celebration of pop culture geekdom. Admittedly, the presence of games at the 2010 show was sparse when compared to the attention given to comics, sci-fi and horror, especially in terms of panel discussions. However, Fan Expo’s gaming focus did feature booths by Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Ubisoft, a heavy G4tv and Greedy Productions presence, and appearances by Victor Lucas of Electric Playground, Jeff Cannata of the Totally Rad Show, Felicia Day of The Guild, and Tommy Tallarico of Video Games Live, among others.
Add to this some board and tabletop game representation, a chance to try out indie games made by the talented members of Toronto’s Hand Eye Society, as well as the most Zelda cosplay you’ll see in one place north of border, and Fan Expo provides a stellar and multidimensional expression of gaming culture in Canada.
Play Till Doomsday is using Fan Expo 2010, as well as the upcoming IN 10 conference, to network with cultural participants, industry insiders and media personalities, all with the goal of launching this digital games, play and culture initiative with the strongest content and support possible.
Expect interviews and features from content amassed at both events to appear here in the coming days and weeks, and visit the about page to learn more about Play Till Doomsday.