Killer keynotes, fantastic food, and play-filled party. Yesterday marked the first ever Ottawa Game Conference (OGC), a showcase and forum for strengthening the development industry in the Ottawa area. Guess what: it was awesome.
We at Snowed In Studios were lucky to not only have Tim, Chris, Evan, Matt and myself attend the OGC, but also our very own JS participated as a speaker and panel member. The conference itself was organized by industry members including John Criswick (Magmic), Scott Simpson (Bitheads, Playbrains), Jean-Sylvain Sormany (Snowed In Studios) and Ryan Valley (Fuel), each proving to bring their own touch to the conference throughout the day.
The conference kicked off with opening ceremonies including remarks from each of the above founders at 8:00 am (yes, 8:00 am). It was an early morning, but the day proved to be packed with interesting speakers and lots of information about an ever-changing industry. The founders excited the sold-out crowd of almost 400 people, waking them up with jokes and laughs.
Keynote speakers included Jason Della Rocca, founder of consultancy company Perimiter Partners and former executive of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Assisted by fly mating metaphors, Jason Della Rocca spoke about the gaming environment including how developers in today’s industry need to adapt, evolve, and try new things, as well as establish an environment that fosters innovation and creation in order to succeed. It was a very strong presentation, and he finished it with the idea that game developers need to simply ‘take many shots at goal and hope for success’.
Gabe Zichermann, author and gamification expert, was the second keynote speaker at the conference. He began by introducing the notion of fluid intelligence (gF) which is characterized by innovation and how it can be developed. One can raise that increase gF by seeking novelty, challenging oneself, thinking creatively, doing things the hard way, and networking. Wait, where can these activities be found? Video games! He discussed gF being incorporated into everyday life by gamification (the process of using game thinking and mechanics to engage users), including games in vehicles, education, exercise, and even the corporate environment. A second great presentation.
The layout of the conference was neat, splitting into two tracks at points with one side of presentations focused on the business aspect of gaming, and the other the content. The tracks allowed for participants to hear discussions and presentations based on their field of speciality (which was great as any time I checked in on the content tracks I was incredibly lost!). Although some were not fantastic, some were interesting including a panel on console and desktop gaming with a discussion on multimedia vs. transmedia devices as well as industry changes in gaming platforms. Another favourite panel was that on mobile gaming where members highlighted the importance of building a game for your pricing model rather than ‘slapping the model on after’. Lastly, the panel on moving to alternative funding models for games was interesting as well, as it discussed the challenge of getting your first dollar and the importance of ‘sweat equity’.
Overall, the panels and presentations were both entertaining and educational. They weren’t the only great thing about the conference though, the amenities were fantastic. Held in the Ottawa Convention Center, the facilities were brand new, and food and drinks were everywhere. Starbucks Coffee, Vitamin Water, Redbull, Monster, juice and smoothies: what more would you need? Add to that a lunch of burgers and pogos with freshly made potato chips and speciality mustards and ketchup (not exactly exotic but I’ll take it!) and I’m satisfied.
And finally: the after party. First off, I think that all bars should have video games. How great is it to be playing indie games with other developers, beer in hand? It was a fantastic networking opportunity as well, I had the chance to meet engineers, business developers, and owners from all over Ontario. There was food, dancing, drinks and a great turnout.
Altogether, the Ottawa Games Conference was a success in my mind. Although it started a little early and went somewhat long, the organizers have already been talking about extending next year’s event over two days. Even so, in the 11 hours that I was there not only did I learn more about the industry and meet some great people, I had fun! I am definitely looking forward to next year, and to see what amazing things the Ottawa games industry will accomplish by then.
Who else went? What did you think?