Festival of Games, Or: The Day I Met JP Vaughan

Kia Ora!

You may wonder why that greeting. Well, I know it’s been a while since I posted, but I have good reason (beyond the usual, like work and general life). I took a day off to volunteer at NLGD’s Festival of Games, held this year at De Overkant in Amsterdam. FoG is a matchmaking event for executives, companies, and the heart and soul of the industry, the talent (developers, freelancers, designers, etc) to have the opportunity to mingle with one another in a fun but professional setting. I thought the concept was pretty neat, sort of like speed-dating for gaming and gaming-related companies and potential employees. Most impressive for me was the presence of Ilja Linnemeijer, a Partner at Pricewaterhouse Coopers in their Dutch Technology sector with a specialization in the Video Gaming Industry. How awesome is it that this is how far we’ve come? A decade or two ago, any one of the Big Four might have sneered at the thought of paying active attention to the gaming industry. Now they’ve got partners speaking at conferences and annual reports on the state of the sector. Gotta love what money does to attract attention.

I bet Ben Franklin was a Peggle fan.

I bet Ben Franklin was an RTS fan.

 

I was a volunteer for the talent section, so I was handing out badges and disseminating information with those attending for either the job-hunt potential or as an invited guest for an exhibitor, speaker or exhibitor. It was a pretty crazy rush of people once the doors opened at 9 AM, which was to be expected. Having woken up at 5 AM, I braced myself and managed to survive until about 12 PM, when the flow turned to more of a trickle and we were able to take our breaks, get some lunch and check out the festival. Since I had not been able to take the following day (today) off to attend the last few conferences (since my badge granted me access), I took advantage of my break by inhaling a sandwich and heading out to mingle. Now, earlier in the day I’d retweeted RocketRainbow Studio’s tweet about heading into Festival of Games. An awesome Kiwi (aka someone from New Zealand for the uninitiated) named Lucy Morris replied to both of us saying it would be cool to link up with another indie. Now, I’m no developer; I’m more marketing/writing, and I stated that, anticipating the usual brush-off that I’ve received from the gaming industry. To my (happy) surprise, they wanted to meet regardless. We exchanged a few more tweets, trying to figure out where we all were, and towards the end of my break, I posted up at the Guerrilla Games booth, told them where I was and waited.

The first to approach me was Lucy, who I discovered was a Kiwi as soon as she started to speak. We chatted a bit about the festival and how she had come over from Germany to Amsterdam to attend. We bonded over the waning creativity in the AAA segment of the gaming industry, the lack of female developers present at FoG, and the fact that both our dads had discouraged our interest in gaming at an early age, but that we both had never shaken the passion. And then, behind us someone goes “Melissa?” and my brain flickered, like in that moment when you think you know someone but you can’t quite place them. The newcomer introduced himself as JP Vaughan and then the light-bulb went off: PopCap! Plants vs Zombies! Peggle!

Inner fan girl probably looked like this.

Inner fan girl probably looked like this.

 

I forced my inner fan-girl back into the room she was trying to claw out of and shook the man’s hand. We talked about his move to The Hague and what his plans were now for RocketRainbow Studio, which he’s co-founded here in The Netherlands. Anybody who followed the closure of PopCap Dublin last year knows that the majority of us learned about it from Vaughan’s twitter account. As a fan of Plants vs Zombies and Peggle, I had read his interviews on the development of the latter game, so meeting him in the flesh was pretty cool. I had a short break so I had to say goodbye relatively, but we linked up via social media, so hopefully in the future, I can look forward to a drink somewhere in The Hague. The most awesome thing about Festival of Games was the dominant indie vibe it carried throughout the day. You could feel the impact that Torchlight, PopCap’s efforts and Telltale’s The Walking Dead have had on an industry that, as I’ve discussed before and as Lucy and I chatted about, is suffering from a tragic lack of imagination. It was thrilling to feel the energy of those gathered, whether they were speakers, exhibitors, or just visionary devs looking for someone to give them a shot. By the time the last few exhibitors left at 5:30 (I’m looking at you, Guerrilla Games), I was exhausted but satisfied and, even though it may sound corny, pretty hopeful. And that’s my story of the day I met JP Vaughan.

I’ve got a lot of tasks swamping me for the next couple weeks, but considering Microsoft’s announcement of an XBox event on May 21, I’m going to set aside some time to post about that. It takes place at 10 AM, and so I will still be at the office but that’s what headphones were invented for! Until next time, stay frosty.

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