On Saturday I was at Gamecamp 6, which I thought a few people here might be interested in.
(I seem to have degenerated to LJing solely about games just lately. Sorry about that… although in my defence, they are occupying almost all my work and leisure time at the moment.)
Anyway, so Gamecamp is an unconference, which is like a conference (in that it consists of people with related interests getting together to talk about stuff) but rather than having a predefined agenda, it organizes itself as it goes along without any hierarchy of authority. Any attender can announce and deliver a session on any subject they feel like.
This was my first time attending such a thing, and tbh I didn't quite know what to expect, but it seemed to work pretty well. There was a big piece of wall divided into a grid of rooms vs (half-hour) timeslots, and people just stuck up index cards onto it with what they wanted to do. I guess it would be a bit disheartening if you announced something and then no-one came along for it, but as it turned out all the slots I joined in on (and the one I organized) had plenty enough people.
Actually to say 'the one I organized' is aggrandizing it a bit. The theme of this year's Gamecamp was "Show and Tell, or Run What You Brung. Bring along a game you’ve made, a prototype you’ve got in testing or a work you have in progress, and be ready to show it off and talk about it." Not really knowing what was going to happen, I took along some copies of Shape Up! (as mentioned in this LJ passim), bagged a room slot, and found some people to test it on. Which was cool, although tbh not much different to what I've done at the regular London boardgame playtest group. Next time I'll be more ambitious!
Anyway, so what else did I do? I playtested a game about catching RFID-based electronic fireflies against the clock, from pabadesigns, which was lots of fun but very prone to cheating through over-excitement. I suggested the fireflies should deliver a mild electric shock if you tried to move them illegally. I think Polly was strongly tempted…
I went to a discussion about location-based techniques in mobile games (ie. the phone senses whereabouts you are located, and the game changes accordingly in some way), which was quite practical: basically various people discussing examples of games where it worked well or badly, and their own experiences (most were developers) of the various technical options available. The general tenor of dissatisfaction confirmed me in my mind about not using location-basing in the pervasive games I'm working on, but instead using QR codes and the like to check-in.
That and a couple of slots taken up by talking to friends and to business contacts took me to lunch, when I met up with the esteemed
Next up was one about the use of Twine in interactive fiction. I know very little about interactive fiction, and nothing at all about Twine, but there wasn't much else that seemed good in that slot, and I figured I'd learn something. And I did, as it turned into mostly a discussion about in-game narrative techniques in general; different kinds of reveal, player/reader frustration, the implicit contract. Much food for thought.
After that quite sedentary phase though I needed something different, so went to the room that was being used by the Haberdashery Collective. They do what are perhaps best described as grown-up kids' games, like Hide and Seek sometimes do. I think some of them are known to some of you? Anyway, we played some fun fairly-physical games and woke up a bit.
Next was my Shape Up! test slot, which went well and confirmed my good feelings about the game's current state. There's just one thing I want to try (a variation in the scoring, which'll make it easier to see how to score, but more difficult to actually do so) if only to dismiss it from my mind. We shall see.
Then was a discussion about Storynexus. I was in the unusual situation of knowing more about it than most of the other people in the room, having got as far as created a test world and played around with the techniques – although an actual game design idea has withered on the vine thanks to lack of time for me and the other participants. So I didn't learn a lot at that one, but it's still nice to hear about other people's experiences.
We took a tea break here, and then went back to the Haberdashery for more ar$ing about. And that was the end of the show! Pretty much everyone retired to the nearby pub for more chat, but I had to head off after a pint to meet up with TheHattedOne for an Esperanza! design session. (Of which more soon.)
Anyway, so overall it was good fun and I'd recommend it if you have a general interest in games. I would say most of the people there were mostly about computer games of one kind or another, although there were also plenty focusing on board/card games, pervasive games, and interactive fiction. Hardly anyone (or maybe not anyone at all) whose primary interest was in role-playing games (or related things like larp and freeform), though. Which surprised me a bit.
I've been aware of Gamecamp for a few years and tended to think it wasn't for me. Even this year I was a bit doubtful. But actually it was a good fit, as I've got such a variety of game stuff on these days. I even managed to find someone to have a very useful convo with about the educational software business I'm trying to get off the ground. And the mood is not at all intimidating, you're not compelled or even socially-pressured into doing or saying anything. Although one of the mottos is 'there is no audience', in practice I would guess about half the people there didn't 'lead' anything but just listened to stuff and chipped in where they felt appropriate.Which is cool.