Gamercamp 2012: So You Want to be a Game Developer

The nerds descended upon historic Victoria College this past weekend for Gamercamp 2012, Toronto’s festival and conference for game development. I had the privilege of attending, and I’m here to give you the what’s what on all that went down.

The conference consists largely of talks by game developers from all levels of game studios — from mobile and iPad developers, to indie developers, to big-name studios like Ubisoft Toronto and Eidos Montreal. There are also workshops (which, unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to being swamped with interviews with some of the speakers) that dealt with everything from copyright (“How Not to Get Sued for your Videogame”), coding (“The Browser Arcade: Fundamentals of CreateJS Using HTML5), and brainstorming and developing a game (“Game Creation Speed Dating”). There was even a Motion Capture demonstration, that I was told by other people actually went into how much equipment costs, for budding entrepreneurs who were thinking about buying their own. There was also a game showcase featuring a wide array of PC and console games for attendees to play — festival favourites seemed to be Nidhogg, a sword fighting sidescroller, Guacamelee, a Mexican sidescroller in the vein of LittleBigPlanet,  and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, a two-player co-op game where you must work together to protect a floating space station. A lot of the games featured were made right here in Toronto or in other Canadian provinces. There was a little bit of merch, but for the most part this is an educational experience, and not a capitalist-driven endeavor like, say, FanExpo Canada.

The speakers and workshop runners were a diverse group of people, as mentioned before, from both indie developers and bigger studios, and the talks given reflected this. They dealt with almost every aspect of game development — brainstorming ideas, pitching, writing proposals for grants, writing, coding and music. Ontario has a really good grant system for games, and Toronto is developing quite the thriving game scene, and this is the perfect place to meet people who want to make games. Pretty much all the guests were around all day, and were available to talk to. There are also a lot of game design students as well, so it’s a great place to meet people to collaborate with on future games. A lot of people seem to know each other already though, so you really have to not be shy. There’s even a party on Saturday night that is a great opportunity to schmooze (and shake your booty!), but buy your ticket early, because they’re usually sold out by the time the con rolls around.

Now, for the timeless question: what was it like being there as a woman? The answer is, you are definitely in a minority. I think I only saw about 25-30 female attendees, though a lot of the volunteers and staff were also women. There was only one female speaker, Mary DeMarle (who was great, and her talk about writing for games was wonderful), but I wish there had also been a female coder as well. I was the only female member of press there for sure. But everyone is really nice, and as long as you don’t get too intimidated, there’s a lot to get out of the experience. If you really want to make games, I would for sure recommend going, because you will learn a lot. And if you’re unable to make it, or missed some of the discussions, they will be made available on the Gamercamp website in January.

Congratulations to Jaime Woo and the rest of the event organizers for putting together such a great celebration of games, and for allowing Paper Droids to come along for the ride! And keep an eye on our homepage for some of the interviews I managed to get over the weekend, with Vander Caballero, creator of Papo & Yo, Mary DeMarle, narrative director at Eidos Montreal, and Pat Redding from Ubisoft Toronto!

CORRECTION: I was actually one of three female journalists covering the event.

Writer, editor, and founding member of Paper Droids. RPG-lover, baby game maker, owned by corgi. Spends way too much time on Twitter @mk_patter. To reach by email: sciandtech@paperdroids.com