Recently myself, as well as the executive team at IND13, attended the annual Evolution of Gaming event held at BL-NK, 37 East Road N1, hosted by many elements of the digital community, 3beards (3-beards.com) and Cube Space (cube-space.co.uk) to name a couple.
The event was made up of many high profile figures from all over the gaming and tech sector who came along, not to plug any advertising spots, but to hold an open forum; discussing tips on indie start-ups to the ever-growing corporate gaming world.
As a first time gaming journalist I found it a refreshing insight into the industry. The event offered hands-on concept projects, such as the classic first person shooter Doom which was here on a monitor attached to a piano (yes a piano) and you had to play the keys in order to control the character to progress through the game. This really opened my mind to the possibilities of the art and design elements surrounding the gaming industry and its importance to the ‘end user’.
There was also a mobile trailer in the car park area, where a group of tech developers had created a ‘Red dwarf’ style space ship simulator. In this we were briefed on our separate ‘workstation of responsibility’ before we entered (I was engineering), and we then had to work together as a team in order to escape an entity which was trying to board the ship (trailer). We did pretty well for a first go, although Lee ended up crashing into a star… yes folks a star! To having a hands-on, or should I say an eyes-on, go of the Oculus Rift, now dubbed ‘Zuckerberg’s £2Bn toy’(it even had a £2bn mock-up price tag attached to its outer packaging), as an insider joke. As experiences go, let me tell you, it really is as exiting as it’s being dubbed.
As I put on the headset I realised first of all that it was quite light and comfortable, not what I expected at all. The developer then handed me an iPhone, which he explained controlled my movement: drag thumb forward and back for walk forward and back and tilt left and right for, you guessed it, turning, leaving thumb left and right to strife. It was a little dazing for the first minute or so, as your eyes are adjusting, but once you get it, your off.
Graphically, I’d say it’s on par with the likes of the early Xbox 360 games. In the simulation I controlled, you walked round a garden in Tuscany with a manor house in the middle, which was open plan and had two floors and and very vivid of colour. It seemed to be situated on a high hill. I walked to the edge, looked out over the shrub ‘fence’ and in the distance there were amazing looking mountains, which were really immersing and detailed, a flock of birds came flashing across my vision, I tracked them to almost a 180 degree angle, they moved extremely fast, but with as much elegance as a real flock, I was then amazed! Call me a a bit of a noob to VR, but the fact that I could actually track the birds with just my eyes and head movement alone sold me. I then went inside the house, breezing through it like a natural by this point.
Before this, while waiting to check out ‘The Rift’, I was talking to someone who said to me: “if your gonna do anything mate, go up and down the staircase, it feels like your actually ascending/descending a real flight”.
I laughed at this. During the simulation though I walked into the lobby of the house and I did it, lined myself up with a big wooden staircase, looked up at the top, which would have been about 15-20ft up (you felt the distance too) and proceeded up it. My body tensed up as it felt like I was ascending a real flight, I span myself round and went down them… IT FELT REAL. This technology is going to re-invent what gaming means and although the developer told me that ‘The Rift’ will be used mainly for social purposes, (Facebook or the sort, obviously) the potential is breathtaking.
During the presentation we were treated to a lowdown on what the event was all about and thanked for coming along and highlighted that everything at the bar was free(!) The presentation was relaxed and seemed open to adaptation (not what I’m used to in these sorts of exhibitions, where its normally extremely time-bound and has a solid agenda, with little or nothing open to its audience).
Michael Hobson from 3Beards was the facilitator and asked questions to the panel as well as opened up key points, which were mainly focused on the inner workings of the industry as well as the evolution of gaming over the years and where its future lies. The panel were a mash up of roles across the industry, Julia Hardy, a video games & tech journalist; Dan Maher, a journalist and 13-year industry veteran/victim; Haitham Rowley IT Director at Square Enix and Louise Shannon, Curator of Digital, Victoria & Albert Museum.
I found the presentation extremely informative, again, for a guy who is quite new to the scene. It opened my eyes up to the amazingly diverse world of gaming; from the design, artwork, writing data and code, project management within indie start-ups, to the advertising, production and retailing of the big corporations, the skills needed as well as skills picked up during working for various companies and holding different roles. I believe everything was covered, including the still prevalent demographics of gaming, whereby the industry still has a stigma attached to it. ‘Only kids/teens play games’ type of thing, which is no doubt a lot to do with its mainly negative coverage in mainstream media which suggests kids are killing others solely because they found a copy of GTA in their bedrooms, which is seldom backed up by hard scientific data. But, hopefully, especially thanks to events like these, the gaming industry is moving forward in tackling these issues.
To sum up I would urge anyone and everyone across the board to check these sort of events out, weather your a developer, artist, indie company, coder, gamer, scriptwriter or a noob like me, there is always something to be learned from them. A first hand, hands on look into the future, which at some point will effect everyone.
The way I see it; the more people that can get involved and connected, the brighter and more diverse the industry will become. I met so many people, from so many different backgrounds. I’ve been to massive corporate events in my time, but never swapped so many business cards and had so many thought provoking conversations than I had at this event. It has completely changed my mind about the video games genre, I’m no longer just an end user, I’m involved and going to contribute to it in anyway I can moving forward.