James Wallis levels with you


Saturday was GameCamp, a one-day cross-disciplinary games conference in east London organised by the Guardian. Trust a broadsheet newspaper to fundamentally misunderstand what people do on a bank-holiday weekend. Anyway, 120 people invaded Sony’s 3Rooms venue in Shoreditch, and I forced my shiny new business card onto as many of them as possible. I have to say, whatever you think of Sony’s games consoles (and I try not to), they know how to decorate a venue.

The thing was modelled on Barcamp, which is to say its organisation was ad-hoc and self-regulating. As a result there were loads of simultaneous sessions and people tended to gravitate towards the ones by their mates or on subjects that they already knew something about. This was a shame. A few broke out from the pack—Simon Rogers‘ overview of the cutting edge of tabletop RPG design was one, as was Tom Armitage‘s hilarious and thought-provoking description of how an MMO based on Jane Austen could work—but the majority didn’t. The audience for Tassos Stevens’s talk on real-world politics and ARGs was, for example, pretty much identical to the audience for my later debate titled ‘ARGs: are they fucked?’ The only places where people crossed over and just chatted were around the food table, the Rock Band setup, and in the pub afterwards.

Still, the quality of the talks and attendees was fantastic. I ran into many old faces, some who I’d been hoping would attend, and others who I didn’t know had gone into gaming and who are now quite senior at large companies. Before the conference I suggested to the organisers that having a gathering about the UK games scene and not inviting anyone from Games Workshop was like having a party in a zoo and not inviting the 800lb gorilla. There was nobody from Games Workshop there. It would have been interesting to hear their perspective.

Nothing on pervasive gaming either, not that I saw, which was a surprise given its general news-trendiness over the last year or so, nor board-games. But at least I was able to run a session of the Peoples’ Revolutionary Committee, which was suitably cathartic for all involved.

Thanks to Bobbie Johnson at the Guardian for pulling the event together. My pics here, other people’s here.

Categorised as: conference | game design


  1. Simon Rogers says:

    Thank you for the props, James. I’m annoyed in retrospect that I did not highlight the New Style games a little more, although I think we had at least one convert for the good Baron, unless she was lying convincingly.

    The PRC was a definite highlight, with its fresh new revolutionary fervour. I hope that other attendees were able to learn as much about the latest tabletop games as I was about consoles.

  2. mac morrison says:

    my session was about pervasive games – by accident! :)

  3. […] hosted a most unusual one-day conference, Gamecamp, in east London. It was an exceptional day—I wrote about it here—with a lot of brilliant and fascinating people bringing together some very different experiences […]

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