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Gamercamp’s last life
Toronto Standard caught up with Gamercamp founder Jamie Woo to talk about the festival and the reason why this year’s arcade will be the last

“The creative adult is the child who survived” 

That quote, by award winning novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, is where Jamie Woo will direct you if you ask him the importance of video games.

“Video games are all about creativity and play and getting to explore different lives and different scenarios, I think there is so much we can do with that,” says Woo. “Video games don’t have to be educational, they don’t have to be artistic, just the fact they engage us in an entirely new way … that is great enough already.”

Woo’s love for gaming, and the Toronto gaming scene in particular, compelled him to co-found Toronto’s Gamercamp festival alongside Mark Rabo.

The festival brings in and displays indie gaming talent from small studios in Toronto while also attracting the best of indie work globally and bringing it to the city.

The project, which launched in 2009, was set up by Woo and Rabo to help support the unique scene in the Toronto community, which grew without the assistance of a major gaming studio, such as those in Vancouver and Montreal.

“We had to form a community, if we had no community or anchoring nothing would have been built,” says Woo. “Gamercamp came at a really right time, right place to help with that.”

Set on a weekend the festival is organized with a conference on Friday, followed by a groundbreaking “arcade” on Saturday and Sunday, that of which sets up 40 indie games, all curated by the Gamercamp team,  in a hotel for the public to explore and enjoy.

The festival, which since its conception has grown to one of the biggest gatherings of indie gamers in Canada, has been a focal point for the Toronto gaming community for half a decade.

“The scene in Toronto is so enviable, people from around the world are astonished by what Toronto has been able to do,” says Woo, who notes that a decade ago most people that wanted to make games fled for the historic gaming capitals of Canada due to their longer history with big-brand studios.

“Anyone who remained here that wanted to make games had to pull up their shoe strings and work hard to do something really different that would stand out from multi-big budget projects,” says Woo “We’re so lucky that people have this passion for games here.”

Woo points to games such as N+, a ninja side scrolling game developed by decade-old Toronto house Metanet Software, which took the Xbox 360 arcade by storm, as an example of the viability and creative energy Toronto developers have that the festival attempts to capture and curate for the public.

Yet despite serving as a cornerstone for the Toronto community’s growth over the last decade Gamercamp 2014 will be its final installment.

“After six years everyone just needed a break,” admits Woo. “We’ve been working so hard on this and it’s a community event, we did out of the passion for it, we definitely weren’t compensated for it.”

Despite citing exhaustion Woo, who helped to pioneer the unique arcade aspect of the festival, hinted at wanting to continue to explore the idea of video games and public space, while also remaining strongly optimistic that the Toronto gaming scene will waste no time in providing a replacement for the hole that Gamercamp leaves behind.

“I think that Toronto’s gamer community is so young that we haven’t necessarily seen this before … the ending of something,” says Woo. “We’re becoming such a mature community that things will end and new things will pop up.”

The final Gamercamp will run this weekend from October 17 to 19 at Hotel Ocho, passes start at $15.

The lead image is of Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, a game that has been a regular attraction at Gamercamp for the past several years.

In the interest of full disclosure, Jaime Woo has written for Toronto Standard in the past. 
Dylan Freeman-Grist is a staff writer for Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter

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