Photo of Gamercamp courtesy of Gavin Hay
Now in its forth year, and expected to draw more than 1,500 attendees, Gamercamp, occurring this Saturday and Sunday in and around the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, has become an annual tradition for Toronto’s gaming community. The great part about the festival, however, is that one does not need to be a gamer to appreciate Gamercamp’s presentations, workshops, and game showcases – in fact, the festival’s organizers have gone out of their way to create an event that almost anyone with a passing interest in games can enjoy – and, with that in mind, the Toronto Standard has organized this year’s Gamercamp preview with suggestions for both gamers and non-gamers. Read below to find about some of the great things happening at Gamercamp this weekend; if you do decide to attend the event, make sure to check out the festival’s helpful guidebook here.
Things Non-Gamers Should Check Out
Vander Caballero Presentation
Screenshot of Papo & Yo
Having never played a video game, or perhaps having interacted with them only in passing, it might be tempting dismiss the entire medium for its adolescent emphasis on violence. After all, the majority of financially successful games still come in the form of first-person shooters. Yet despite that fact, every year creative individuals manage to craft thoughtful stories using video games as their chosen medium. Case in point: Papo & Yo.
Papo & Yo, a puzzle-platformer set in a magical-realist world of Brazilian favelas – if Gabriel Garcia Marquez were to craft a Mario game, Papo & Yo is likely the form his game would take – shares with its player an allegorical tale that draws from its creator’s history with his alcoholic father. Vander Caballero, the game’s creative director and writer, will be on-hand on Saturday to discuss how his relationship with his father informed the creation of Papo & Yo, and how developers need to craft more emotionally challenging games.
Games for the Blind
With their emphasis on colourful art-styles and high-fidelity graphics, video games have often privileged those that can see. Unfortunately, that’s meant that a whole segment of the population has been unable to experience the joy of playing a video game. Thankfully, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto led by professor Steve Engels are out to change that with their new project, Games for the Blind. Professor Engels and his associates will be showcasing the games that they’ve come up with on both Saturday and Sunday at the University of Toronto’s Victoria College (93 Charles Street West).
Using Next-Gen Web Tech to Revolutionize Games
Making a video game is a complicated undertaking. After all, it takes years of learning code to be able to even start a complex project like crafting a game that others can play and enjoy. In that respect, the pool of potential game designers is extremely limited, which means that the type of game experiences and narratives are also limited. However, companies like Mozilla, designer of popular Internet browser Firefox, are looking to create new tools that will enable a whole new generation of developers to create their own video game experiences. On Sunday, Mozilla will host a workshop on how easy-to-use web tools can help anyone create new and exciting game experiences.
Things Core-Gamers Should Check Out
Dean Hall Presentation
As a longtime gamer, there’s a lot of presentations at Gamercamp to be excited about, including one by Mary DeMarle, lead writer on last year’s superb Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but if there’s one can’t miss talk, it’s the one DayZ creator Dean Hall is slated to give on Saturday at the gorgeous Isabel Bader theatre. Hall is set to discuss how he came up with the concept for game while in military training, and the challenges of converting the popular mod into a standalone game.
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime!
Games like Guacamelee, Super Time Force, Dyad, and Skulls of the Shogun are just some of the much-anticipated and well-received games that are set to be available for attendees to try out on Gamercamp Saturday and Sunday. Of course, I would suggest to make time to try all the available games, but the one game to definitely try out is called Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime! Designed by Matt Hammill, he of iOS Gesundheit! fame, Lovers in Dangerous Spacetime! is a co-operative game where you and a friend defend your ship from aliens – basically, imagine if you and a friend were put in a colourful recreation of the scene in Stars Wars where Han and Luke defend the Millennium Falcon from Imperial TIE fighter. The game hasn’t been released yet, but it already has its share of famous fans, including Phil Fish, designer of the exceptionally charming Fez.
Tickets for Gamercamp can be purchased on the festival’s website.
Full disclosure: Jaime Woo, the Festival Director and Co-Founder of Gamercamp, contributes to the Toronto Standard.
Igor Bonifacic is a writer working for the Toronto Standard. You can follow him on twitter at @igorbonifacic.