MIGW 2016

What I Learned During MIGW 2016

I've now written about the Melbourne International Games Week twice, once before hand, and once in last week's This Week, but now it's finally time to reflect on what I learned there. And there's a lot...

I think the best way to break it down is in three parts: the theme of GCAP16, the most interesting talk I went to, and my key take-aways from the whole week.

I want to preface this by saying that, going into MIGW, I was terrified. I have quite a few confidence, anxiety, and impostor syndrome issues that I battle with. It may not seem like I do, because I'm good at talking to people I know, but these things lock me down when I am faced with talking to those I don't know.

Correction, they did lock me down. MIGW shattered that. Thanks, MIGW!

The Theme: The Shoulders of Giants

This year's theme was "The Shoulders of Giants". We opened GCAP with a keynote from Corey May, who talked about standing on the shoulders of industry Giants, staring into an unimaginable fog of uncertainty, filled with goblins of despair. He talked about how game development was like going on a quest - and like any good quest, you need to gather your party, follow your map, and to watch out for quicksand, alchemists and the strange advice of oracles.

The theme resonated throughout the two days of GCAP, and really hammered home two things: by standing on the shoulders of our Giants, we can see further than we could already, and that we already are Giants. Everything we do, which furthers our fellows, is Giant of us. We freakin' got this!

This theme really helped me, in a very profound way. I've always been prone to hero worship (just ask my heroes!) but I've always shied away from fan-culture. I don't want to bother my heroes, but I desperate want to learn from them. This theme told me, frankly and unabashedly, that everyone has heroes, and that they are at once both Giant and my peers. We are all in this...in everything...together.

My Favourite Talk: Finding Peace in Chaos

Morgan Jaffit has a conversational way of speaking. It's weird. It's like he's having a casual chat with you on his veranda, whilst you're both drinking something nice, cold, and not-too-alcoholic. But he's speaking to a crowd. A big crowd, in fact. Seems I'm not the only one who wanted to hear him speak!

He's spoken before - quite a bit, actually. And as he said, this was his last for the foreseeable future. His reasoning? He's good at it. He knows how to do it. He's comfortable doing it.

And that was his lesson.

Morgan spoke about waxing and waning, ebb and flow. In everything. In his life, and in his design. He talked about adding heaps of things, and then pruning it back. Making it awesome, and then making it work. Once it works again, make it awesome once more. Keep going until you're satisfied...because you're never really done.

He also spoke about, as I touched on, not being comfortable. Basically, he said that whenever you feel comfortable, make yourself uncomfortable. Comfort leads to lack of creativity. It also means you're not learning as much as you could.

I got the chance to speak to him afterwards, and I let him know what his words meant to me. I hope I get the chance to speak to him again, soon, because damn it if it wasn't the best thing about GCAP.

Whilst not in the same talk, this theme was carried elsewhere, and most notably by Kamina Vincent, who said something I've heard a lot recently: you need to know what you don't know. Find out what you're unsure of, what makes you uncomfortable, and face it. You'll be better for it.

My 7 Key Take-Aways

There were a lot of them, but I've managed to refine it down into 7 dot-ish points. I'm writing them as tips, but take what you will from them... Here we go!
  1. Be honest. Honestly talk to people, about yourself, and your work. People appreciate this, and who knows, they may have good insights... More importantly, they may open up honestly about themselves, too. That's awesome, and that way friendship lies!
  2. Be enthusiastic. Listen to learn, not to reply. You never know (seriously, never) what someone has inside their mind, so if you get the chance to hear about any of it, you should be keen. Be enthusiastic to find out who they are!
  3. Be willing to not know/understand. We don't know everything. We need to know what we don't know. If you're confronted by something you don't know: shut up and listen to those who do. If you're confronted by something you don't understand: ask questions until you do. If you're honest and enthusiastic above (and, rule 0, not being an asshole), then they should be willing and even enthusiastic themselves to enlighten you. If they're not, that's ok... No one owes you an explanation. Remember that.
  4. Be willing to screw up. We're not perfect, and we will screw up. Accept that it will happen, own it when it does, and be welcoming to feedback. Someone telling you that you screwed up isn't them hating on you - it's them letting you know how not to screw up again. Let people know that they can call you out on things when you invariably do screw up, and you invite trust. Again, that way lies friendship!
  5. Be attentive to yourself. You'll need a break. Take one, when the time comes.
  6. Be attentive to those around you. Hopefully wherever you go in life, there will be people around you dissimilar to yourself. Understand that they need different things. Don't assume - ask them. Enact their advice. You will always be wrong about them, unless you ask. However, see #4 again, because this will happen. You will screw up, but that's ok. Ask, ask, ask.
  7. Be willing to trust people. Just as you're being honest, be willing to trust that others are being honest too. People need to know that others have faith in them. Trust them. Return people's trust. Don't break it.

Final Thoughts

MIGW has been the best thing I've ever done. Seriously. I loved when it was on, and I'm eagerly awaiting next year's expanding Games "Week" (c'mon, folks, it's 10-bloody-amazing-wonderful days!)

I'm so thankful to everyone who I met, everyone who I spoke to, and everyone who had something to say and to show to other people. Our industry has flaws, but MIGW gave me hope where it's often lacking. I finally feel a part of this community.

I wanted to say, once again (because I know I said it on the night of AGDA, but hell, it needs to be said again!) a huge THANK YOU to Antony Reed, Liam Esler, and everyone else involved for setting everything up. You all rock - so freakin' hard - and I love you for that.

This Week: MIGW, GCAP, PAX Aus & Aftermath (Special Edition)

Welcome to This Week, a weekly series where I discuss all the gaming (both video and tabletop) content I've played, made, prepped, run and seen that's cool this week. If you want to see what I got up to last week, go here.

However, this is a bit of a special edition... As I mentioned in my last post, it was Melbourne International Games Week over the last two Sundays, so I didn't get a chance to do those two posts. Which means that this This Week is actually covering three whole weeks. Now, I won't go into full detail on everything that happens (and, frankly, there were enough things in this last week alone that I'd rather not write about at the moment - though you can bet I damn well will be talking about it later). What I will mainly be doing is covering MIGW.

Let's jump in!

What I've Played

Whilst it may be strange to hear, but I don't often play many games during MIGW. I spend most of my time talking to people - sometimes whilst playing games, but usually with undivided attention.

However, I did play two gems this year, which I want to talk about. The first was a tiny, one-button prototype from Sky Pirate Studios, who recently got their game Help! I'm Haunted on Steam Greenlight. The prototype was called Tokyo Sword Club, and the rules could be explained in a matter of seconds. Two samurai face off. Tap once to jump back. Tap again to dive forward. Tap a third time to slam your sword down. Kill the other dude. Simple.
(Image from Sky Pirate Studios.)
I saw the Sky Pirates pitch, and present, this game eagerly to dozens of people, who all got it within seconds, and were jumping at the chance to play another round of five straight after. Honestly, I want to buy it now, but they (quite wisely) want to finish up with Help! I'm Haunted before they release Tokyo Sword Club. Which means we need to give them as much support as possible now so they hurry up and release Tokyo Sword Club!
(Image from Flick White.)
The other notable mention was Putty Pals from Harmonious Games. It's a co-op side scrolling puzzle game. Super cute, and super tactile. I actually went back for seconds on this game - playing the demo twice because it was damn good. It's the first title from this ambitious studio in Melbourne, and it's pretty damn fun. I'll be getting it when it comes out, for certain.

What I've Run

I got the chance to run a demo - the first public demo, actually - of Do or Dice at PAX Aus this year. It was pretty great, to be absolutely honest. I think I would have been more nervous about it, if I weren't so exhausted (this was on the Sunday afternoon, with the weight of 6 full days of MIGW behind me).
(Image from me... Sorry about my photography lack-of-skills.)
The players were all receptive, and the rules were taught in part at the beginning, and the rest during play and example. I ran a very simple adventure: meet a crime boss in a tavern, get a map to a dragon's hoard, raid the hoard. But, as players are want to do, they made a massive scene in the tavern talking to the crime boss, and we decided to just focus the entire adventure on getting the map. We had bar fights, boasting, espionage, infidelity, ambushing, magical phenomenon, all sorts of nonsense. We tested just about every part of the MIGW Preview Rules I made especially for the week, and the only negative feedback I got was that the character sheets - the ones I threw together the Friday before - were a little cramped and confusing. Which is great news!
(Image from William McAusland, used with permission.)
Expect to see more out of Do or Dice soon. I might even just throw that Preview up here for everyone to download, if there's interest (let me know in the comments if you want it).

What I've Seen

Now for the big part... What I've seen. I saw so much, and learned so much more, that I'm probably going to do an entirely separate post on What I Learned at MIGW 2016, so for now I'll just stick to the ridiculous and amazing.

One of the best things I saw during GCAP was the final keynote from Innes McKindrick, an incredibly inspirational speaker, who's a Programmer on No Man's Sky by Hello Games. Listening to Innes speak was incredibly hopeful, and gave me a good view from the shoulders of my industry's Giants. I feel a lot of what's going to come out of my mind from here on out is going to be fuelled by GCAP, and by Innes in particular (among others, certainly!)
(Image from Lauren Clinnick.)
I was able to see Objects in Space, a retro submarine-sim-IN-SPAAACE at PAX Aus this year, which was amazing! If you don't know anything about Objects in Space, check out the developers at Flat Earth Games. Basically, they build the bridge of a freakin' space ship, brought it over from Sydney, set it up at a booth, and had people flying around space all weekend. The booth was so busy I didn't even get a chance to get into the inner circle and say "Hello!" to the developers properly, which was a shame, but a great sign. People are keen. I am one of them.
(Image from Flat Earth Games.)
I was also able to meet up with a few RPG personalities that inspire me constantly (specifically Steve Dee and Anthony Stiller - both awesome people) as well as a bunch of my local and interstate comrades in arms. Recently I've been thinking that its ridiculous that I don't know more about my fellow RPG Designers in Australia, so I made motions to change that - yes, I set up a Guerrilla Panel (an unsanctioned, totally illegal, underground, edgy-as-all-hell panel on the landing between some of the Lecture Halls at PAX).

The panel was great! We talked about the RPG dev community, and why it's not great now, and how we could make it into something amazing. Things are in motion, and I will discuss them more later... However, if you are an RPG Designer (or want to be) in Australia, let me know now and we can get you in on the ground floor. We want as diverse a crowd as possible, so please please let us know, whoever you are in all your wonderful varied ways!
(Image from warpkey.)
Speaking of diversity - this MIGW was by far the most diverse I've ever seen (in fact, it's by far the most diverse anything I've ever seen). There are still some gaps - we still have an overwhelmingly white community - but things are getting better. Games are for everyone, and games culture has a lot of work to do to prove that. But I met with some amazing people, who I now count as amazing friends, who are doing great things to make it better, and who were willing to share insights into how I can help. I'm not armed with that knowledge, and determined to make it better.

And last, but certainly not least, there was a fantastic panel called Game Development with Sock Puppets. Frankly, what it was, was all in the title. Two great people - whom I'm lucky enough to call my friends - backed by a team of hilarious individuals, set up a small stage with a horde of sock puppets, and enacted a play about game development. The crowd got involved, and I could tell whilst everyone was having a good time, they were also learning about the realities of this craft... Which is a GOD SEND! We need more people to understand that we are human and that we need rest and that what we is difficult and that it doesn't take one week to encode multiplayer. It was a lot of fun, and I believe it was all filmed for Twitch so you can watch it here (the link goes to the whole Game Spot Theatre stream, set just before the puppet show!)
(Image from Amelia Sarif, please excuse the quality!)
That's all for This Week this week. Sorry about the length, but hopefully this is an insight into just how awesome MIGW was. Maybe you should join me, next year?!

I'll talk to you next week, and tell you of all my adventures again! In the mean time, fill your own week with as much awesome as possible.

A Disturbance in Melbourne...

"I felt a great disturbance in Melbourne, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear MIGW has come."
―"Old" Ben, sensing the coming of Melbourne International Games Week
Yes, that's right, Melbourne International Games Week (or MIGW) is here again! Starting tomorrow, and going until the 7th of November (yeah, I know, that's more than a week), this is a string of amazing events happening in Melbourne, Australia that surrounds the games industry.
Where the US has Con Season, we've decided to have Con 10-Days, and jam everything together because we a) hate ourselves and b) love each other so much we can't bear to let go so we hold on and never let go!

This year I'll be attending three of the billion things happening:
Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) Loading, a one-day conference for students of game development on the 30th of October. Granted, I'm now in the games industry proper so you might be wondering what the hell are you going to a "student focused" event for? Fair question. It's student focused, but broad in topic - covering things like getting into AAA, Indie, and Freelancing. Whilst I am currently AAA, I have a great interest in going Freelance in the future, and want to squeeze as much knowledge out of Freelancers as I can - so that's my plan for the first Sunday of MIGW.
Game Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP) 2016, a two-day conference for games industry professionals beginning on the 1st of November, and ending with the Australian Game Developer Awards (AGDA). This is the big one, in Australia, and is basically our GDC. This is also my first year attending, which means I get a chance to rub shoulders with some of the Greats in Game Development, both home-grown and from-afar. I am insanely excited for this!
Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Australia, a three-day exhibition for everyone interested in games, the games industry, and pop-culture. This starts on the 4th of November. I've been every year that it's come to Melbourne, and I'm not stopping now... However, this year I'm not planning on running around like crazy as I have previously - I'm going to be more relaxed, and spend more time with friends. I've met a lot of people in the industry this year, but most of them haven't been face-to-face. PAX is going to change that. I'm going to get to meet one of my favourite designers ever, and some really cool people who I look up to a lot. I'm also going to get to reconnect with some friends I've made previously, which I am very much looking forward to!

In all, that means I'm attending 6 days of MIGW, which is enough of a week for me. I'm excited, but it's also a bit stressful, and insanely busy.

Which, unfortunately, means I won't have much time for versamus! I've already felt this, with not having time to write up my last Curse of Strahd diary as I have been madly preparing. Further, I don't know if I will have the spoons to do my two This Week posts during, nor my weekly Ameshirel: A World Reforged snippet. However, if I can't, I'll be making up for this in the following weeks... I'm sure MIGW will give me plenty to talk about, and I'll be looking to write as much of it down as possible. I might even be able to do some write-ups of panels that I see - who knows?!

For those of you that I will see during MIGW, I can't wait! 

For those of you going to MIGW, but I haven't yet talked to you about meeting up - PLEASE SEND ME A MESSAGE! I want to catch up everyone who is attending, whether we know each other or not. A difficult task, I know, but I'm determined. You can also follow along my exploits on Twitter, where I'll most likely saying where I am at any given point, so feel free to track me down.

For those of you not going to MIGW, I look forward to talking to you again as soon as possible!