The Gottacon Journals: Tips on Getting into the local Video Game Industry & its Future
The local video game scene of Victoria, British Columbia is the spotlight at this year’s Gottacon show. This event was originally held in the G.R. Pearkes Recreation Center out by Tillicum Mall and after five successful years, it made the move to the Victoria Conference Center. This was done in partnership with the City of Victoria and the Victoria Video Game CEO Alliance to help give the show the ability to expand into better digs without show attendees expressing the feeling that they are being stuck into a sardine can.
Anyone with even a small interest in the gaming culture will find something new to try or learn how to get into this wide and varied industry. Whether that is board games, card games, scale model battles, video or role-playing, there will be some product to sample ot people to talk to. Not everyone will want to invest into a $75 game right away, and this show is the best way to try a new game — board or video — out. The bonus for the experienced is to participate in tournaments for some cool prizes.
I spent Friday afternoon at seminar where an examination of this city’s growing digital gaming industry was explored. It is growing and that’s due to the British Columbia-wide Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit (IDMTC) program. Not only does this incentive allow video game companies to hire more local talent but also show that the government is invested into growing local economies. But when this program is set to expire in 2015, this seminar was like a call to arms to that the program will not die a sorry death. Otherwise, there may be a brain drain in store for BC’s future.
With many major video game developers located in hubs like Montreal and Ontario, computer programmers or designers can go elsewhere. The hope amongst residents and West Coasters is that they can stay at home, either in Vancouver or Victoria — the latter being an emerging epicenter for the independent scene — if this program can stay in place. With more companies emerging out of the old Fort Victoria (Bastion Square) location, this statistic is fascinating.
Should the IDMTC remain in place, then the symposium for high school students to learn about the opportunities will be not for naught. They can pursue their electronic dreams.
Another panel after the press event had mayor Dean Fortin talk to the CEOs and founders of video game companies like KANO/Apps, DJArts and Tiny Mob about their beginnings. These folks revealed how they started their businesses. Having that entrepreneurial spirit is as important as the passion for the games everyone plays. Even a tip in how to get started was offered.
Just getting involved even in a hobby level was everyone’s mantra during this discussion that was targeted to high school students. For this particular generation, there is a work experience program that they can sign up for at www.vicvideogames.com
But anyone who is interested in developing for games do not have to be computer programmers. There is a need for people in community management, graphic arts and sound design (for example). But for those people who like coding, they are advised to learn the Unity game engine or Adobe Flash. Learning either will help develop an understanding if how logic in computer games work. And from there, people can step up to participate in IGDA Victoria’s Level Up group on Meetup.com. Participating in OrcaJam is another method so interested people can sign up to develop a portfolio. Similar programs should exist in many cities with an active industry.
As with any career-defining job, having products to demonstrate that talent is important. Even having a good spectrum of skills that can be used during game development will make anyone an asset. The common advice I heard was to simply never give up. If a career in this particular industry is what an individual wants, then all they have to do is recall what has been said in the movie Galaxy Quest, “Never Give Up! Never Surrender.”
That attitude is important in the tournament front. In all the games going on, from all the card to miniature battles to League of Legends tournaments I witnessed, players were doing their best to climb their way up the leaderboard. Crowds gathered when announcements were made to reveal who was the Warhammer Warlord of Gottacon 2014. Winners received prizes courtesy of, to name a few, NCIX, Logitech, Games Workshop or GAMDIAS.
I was back on Sunday to learn about the importance of storytelling in video games. The slightly heated discussion was between Chris Tihor (Ironic Ironic Studios), Raphael van Lierop (Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War), Eric Jordon (DJArts Games) and Joanne Roberston (One Bit Labs) in figuring out whether or not gamers are there for the experience or to delve into a narrative. With some games not even dependent on the latter, especially simple games like Slot Machines, just what this two-hour panel established was that of a neither nor situation. There was no definitive answer, but I think that what got established is that some narrative element is important.
Next year, my only hope is to see an expanded exhibitor space so that more video game companies can demonstrate their wares. Who knows, maybe they can bring a few special voice over talents to sign products. Vancouver is not too far and I know that they are a hub for voice-over talent who do frequent work providing the voices for many a character in video games. But for me, to see the gang of Reboot the Animated series present is an idea I like to put forth. The importance of cinema in videogames is paramount for a fan like me. And when I have heard that this series is getting re-imagined, I would love to see it make its premiere at Gottacon 2015.