We love when someone from the studio does something awesome in their spare time! If you missed Alex Perry's Game Rats event last month, you can read all about it here, straight from Alex!
Over the past year or so, my friends and I have been meeting once a month to eat some dinner, drink some drinks and talk about games. From the start we had a vague plan to turn our meets into something bigger and more structured and eventually we hashed out what we wanted from a new games industry meet-up, what kind of format it would take, and the work it would require to achieve. We settled on a name as soon as the idea of rats were thrown into the mix (much to my pleasure as the proud mama to two ratties) and the Game Rats Rat King was born. Finally, at the start of this year we decided to get cracking towards our first ever official Game Rats event.
The Game Rats are: Sean Joesbury – game designer at MAG Interactive, Ben Nizan – game designer and writer at Good Catch Games, K Shonibare-Lewis – game designer and artist currently lecturing at the University of East London, Penda Tomlinson – lecturer at Middlesex University and writer for pen & paper roleplaying games, and me!
There are lots of other amazing games related events in the UK, so we wanted to carve a space for ourselves that would be a welcome addition to the London Games Industry scene. A big thing for us was to keep our events friendly, inclusive and fun – while also providing a space for serious games industry discussion and sharing of ideas. We settled on a format of three speakers giving 15 – 20 minute talks on topics related to our theme (our first theme was, aptly, “firsts”) followed by a couple of hours in which everyone could hang out, grab some food/a drink, chat with friends and hopefully meet some new people.
It’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a goal to work towards! Between us we set up a website, found some amazing speakers, organised a venue, set up social media accounts and event pages, wrote a safe space agreement, commissioned a logo and got the word out to all our game dev friends – in the space of a couple of months and while working full time jobs! By the time the event itself rolled around we were all nervous, but confident we had created something really cool. Oh, and we sold out the night before. 50 tickets sold...when we’d been conservatively expecting around 15-20 attendees. Gulp.
As the two resident loud-mouths, me and Ben split up the compere tasks between us. Ben delivered a brilliant opening speech (that usefully reinforced the statement that we are definitely not a cult, nope – not a cult at all, no cults to see here) and then I took over to introduce our speakers.
First up was Sophie Sampson – game designer and one half of Matheson Marcault speaking about what constitutes the first EVER video game. There was lots of audience participation as we all voted on whether various examples throughout the ages counted as video games. Sophie took us through incredibly early examples such as Nimrod, shown at the festival of Britain, and Tennis for Two, created by the famous William Higginbotham, both created way back in the 1950s.
Richard Hamer – game designer and lecturer at University of the Arts London was up next. Richard gave a lively talk speaking about the barriers to storytelling in first person games. Despite some minor technical difficulties trying to show videos on the slightly creaky laptop we were using due to the fact it had a VGA port, Richard kept the crowd entertained with an excellent description of the opening scenes from Half Life 2. This speech asked why storytelling seemed to have a greater disconnect to the audience when in a first person format and Richard included examples from literature, and a memorable clip of Humphrey Bogart punching someone in the face in a rare early first person movie.
Robin Baumgarten rounded up the talks. An independent game designer, avid game jammer and creater of the fabulous Line Wobbler, Robin gave a fantastically informative talk about making hardware games and how he has managed to turn that into a career. We were all super excited to see that Robin had even brought Line Wobbler along and we got to experience a single dimension game first-hand. Robin’s talk was a great introduction to making a hardware game and the subsequent steps of getting people to play it, a harder process than for a digital game.
After all the talks were done we were over the moon to see attendees staying on to chat. After a much needed group hug Sean, K, Ben, Penda and I got involved with the chatting and we're already plotting ways to make our next event EVEN MORE AWESOME! We got some great feedback and were touched by how many people came to talk to us and let us know they’d enjoyed the event.
Special thanks to Haunt – our wonderfully accommodating venue and purveyor of delicious vegan food, to Mark Ford – for our amazing shiny new logo, and to Skins Elliott – our fantastically talented and helpful photographer. Keep an eye out for future events and here’s to many more!
Find us here: www.gamerats.co.uk
And on twitter: @GameRatsLondon