“Games lubricate the body and the mind.”
– Benjamin Franklin
I have a confession to make – I’m a gamer. I really love playing games; I always have done, from Cribbage to Poker, from Chess to Settlers of Catan to Memoir ’44, from Manic Miner to Tomb Raider to Knights of the Old Republic and a myriad of others from when I was old enough to grasp simple game mechanics onwards.
So, when a friend of mine pointed out that GameCamp 5 was on last weekend and that I was free to attend it, I took the opportunity to go along and savour the experience. I got there not quite as early as I’d intended to (the first sessions started at 9.30am) and duly took advantage of Keith of Morgans Coffee Experience fantastic coffee van and possibly one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever tasted.
Signing in was a breeze and even before you really got into things, I got a packet of plasticine (about the size of a matchbox) with game rules stuck on the back of it so you could get gaming right away. That put a smile on my face which didn’t get wiped off for the rest of the day.
A games library provided a selection of board games and card games to play on the first floor – lot of them I’d seen or played before but there were some new ones too. I could have just spent the whole day playing games, but then I’d have missed out on all of the discussions going on.
GameCamp isn’t like most conferences in that it is an unconference – there’s as little top-down organisation as possible, with no pre-set schedule before the day begins. People put up index cards into available half hour schedule slots for a topic of their choosing and it gets discussed by all and sundry who turn up to it. Personally, I felt that half an hour was too little time for some of the discussions, especially when you had lots of gamers all wanting to speak with passion, but maybe that’s because I’m used to more structured Conventions with one hour (or longer) time slots instead?
There was a huge range of topics discussed, from social media and networking, games testing, women in the games industry, game concepts in e-learning, how to pitch a game concept to a company (so they will buy it, you can afford to finish it and they can mass-market it)
The venue – the Keyworth Centre at London South Bank University – deserves a mention as it was great, with lots of available rooms (ten or twelve, at least, I think) for people to hold discussions in, plenty of room to sit down and chat with folk and corridors that only got clogged up occasionally when everyone was going from one session to the next, which was unavoidable at times. One of the empty floors got taken over by some of us for a session playing a combat game with made-up-on-the-spot rules using Nerf Guns. For those who’ve not heard of them, Nerf Blasters (to use their official name) are the ultimate in man-portable silly weaponry, consisting of a huge plethora of toy guns designed to fire lightweight foam projectiles which are nigh on impossible to hurt someone with – perfect for those of us who got bored of yelling out “Pew pew pew!” during all those live-action games of gun combat you loved to play as a kid, big or small.
A more than honourable mention goes to the people, both those running it and those attending. Apart from the friend who suggested I come along, I bumped into a couple of other folk I know, which didn’t surprise me in the least. All of the attendees were great, consisting of enthusiastic folk happy to talk about anything vaguely game related while being respectful to others during the sessions. Those on the sign in desk and other organising type people were great and all of those who ran sessions deserve a huge thank you.
A lovely touch was that the Student Union bar was opened up especially on the Saturday, so that people could continue socialising after CampCamp 5 was over and done with. I got to spend a bit of time chatting to the organiser of GameCamp James Wallis (creator or the games “Once Upon A Time” and “The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen” amongst others) which meant I got to tell him first hand how much I’d enjoyed it and that I’ll almost certainly be back next year. Hopefully I’ll see you there too – game on!