The morning kicked off with a remarkably inspiring keynote from David Perry, a consultant in the industry with a career spanning 25 years. Perry began with a brief history of his career and I was more than happy to see screenshots from his ZX-81 games and some shots of games he worked on at Mikro-Gen back in the UK. It was fantastic, for a change, to have a little retro moment that stretched beyond the usual Nintendo age and into something I was actually a part of.
It’s hard not to the like Perry’s style. He’s achieved so many wonderful things and seen so much that you find yourself wishing you could just experience even a fraction of them; ranging from ‘the good old days’ of single-developer AAA titles (before they were called AAA titles of course) to jetting off to meet MMO developers around the world or selling Shiny Entertainment for $300 million. There appeared to be two main themes outside of the autobiography, though; how people don’t concentrate on player experience enough and how growing Eastern game production could soon overtake our own.
Later that day, Erin Hoffman blew my mind with her presentation ‘Plugged in: Why game developers make great parents’. With a title like that, I was expecting something all airy fairy and went along out of pure curiosity as to what it meant. To my absolute surprise, Hoffman spoke fast and meant every word. I found myself literally nodding throughout her whole presentation. There were times when it felt like I had stumbled into some kind of underground movement to overthrow the government; true revelations. The atmosphere was electric and my mind was racing at the possibilities - if we don’t try to change the way that the games industry is perceived in the media, it’s going to have huge implications further down the line.
Hoffman goes on to talk about how parents who build games are more in touch with their kids and their kids’ culture. Game developers know more about games, which means a more informed choice about what is suitable for their kids to play. Perhaps game developers are more likely to pick up the titles that reflect their family values, family ‘moral code’ or encourage mental or physical development in particular areas. That is opposed to the typical parent who would not make such informed decisions. In my book, that reads ‘people who allow their 3 year old to baseball bat old people in Grand Theft Auto when they’re off down the pub’.
It was difficult for the talk not to sidestep into a discussion on violence in videogames, which is a shame since there are so many more interesting things to talk about. Hoffman detailed the ‘good stuff’ and cited some fantastic examples; What good can games do? How are games being usedto help real world situations and problems? Well, I think that probably deserves a separate blog post from me as it’s a broader topic than I can do justice in my ‘highlights of MIGS’.
If I had to criticize the event, I would say two things. One is that there weren’t enough networking opportunities scheduled in. There were private parties, but in speaking to a few other visitors it was agreed that this is lacking. My second whiney complaint is that everywhere I look the person looking back will either be wearing a Ubisoft, EA or A2M t-shirt. Of course, they are the biggest games industry players over here, but I did find myself wishing that there had been more variation of shirt. There is definitely a positive vibe here however, and I can see the event growing just as the Canadian games industry continues to grow.
The Montreal Game Summit is a great place to meet, catch up with friends and think about some things you probably wouldn’t normally think about. There are booths from most of the major players, ranging from LucasArts to Autodesk – if you’re looking for a new career, it’s a good place to start. The facilities are awesome and I should take this opportunity to say that the organizers did a fantastic job – if you can grab the opportunity for MIGS 08, perhaps look me up and say hi. Just be sure to wear an interesting t-shirt and your zombie-slayer boots!