The VGX show this year (previous the VGAs) was an all-out cringe fest. Whoever runs these things seems to want to pick hosts who seem edgy, cynical, and completely out of touch with the gaming community. It is not only disheartening to see the game industry so poorly represented by those who are involved with major media outreach for it, but also that it isn’t really being taken seriously. This is despite the fact that video games continuously outperform both film and television in entertainment sales, globally. It shows that people who game are still looked upon as these immature kids (and adults) who will go crazy for anything labeled “video game.”
NOTE: (I wanted to post the video with the scenes in question, but Viacom has since blocked it on Youtube)
Then you have something like GAAM (Games Art and Music). I was fortunate enough to be informed of the event by some friends in the Jacksonville, Florida area. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I had a friend in town from Savannah and thought this would be a good way to spent a low-key night checking out some nerd-culture in the area. What I ended up finding was a refreshing and well-organized collection of people who are passionate about gaming and the culture that surrounds it.
The entrance was modeled after a sewer tunnel, and that green light is no coincidence. The theme for this GAAM event (which is held every three to four months, and moving to become more active) was Ninja Turtles. There was nothing there about the new Michael Bay film thankfully. Instead, it was a nostalgic throw-back to the days of cowabungas and shell-shocking martial arts action. The line of people as we waiting to get in was full of name dropping of obscure characters from the shows and video games. Cosplayers were well represented, but it wasn’t until I got inside that my excitement hit it’s peak levels.
We got there really early, so the art displays (which are all local artists) were easy to get good views of before the auctions.
There was live music both indoor and outdoor, with plenty of beer and booze that came included with the $50 dollar admission ticket. A local grilled cheese food truck was parked for everyone to eat from, and the outdoor venue was well lit and relaxing to sit in.
The pictures were taken early on in the evening. Despite how it may look, this place was packed. The guys at GAAM even had a video game section set up where people could play every system from Nintendo to the modern PS4 and Xbox One. Pokemon Stadium and Smash Brothers tournaments were held to cheering crowds and curious onlookers, while a few scantily dressed cosplayers pulled attention from the screen every now and then.
Perhaps my favorite room was where some indie developers and artists had set up shop for the night. They were extremely open to demonstrating their products and just talking shop. Two develops who really impressed me were the folks over at Immersed Games (www.immersedgames.com) who are using a Unity-based design to help instruct people about educational courses that doesn’t seem like learning. It’s a brilliant concept that was born of playing MMORPGs and realizing that they were learning management skills, organizational abilities, and strategy development without even being aware at the time.
For the hobby-developers there was a group called Artific Games (www.artificgames.com) who had a very impressive system on display. I highly suggest checking out what they have been creating over at their site, especially if you are interested in any facet of game-design and execution.
All in all, this was an outstanding event that was well organized and a refreshing reminder about the people who actually make up the gaming community. It wasn’t pretentious, edgy, or pandering to its crowd. Instead, it was a genuine experience that had a clear goal in mind. Check out GAAM at http://gamesartandmusic.com. They really are doing something pretty great down here, and I can only hope it continues to grow.
As for the artists, I’ll be doing an exhibition of commissioned work here on the site in the following couple of weeks. Keep an eye out for the work, and I’ll be posting their site and contact information if you like what you see.