Flammable Penguins

Claire Blackshaw's Forest of Fun

Games Horizon 2012

Conference Professional
Games Horizon 2012
Games Horizon is an annual conference in Newcastle aimed at big ideas and business of games. This year brought a reasonable speaker line-up, a brilliant foam ball microphone Q&A system, well organised parties and a good attendance. The only cloud over the event being a poorly thought out stunt by Ubisoft.

Ubisoft’s Stunt

Starting with the terrible; Ubisoft in a misguided recruitment effort positioned scantily clad dancing girls playing their Just Dance title advertising it and Watch Dogs as enticement to potential talent. Without repeating the multitude of well-written articles on the topics of booth babes I just want to take a moment to express my extreme distaste of this stunt. Once again emphasizing that boy-child image of the young game industry professional that popular culture enshrines.

Balls, balls and more balls

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One talk which felt like a waste of time was the self-indulgent fireside chat with Ian Livingstone quizzing Miles Jacobson from Sports Interactive. The success behind the Football Manager series, lessons and interesting tidbits were buried in a dull talk focused mostly around the current events of the football world. As pointed out on Twitter many women enjoy football and some men don’t. The talk did however drive home a “Boy’s Club” mentality which was exclusive and unwelcoming, which in many ways highlights the low points of our industry.

This coupled with the face the only woman talking at the event was Katie Bell from Stardoll discussing a product aimed at young girls. Personally I’m more than okay with Stardoll as they do have plans to use some of their audience share for education and issue awareness. Though the caucasian-focused skinny-centric emphasis on fashion is a predictable draw for many people’s ire.

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Parties

Though to step away from the negative the conference overall was a very welcoming atmosphere and well-organised by the lovely Nina Cliff. The conference started with a relatively open drinks night, where many mingled and I caught up with students now attending my old university. The CCP party was well run, with good attendance and atmosphere.

Throwing Question

One of my favourite things was the advent of a foam ball encasing the audience microphone, which was then thrown into the crowd for questions. No awkward shuffles, embarrassing queues or mic snatching and it immediately lightened up the atmosphere. More talks should look at this for inspiration, it’s a brilliant format to encourage audience engagement.

Wearable Computing and Zombies - Adrian Hon

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Perhaps one of the most interesting talks from a design perspective. Adrian dove into the realities of wearable computing. The dirty little secret that most developers ignore the capabilities of our devices, including the multifunctional computer which is always on and only a few feet away from us. Smartphones offer everything wearable computing promises today except a heads up display, yet our usage of this technology is still so limited. Adrian had some interesting thoughts on its application but mostly invited us to re-examine existing devices for new design opportunities. An energising talk, which was highly enjoyable.

Return to the Core - David Reid, CCP

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A brilliant talk from David about the importance of gaming’s core audience, from a psychometric view rather than a demographic. It was possibly the most refreshing talk among the many slathering money-focused zombies repeating the same old freemium lines. The focus on empowering the player and asking as a company, “Why this game?” are both important messages. More than ever in this increasingly money grabbing atmosphere we need to be broadcast our intent loud and clear as creatives.

Quick Footnotes

  • Chris Hatala gave a great talk with real passion
  • Best of luck to Massive Black on their original IP ^_^
  • Mark Rein is still one of the best people to get on stage
  • Marketing teams, please stop with the models
  • Intel moving into the mobile chip market should be interesting
  • Watch out for headless DLNA dongles and gaming impact they will have
  • David Helgason from Unity: Great format, focused on questions with good answers
  • Great to see Special Effect promoting accessible gaming!
  • “Brain Scans” and “Perfect Design” get more nods than they should
  • Never underestimate the power of Boredom
  • Blackberry is the walking dead, as if we didn’t already know that
  • Freemium still soulless - has gone stale with no new ideas in two years

Attend again...

Without a doubt it’s always an interesting conference with a great venue and atmosphere. The real value lies in drawing together enough interesting people to talk around topics over drinks and finger food. Roll on next year :)