Game City: On Reflection

Video games are big big business – economically and culturally – and they aren’t going anywhere


Game City came, and Game City went. It was a jolly old time for everyone involved, from those for who video games are life, the universe and everything, to those with a passing interest in what their Blackberry I-Phone S2 can do.

It started bombastically enough – taking over ye olde Market Square with virtual squiggly fireworks – and the event’s domination of the city didn’t let up until the geektastic closing party a week later. There was a lot of hair, a lot of glasses, and some truly fabulous dancing. A potent cocktail when mixed with alcohol, live music and demos.

Not wanting to be spotted, Downey Jr. sported a cunning disguise

Not wanting to be spotted, Downey Jr. sported a cunning disguise

What makes Game City remarkable isn’t its celebration of video games as entertainment, it’s its celebration of video games as an undeniable and vital element of contemporary culture; the Daily Mail and it’s horde of scared old men can decry it all they like, but video games are big big business – economically and culturally – and they aren’t going anywhere.

So while the daylight hours would be the domain of demos – either on the Two Big Screens in Market Square or the various arcades set-up throughout the city – when the sun set things got a tad more interesting.

How about a talk about sex and relationships in video games? That was how game journalist extraordinaires Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith kicked off the week’s evening events. Yep, video games aren’t just about connecting 3 dinglecherries to make a magic-chain or shooting unfortunate bastards A through Z in their unwitting faces, it can be about doing the nasty too.

‘Nasty’ as in ‘secretly brainwashing’ via the Oculus Rift (it’s a real thing, not a Matrix prop)

‘Nasty’ as in ‘secretly brainwashing’ via the Oculus Rift (it’s a real thing, not a Matrix prop)

As it turns, video games aren’t that good at it yet (but boy do they love boobies!) though the discussion highlighted just how big the video games industry is getting, with the indie game sector (which Game City celebrates with a Christ-like reverence) breaking new ground for gaming as an artistic and storytelling platform.

It’s big and getting bigger. Much like breasts in JRPGs. You stay classy, Japan.

No idea what’s going on here, can only imagine it involves searching for another dimension

No idea what’s going on here, can only imagine it involves searching for another dimension

Game City is all about creative collaboration, and while that may sound like an infuriatingly bureaucratic term, it doesn’t half live up to it. On top of it’s 100+ events spread throughout the city, this year marked the start of a new competition: Off the Map.

Off the Map challenged students to recreate classic British Library maps using Crytek technology. The creative scope was immense – as indeed the entrants demonstrated – and the prize went to a team from De Montfort University with their recreation of London’s Pudding Lane in 1666. It’s damn pretty, have a gander.

Mike Bithell (right) and his new game Volume. Those other dudes aren’t dudes at all, they’re in-game characters

Mike Bithell (right) and his new game Volume. Those other dudes aren’t dudes at all, they’re in-game characters

Of course, Game City wouldn’t have been complete without the Game City Prize. It’s fast rising in prestige, having previously gone to Minecraft and Journey, and the actual winner will be announced later in the year. We were given the nominees during a swanky affair at the Arena bar. You ready?

  1. The Last of Us
  2. Spaceteam
  3. Sound Shapes
  4. FIFA 13 (nobody understands this one)
  5. FTL: Faster Than Light
  6. XCOM Enemy Unknown
  7. Thomas Was Alone

Talking about Thomas Was Alone, its creator Mike Bithell had his own event for new game Volume and it acted as a pretty neat sum-up for all of the loveliness that is Game City: the event took place in Nottingham Castle (sa-wish), the game itself is a modern retelling of the Robin Hood mythology, and Mr. Bithell is well at the forefront of the ‘games are art’ maturity movement.

Then everyone got drunk afterwards.

That, my friends, is video games. May they, and Game City, live long and prosper.