I had the good fortune to be able to attend GameLoop in Boston again this year. It was held at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge, MA and about 150 folks attended. This was GameLoop’s fourth year and it continues to draw a great group of participants interested in all aspects of game development–both digital and non-digital. The event is priced ridiculously low for the amount of value you get out of it in both shared knowledge and networking. The $40 ticket price even includes a kick-ass T-shirt, breakfast, and lunch!
GameLoop was founded by Darius Kazemi and Scott Macmillan and they continue to help both organize it and refine its unconference style process.
For those unfamiliar with the unconference term, the gist is that an unconference is a type of conference that self-organizes during the day of the event.
The participants of an unconference are active co-creators of the session content. Sessions are proposed in the beginning of the day with attendees gathered in a large room.
This year we all had a chance to say three tags that represented topics we were interested in. There was a 10 second time limit and it only took 15 minutes to get through us all. This helped gauge the potential topic interests in the room.
After all the proposed sessions have been written onto large pieces of paper the boards holding them are then moved out to the hallway. Participants then get to vote with 5 individual stickers on which sessions they might want to attend.
This was still a bit of a bottleneck but I felt it worked better than last year. I hope next year they have 3 boards instead of 2 and keep the notes to the top halves of the boards so you can preview the topics from further away. I also think putting more space between the boards will help spread out the crowd a bit.
After we all voted the organizers then curate the most popular sessions to form the schedule by distributing or combining the topics in an intelligent manner to get good coverage throughout the day. I thought this curated approach worked really well this year. Each slot had something I could find that interested me.
Sessions tend to be a round-table conversation-based style where everyone can have a chance to contribute to the topic being discussed. The session leader is whoever proposed the topic and moderators are available to help out just in case things veer too far.
This whole process works surprisingly well! There is even a brief wrap-up session at then end of the conference where the whole group is able to provide feedback so that iterative improvements to the process can made for next year’s event.
The three tags I announced at the beginning of the event this year were web, mobile, and small studio business. I then attended sessions that largely related to these topics. I enjoyed two different sessions related to indie business and marketing lead by Ichiro Lambe and Leo Jaitley of Dejobaan Games. I find a lot of useful stories and information in what those two have to share about their long term experiences with being an independent game studio that has released a lot of very original games over the past twelve years. The sessions they lead were titled Platforms That Make Indies Money and Staying in Business as an Indie Forever. Other useful contributions came from participants like David Carrigg of Retro Affect and Alex Schwartz of Owlchemy Labs. They all had experiences to share and it was very useful to hear what various studios are doing to stay in business and try and make money from their games.
I also attended a more tech oriented session lead by Sean Flinn of GameSpy Technology (thankfully a long term GameLoop sponsor) about online analytics, multiplayer, and distribution needs of game developers. I have a very big interest in game analytics and currently use the Playtomic service but it is always good to keep an eye on the various technologies out there. GameSpy Technology doesn’t currently have an ActionScript API but I was able to share some of my needs, concerns, and requirements with them about being a game developer on the web.
Of the two final sessions I attended, one was a session on Building a Personal Brand by Kwasi Mensah of Ananse Productions and the other a session on Prototyping by Caleb Garner of Part12 Studios. I find these conversation style sessions so helpful to hear other game developers stories and experiences. Afterward you can approach and followup with someone based on what you heard them talking about in the session and that is an excellent chance for further building connections.
After a long but incredibly rewarding day about 70 of us headed over to Cambridge Brewing Company for dinner and locally brewed beer. A perfect way to end the day!
Once again I would like to thank the founders of GameLoop–Darius Kazemi and Scott Macmillan. I think the following photo may hint at where they get all their incredible energy from!
All photos used by permission of Michael Carriere.