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  Toronto Indie Games Conference Shrivels  
Posted 2007-12-10 by Tony Walsh
The Toronto Independent Games Conference will not be going ahead in 2008 as was originally planned. Essentially, the conference was too indie for its own good--my impression as an occasional adviser to the organizers is that there wasn't enough motivation, time, or interest from behind the curtain to stage a robust event. Although it drew an enthusiastic crowd of developers, students, and academics last year, failure to hold the event annually will probably kill any momentum the conference might have been building.

Fortunately, TIGC is not the only games-related meetup in town. Unfortunately, I'm not connected with any of the local people organizing these things, and am often the last to know about indie game events in my own city. For example, GameCamp Toronto happened this past weekend, but I didn't hear about it until a day previous. How many other events like this are hiding in the shadows? I only know of one more--the T.O. Game Jam, which was staged last May--no word on a 2008 date yet. I'd be happy to publicize local events, but I can't do that if I don't know about them ahead of time.
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Comment posted by RyanHensonCreighton
December 11, 2007 @ 11:45 am

i don't know what's wrong with the game industry people in Toronto. Too many hours staring at a computer screen must have fried a few too many brain cells.

GameCamp Toronto was very poorly organized. Some folks were quick with an excuse, along the lines of "give 'em a break - they're students." Do students really need to be coddled to this degree? If so, here are some hot tips for students running their own conference:

1. Post signs that point your delegates to the right room, especially if your conference is in a large institutional building. Do not print these signs the morning of your conference, 45 minutes after its scheduled start.

2. Do not schedule your conference at 9AM on a Saturday morning ... ESPECIALLY if your audience is made up of students.

3. Show up on time for your own event. None of the conference organizers hit their own 9AM start time. They drifted in at around 9:15.

4. Have at least two back-up plans for your tech. By around 9:30, the organizers realized they weren't able to use the lecture hall's projector, so they had to move all of the presenters and delegates to another room.

5. If you need to move everyone to another room, be sure about the room. The organizers moved everyone to a room that was booked for exams a half hour later, so they had to move everyone back to the first non-functional room.

6. One room change is inconvenient. FOUR room changes make you elligible for the Special Olympics.

7. Don't try to give a presentation about game code on the chalkboard.

8. Don't try to teach game code organization and a new game idea while admitting that
a) you finished programming it at 3AM last night
b) you haven't played your own game yet.

That's when you know it's time to cut your presentation.

IMO "they're only students" might cover one or two of these deficiencies. "They're borderline mentally retarded" covers the rest.

i attended one IGDA Toronto chapter meeting, and it was abysmal. 60 people trapped in a hot pub while the presenters struggled with a projector from 1982 that needed a special cable that no one though to zip out and purchase. No address from the chapter head, no organization ... the GameCamp "organizers" may have picked up their technique here. The Toronto chapter apparently meets every month, which is news to me - the IGDA site proper lists June as their latest meeting.

The Vortex game design competition was slipshod. Competition entrants were told that their attendance at the event seminars was mandatory. Meanwhile, the submission deadline was extended past the seminar date. That was a little confusing. Entrants were admitted to the competition two business days before the presentation date. i was uncomfortable with the International Academy of Design and Technology being a partner, because i have heard only terrible things about their school from students past and present, and i don't think the industry should support or encourage them ... regardless of how much ill-gotten money they flash around. All in all, Vortex was very much a student competition, despite their literature. Check the Vortex website for info on the competition winners. You won't see any pictures of the winners or descriptions of their games. Poor.

FlashInTO is the Toronto Adobe Flash user group. This one is a mixed bag. Many of the meetings i attended were plagued with half of the room mingling and socializing, drowning out the presenters. The group has changed venue and format since then, and the last extremely well-attended meeting was much better.

TOJam is considerably more well-organized. They're working out the details for their third annual event in Q2 2008, i believe.

Flex Camp, organized by employees of New Toronto Group, was mostly well-organized. The one big drawback there is that they invited delegates for dinner and didn't provide enough food. i sat through the evening's entire 4 hours on an empty stomach. At the break, the organizers announced that there were cookies in the next room. i bolted over for a cookie to keep from blacking out, but the cookies had all vanished before the announcement was even made.

Clearly, the people behind Toronto's game industry have a long way to go before commanding the respect they feel they deserve.

You may ask what gives ME the right to be so critical. i run two regular WEEKLY events in a separate industry, punctuated by larger events around every two months. These all go very smoothly and my delegates leave happy and satisfied. i do this by taking care of their need to be comfortable, fed, and educated. It's not tough.

And showing up on time is always a bonus.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
December 11, 2007 @ 5:38 pm
Thanks for the brutal honesty, Ryan. Sorry GameCamp was a bust, hopefully the organizers can get their collective ass in gear. With conferences, if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.

Your experiences with the IDGA and Vortex/IAD echo what I've personally experienced or have heard from reliable sources. I was personally involved in Vortex 2007's initial planning stages, but ended up withdrawing when I saw how the competition was being mismanaged by the McLuhan Festival people.

Totally agree the local development community needs to shape up, and I think that some "real" motivated independents need to step in and get things done. Not keen on how Interactive Ontario is trying to wedge itself into the local game development community as an intermediary. I plan on getting some 1-day seminars together for next year myself--priced appropriately for independents and students.
Comment posted by ikelso
March 15, 2008 @ 3:32 pm
Just wanted to comment that our intention at Interactive Ontario (IO) is in no way to wedge ourselves into the local game development community. IO has a mission to represent and provide services for Interactive media businesses in Ontario. We have a number of game development companies across most platforms (console, pc, portable, mobile, serious, etc) and we are trying to provide a services to help them finance and showcase their stuff.

The one thing we have learned -- the hard way -- is that events are not as easy as they look. We have been doing smaller events for six years (our iLunch series) and for the past three years a major conference. To pull it off well in terms of both the content and the logistics, you need a lot of time and people who have event management and programming skills. We have a full-time staff working around the year and it is still a struggle every year.

I admit some of our events are expensive for small developers. We have done everything we can to mitigate the costs. We spend a lot of time raising public and private sponsorship to offset our registration fees (for example, ICE, our major conference, would cost three times as much without the sponsorships). And fundraising is also not easy and can take years of relationship building. For our GameON: Finance event we took a loss on the event because we felt it was more important that small companies had the ability to attend and so offered a very inexpensive "start-up pass".

I just want to say that IO is totally open to working with game developer groups and organizations and we are definitely NOT trying to take away from anything or anyone currently serving the community.

Our only goal is to try to make things easier for game dev companies to make and sell games in Ontario.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
March 18, 2008 @ 2:29 pm
Thanks for the insider info, Ian. I believe you meant to comment on this post, which discusses the GameON: Finance event. The $100 price for startups was a very good deal, it's the only reason I attended the event.
Comment posted by Chris Charabaruk
April 10, 2008 @ 5:55 am
Tony more or less hit it on the head why TIGC died; essentially it came down to me being the only person doing anything at all for the conference, and nearly having a breakdown because of it.

I'd still like to do something like TIGC again, but I don't see it happening any time in the near future.

And Tony, why didn't you ever tell me about this post? I just found it, googling about. This reply would have been much better if it were made back in December.
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