Hello. My name’s David, and I do stuff with indie game developers. Bit of Alright is happening for a few reasons.
Somewhere, sometime in 2011: I’m at a conference, in a talk about indie game development. There’s a man on the stage showing a slide that has a venn diagram in different shades of grey. He presses onward, to a pyramid with horizontal stripes, also in shades of grey, with a businessy sounding word written in each stripe. Over the top of this, in a monotone, he’s telling us we have to be really passionate about things we pitch. It’s not that we don’t get it. He doesn’t get us.
The best meeting I had this year, we were on a beach with sharpies, drawing faces on stones. We’d just seen a speaker who made us laugh like drains, then found a vacant corner and taught a bunch of strangers how to play ninja. Sometimes, these things happen. A speaker is passing out post it notes and making the audience play a dumb yet captivating game. Elsewhere: You get to play a beta of something first thing in the morning, with a huge projector screen, while you sink into a sofa and the developer is eating a fry up behind you. Later that day: A game designer is leading a game where people in the crowd tap each other on the shoulder and shout things. Someone leaves a load of wooden spoons and lemons around, and someone else knows what to do. Sometimes, not only do these things happen, but you get to chat with the designers too.
More of this. Less of everything else.
Sitting in conference sessions isn’t “maximising your takeaway”, more often than not it’s filling your head with fluff from talks that speakers threw together in the night. So less of that. Fewer keynotes in which people bang on about MMOs/social games/casual games being money printers, six months before their pet project launches and immediately fails. Fewer litanies of past projects. Less hysteria over the next big thing that probably won’t wipe everything else out.
I’m being unfair. Talks can be good, but there’s so much else besides. Entertainment and useful information aren’t exclusive of each other. People are interesting and fun, and that doesn’t detract from business.
Independent game development has been important to me for a long time, because that’s where the cultural fringe is, the engine of new stuff. I used to work for a company that did events, and it took years to convince them to let me do an indie games conference called World of Love. It got very good reviews, and the people who came to speak were both lovely and brilliant, but I never thought it went far enough, or was interesting enough. It was a stage with a load of people sat listening, and I think that entire format is beset with problems.
At the same time, when conferences try to add something to that, I feel like I’m being made to stand up and do the fun. Then it’s over, and there’s more droning. I’ve been to a lot of videogames events, and worked on quite a few too. A lot of good and bad runs through them, and Bit of Alright will be, I hope, just right.