Is Project Play perfect? The answer is no. It doesn’t draw huge crowds, there isn’t enough content to fill your entire day, and the layout is disorganized at best. Yet despite all these drawbacks I still had a fantastic time.
The reason I enjoyed myself so much was because the event doesn’t feel at all like an event, it feels as if you are among friends. You are not only welcomed, but you are encouraged to involve with both the vendors and your fellow attendees.
One example that illustrates the spirit of the even was a simple open invitation by the folks at GamesDay to join in on a multi-player match of Towerfall on the Ouya. Sitting in multi-coloured bean bag chairs I was engaged in a friendly competition against other attendees and GamesDay staff for more than half an hour. Before, during, and after I had my turn all sorts of people were lining up to do the exact same. There are times at events when playing co-op in public can be a very cold and sterile experience, this was the complete opposite. Players jokingly mocked one another and it had all the makings of the split-screen gaming of the past.
Another big draw among the crowd was “Roll Up the Cosmos!” a prototype controller for the game Katamari Damacy. While the game may not be new, the method in which you played it was extremely original. The controller was a globe-like sphere that sat wedged within a cradle. By manipulating the sphere in a 360 degree range you rolled over objects to add to your Katamari’s mass. Players of all ages queued up to take a turn at frantically spinning the ball while groups of onlookers patiently awaited their turns by cheering on the current player. Innovative, fun, and simple; “Roll the Cosmos!” could easily be used as a metaphor for Project Play as a whole.
It was also very encouraging to also see the development community come out and support the event.
In the midst of a full-fledged Kickstarter campaign for the unique multi-platform RPG Tiny Kingdoms,
Big Viking Games had a superb showing at Project Play. The amount of staff they fit into the booth was staggering, but absolutely worthwhile as every single person who represented Big Viking Games were knowledgeable and clearly in the spirit of the event. Furthermore It was damn near impossible to walk around the venue without finding people sporting furry Viking hats and plastic axes which were given out freely at the Big Viking Games booth.
THC (Totally Hype Code) Games also made their debut during their own respective Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming Xbox360/PC title Galaxy Defenders. A small start-up company with the goal to merge local indie game development with the London music scene.
With large aspirations and a conceptually innovative motivation it is hard to not get swept up in the infectious spirit that these pioneers gave off.
Mobile gaming heavyweights Big Blue Bubble were also quite an attraction, especially among those of a younger demographic. With the hit game My Singing Monsters as well as their latest title My Muppets Show on display; the Big Blue Bubble booth was a cacophony of music and laughter.
All varieties of people tried their hands at creating a unique tune, albeit at varying results of quality. The one constant though was everyone who gave it a shot wound up having fun, and isn’t that what the events all about?
All things said and done, the biggest feather in Project Play‘s hat was having superstar developers Digital Extremes put their stamp on the show. With eight PC set ups attendees were invited to play the studios latest game titled; Warframe. Throughout the entire duration of Project Play no other booth could match the enthusiasm that oozed out the Warframe lab. I even found myself swept up in Warframe fever after playing just one round of the co-operative F2P shooter.
Having a developer of the magnitude of Digital Extremes lend their support shows Integral Project Play is, and can be to the London video game community.
Whether you are a block buster developer like Digital Extremes, industry veterans like Big Blue Bubble and Big Viking, or carving your own path like THC Games; it’s clear that there is something special occurring in London. While London may be relatively small when compared to some of its Canadian peers in terms of game development, Project Play is proof that good things can come in small sizes.
When I say Project Play isn’t perfect, I am not lying. However founders Matthew Hoy and Greg Picken should be encouraged because this only means one thing, their already great event can only get better.