Games Summit in Antwerp

The place was at best strange but so fitting the event. Set in a old, somewhat respectfully neglected house where the walls could tell many stories, this event was the second Games Summit, held in Antwerp, Belgium on the last day of September. A one day of sessions bringing together games industry people from Flemish and the Nordic region.

The morning session was moderated by Erik Robertson of the Nordic Game Program. First speaker was Tom Putzki, a veteran game designer and now a consultant. Putzki’s talk was a good overview of the games industry providing insights and statistics into the world of gaming.

After Tom’s presentation, Wim Wouters from gaming studio GriN presented a social game. It was the social version of the popular Snake game. This idea was this: everyone has a smartphone so why not use the smartphone as a remote. People in the audience took out their phones and played a multiplayer Snake for awhile, or until so many were playing that it got too messy.

Next two sessions were about unconventional games. First was Lau Korsgaard of the Copenhagen Game Collective. He talked about how the console companies are trying to reinvent the input controller. Nintendo’s success with Wii sparked responses for Sony, unveiling Move, and Microsoft with Kinect. But according to Lau this is the wrong way. You, the person playing the game should not be the input but the output. Your body should be the output device. Lau introduces a game called B.U.T.T.O.N. which stands for Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Ok Now. In this game the players are asked to step back and are then given instructions, for example do push-ups or lie dead for some minutes. To win, participants have to get back to the controllers and perform simple task, such as holding a key down for 7 seconds. This can lead to interesting actions.

The next speaker was Martin Ericsson from The Company P. He talked about transmedia, a story format where multiple mediums are use to tell the same story. His example was the TV series The Truth about Marika done with Swedish TV corporation, SVT. The story was told not only on the TV screens but also using the Internet and mobile, as well as the streets. The viewer was invited to participate and find and post clues to the mystery.

In the afternoon participants of the Crossover Lab presented their projects to the audience and to a panel of game experts. The last section was a panel with representatives of from the Nordic countries and the European games industry. The message was clear. The Flemish games companies need to organize and have a voice. This industry is competing with other countries, many of which provide good development grants and even subsidize game development. I explained how the Icelandic gaming studios got together and formed an association, the Icelandic Gaming Industry, IGI. The Flemish gaming studios need to organize and become a united voice. Only then can they lobby the government for support and funds. And, from what I learned at the summit, the government officials are calling for this – they too want to support the creative industries to fuel the industry and create growth.

Now it remains to be seen if the Flemish Games industry gets born.