If you’re looking for game-related things to add to your calendar, I recommend Gamecamp.
Gamecamp is an unconference, hosted at and sponsored by London South Bank University. It’s usually annual (they’ve skipped a couple of years) and May 2017 was the date of Gamecamp 9.
If you’re unfamiliar with unconferences, they’re self-organising conferences. An application of index cards and blu-tak will have converted a wall into a schedule of rooms and time-slots, and at the beginning of the day, this will be empty. Any attendee can add a new index card, and just like that they’ve scheduled a discussion, or a playtest, or a workshop. The topic can be something you prepared in advance (always helpful) or a response to another thing that someone else just gave. Attendees are encouraged to participate – each thing is a discussion, not a lecture – and also to vote with their feet: if you lose interest in the discussion, feel free to get up, walk out, and find something else to do. It’s your event, and there’s no point spending it being bored.
Gamecamp supplements this simple formula with an area set aside for playtesters and demonstrators, a stack of board games available to borrow in the canteen, and a handful of participation games. Playniac’s Cat On Yer Head is a lovely game for around 15-1000 players (and it has been played with a thousand! – but at Gamecamp this tends to nearer 20-35); the Haberdashery Collective present Blind Duelling, Lemon Jousting and other physical social games to play.
Gamecamp also strives to give away a freebie to all attendees at the beginning of the event which they might use in a gaming fashion during the day. For example, at Gamecamp 9 they gave away a handful of drinks coasters which could be gambled away in rounds of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock fashion (with each coaster dictating its tactic). At Gamecamp 8 they gave away wind-up robots to duel with. At Gamecamp 7 they gave away Kinder eggs, and hosted a game jam, with the challenge being to create a game which could fit inside the yellow pod¹
I ran one of the discussions this year, with the topic of apps augmenting board games, which I’ll write up for Meeple Watching soon.
Discussions I recall attending at Gamecamp 9 included:
- an RPG-fixit workshop by Grant Howitt (co-writer of the latest version of Paranoia)
- a discussion about dialogue-based game mechanics
- the benefits of cards over dice
- board games about sex
- arranging a game design brunches for amateurs who just want to make stuff and have biscuits more than they want to be published
- tools for rapid prototyping of games
Some topics I couldn’t make it to include:
- resources for games in schools
- accessibility in games
- how to set yourself up as an indie developer
- escape rooms
And many more I can’t remember!
The ticket price also includes lunch, and at 5pm most folks nip off to the favourite local to continue the day’s discussions, so it really is an all-day event.
Gamecamp 9 was a success (and really, if it wasn’t, it would’ve been everyone’s fault for not making it so) and no doubt Gamecamp 10 will be too.
1 – bonus points for making use of the toy