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11 Oct 2010

Board Game Camp 2010

Gallery snapshot. View gallery of Board Game Camp 2010

A while back we got an invitation to attend GameCamp. We had no idea what it was, but it sounded fun and full of geek win, so we were very excited to be invited. That we ended up judging the Game Hack competition was an entirely unexpected honour. So here's what went down:

Over in a posh enclave of West London, the Ebay/ Paypal/ Gumtree offices look out over a willow-lined portion of the Thames and parakeets flutter around the courtyard. Inside, vending machines dispense free pop, chocolate and other goodies. 4 separate conference rooms are decked out in trendy furniture, impractical lighting fixtures and funky carpets and/or padded wall tiles. 3 video game consoles are hooked up to a large, flatscreen HDTV, forming an irresistible draw, while table tennis, table football, pool and a putting-practice green (all free, naturally) put up a good fight for your attention. Half-way through the day, 250 pizzas arrived. It was like a parody of a geeks' paradise and to be honest it's a miracle we had anything to do with board games all day.

There were three 'main events' to add to all this. A very respectable games library kept two rooms of gamers, developers and designers out of mischief for most of the day. Then there was the "Game Hack" - a competition to design, produce and playtest a game in six hours from a single sheet of A4. It's a tall order and something we'd normally be irresistibly drawn too, but we didn't want to be tied down all day, plus the prize - impressive though it was - wasn't really "our thing" (Cadbury were sponsoring it and the winning game was going to be reproduced on the back of next year's xmas chocolate selection box).

As if that wasn't enough, an ongoing "unconference" threw up some real gems. It wasn't terribly well subscribed at first, but it's an interesting idea. Basically anyone can stick up a subject they want to discuss; they select a time and a room and then everyone else free to join and leave at will. It provided for a nice, commitment-free atmosphere. At the same time, it was commitment free, so it was kind of hit-and-miss. Still, we caught part of a great talk on ancient Egyptian games and we even held a couple of sessions ourselves that were so popular we had people squeezed out the door (we won't mention at this point that we deliberately selected a room that could only comfortably seat 8 people).

We eased into things with a general F.A.Q. - showing off the world's only existing copy of War on Terror, edition 2 - and then launched into a discussion on "whether games can be used for positive social change". We had a really healthy range of opinions and the interest was such that our session ran over quite drastically - and then continued outside. Interestingly, we encountered some old arguments. This was odd, because we just assumed gamers didn't think this way. Firstly, "games are not artistic vehicles", or at least not suitable for politics. And secondly, that the hobby is so niche, we can't change the world anyway, so why bother: We'd like to think we won some converts during the session, including a serving soldier who had completed 2 tours of duty in Afghanistan and who added a challenging and emotional level to proceedings. It'd be presumptuous to claim we made a fan of him, but he definitely climbed down from his initial dismissal of War on Terror as "frivolous" and ended up supporting what we were trying to do.

Half-way through the day, Andy S got nabbed to stand in for an AWOL judge in the Game Hack (despite his protestations of not being qualified) and spent the latter half of the afternoon playtesting and judging with James Wallis, Graham Linehan and Simon Crowther (the "CEO of Christmas" at Cadbury's). It was an unexpected pleasure to see Graham and the day happily (and predictably) ended up at the pub, discussing comics, role-playing games and the imminent revolution. It was so uber-geek, we could have been characters in a Linehan-penned script.

A thousand thanks to James Wallis and team for a very enjoyable and inspirational day.When's the next one?

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 11 October 2010 - 0 comments

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