Thoughts and notes from GCAP

At the tail end of last year’s GCAP the news of trouble at Krome hummed through the crowd during the final session – a panel with Shaniel Deo, Bob Loya, Greg Short, and chaired by me. In it, as people discovered what was happening to Australia’s largest studio, we tried our best not to focus on that but to frame the learning of a conference that felt unlike previous GCAPs in that it actually had a personality and something to say about the changing shape of studio and industrial development – changes thrown into relief by the sad news.

This year’s GCAP continues that. At the tail end of a year which saw countless studios shrink or shut, there was a danger that the conference itself would be downbeat and introspective, but from what I saw of the two developer days – I didn’t attend the Serious Games Forum – what we actually saw was an industry gathering that was pragmatic, self-assured, optimistic, and engaged with itself in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen at local game development conferences.

For me, the highlight was seeing – perhaps for the first time – a real change in how games and developers engaged with the wider culture. My journey through the conference event was mainly through my own sessions – a talk on evaluating some deep rooted industrial myths, a panel on government assessments, the Government Round Table, and the GDAA AGM – the incredibly diverse keynotes and conversations between sessions with old and hopefully new friends. In each of them, I saw sparks of conversations continue from last year about games and culture, about storytelling and art, and about the need to make things that you care about, and they seemed to come from deeper places as though the ideas and possibilities of games and their developers had taken root in everything from students to government.

There is still work to be done as a community of makers and as a creative industry in how we communicate, build new businesses, make new games, and connect with the wider creative culture, but if GCAP is any indication, I think we’re on the right track.

Specific highlights for me were:

  • The inevitable disconnect you seem to get at creative industry events between those who promote the necessity of branding and those who tell – for me the far more engaging story – of finding success through making what you love.
  • Screen Australia’s economic modelling of their new funding proposals, and getting to discuss policy, creativity, and where the skills for original IP development will come from with them.
  • Mike Acton’s opening Keynote – which hit similiar beats (I hope) to my talk that followed.
  • Amir Rao’s talk on the Journey of Bastion, including showing off early versions of the game, and sharing the sheer number of systems they implemented that never made it into the final build.

Over the next few days, I’ll be putting up the slides and text from both my ‘Turning off our Screens’ session and my Government Round Table talk. Souri from tsumea recorded video from The Assessment Panel, so hopefully that will be up online soon too.

Finally, this year’s GCAP saw me step down from the board of the GDAA. The past few years have seen huge shifts in games both industrially and culturally and I think the organisation has really refocused itself and engaged with government policy in clearly tangible ways. I’m proud of the small contribution I made to that dialogue. At this point in time though, I think there are additional thoughts and voices that need to be heard as part of the change I’ve seen this year through both Freeplay and GCAP, and I hope to be able to champion some of those – beginning with my slides from my GCAP session and expanding on some of the Film Victoria funding decision data I dug out for that.

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