I spent the last three days at MIGS, the Montreal International Games Summit. It was my first time at the conference, though from my four times at OIGC (the much newer Ottawa equivalent), the whole thing felt fairly familiar.
Admittedly, MIGS was not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be. Perhaps that was simply an effect of my expectations being that it would be proportionally larger than OIGC based on their respective industry presence (with Ottawa being minuscule compared to the juggernaut that is Montreal in the game industry). It might have also had to do with the fact that I attended at the lowest tier, and therefore didn't have access to the master classes. I think a lot of my impression simply had to do with the fact that so little of the event was geared towards design. There were plenty of talks about business, audio, and mobile development, but I didn't see all that much that really prompted me to think about video game design itself. I had also been told by some friends that had attended previous years that it felt more sparse and less organised this time around (and also more expensive; I won't deny that was a big hit to my funds, especially without a steady income as of yet), but I have no direct experience to gauge that myself.
That said however, it was still a very worthwhile experience. I did learn a few things from some of the talks, and others were just interesting to attend. The recruitment zone was also very useful to me, seeing as I'm still looking for a job. Several notable companies were there and I did manage to make some connections. I've been spending the last couple days following up, so hopefully it will result in something. As much as I've loved all this time for myself, I would really like to actually get into the workforce. I feel like a bit of routine and direction could go a long way towards motivating me, not to mention I've been eager for a very long time to get real industry experience.
Besides the job search, MIGS also turned out to be a great socialising event. I ran into several people I knew, including friends I had made at OIGC and other events. I even ran into some folks from the old Ottawa gaming scene as well as some old classmates. Later on during the after party I got to catch up with some of them which was nice. Additionally I got to see a fairly prominent figure in gaming slap his drinking buddy (who was also a significant figure in gaming) for fun. I get the impression that witnessing that taught me something profound about our industry, but I'm not sure what that is as of yet...
There was one last thing I found very worthwhile about this whole thing, and that can be encompassed in this photograph:
That right there is me awkwardly standing in between Amy Hennig and Warren Spector. Their names are easy enough to look up, but Hennig is of Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, and Last of Us fame, while Spector is known for the original Deus Ex. They are respectively icons of the cinematic and choice schools of games. They are also two of my personal idols as a game designer. It is my dream to some day achieve their caliber. My own ideas and aspirations for what I would like to make draw heavily from them. In fact, my ideal game would build off of the work both of them have done. Later on in the day, I was able to speak to Mr. Spector briefly and bounce one of my ideas off of him, and he gave me some brief but compelling advice. That alone made this entire thing worth it in my opinion...
MIGS is done, and I must get back to my "work". In the last few months, things have been pretty crazy for me. The move, reorienting myself in a new city, my grandmother's passing, and the frequent visits to Ottawa that resulted in have all eaten away at my time. I haven't had all that much of a chance to build up from where I left off with my studies. My backlogs of to do lists swelled pretty intensely, and they're only now starting to get back down to modest levels.
Aside from actively applying to jobs, the first and most important thing for me to do (at least according to the various professionals I've spoken to) is to start making games. Admittedly while I do have the skills to make games on my own, and with enough work I know I could make things that are superior to what I have in my portfolio right now, the truth is I prefer not doing everything on my own. Honestly it just feels incredibly lonely doing so. That, and it takes time to make games. It could be a while before I really have something polished to show off.
However, one thing I know I can do well is documentation. I'll be doing a lot of writing. Concepts, design documents, design experiments... I'll be writing all of them and putting them on this site. I have at least one game concept I'm prepared to create on my own, and a design doc will be the place to start with it anyway. Who knows, if my ideas are particularly compelling I might be able to attract someone to come and collaborate with me on a project. Time will tell, I suppose.
I've got a lot of games on my (mostly digital) shelf that have yet to be touched. I recently beat Undertale, but Dragon Age 2 and Metal Gear Solid 5 have been sitting in my "In Progress" section for quite some time, not to mention the scores of other games still waiting. I consider each game I play to be both for fun and education, so I tend to take my time on them, but now that I have a stretch of uninterrupted time, I think I'll be able to actually make some progress there. It would be nice to be up to speed with current gaming culture.
Aside from video games, I've also recently starting running a Pathfinder tabletop game over the internet with some friends of mine. I've been playing a lot of tabletop in the past year and I've really taken a liking to it. Running this game (Hell's Rebels is the campaign) is something I've wanted to do for quite some time now, and it strikes me as an excellent practice in game design (especially when I've been making my own campaign separately). Already my little party of murder-hobos have subverted expectations laid out by the book, and I've had to find ways to adapt it to them, which is proving to be really challenging, but also really fun. I'll likely do a post mortem of my experience on this blog eventually.
So, in short, MIGS was fun and I got to meet a lot of really swell people, and now I'll be spending the next several weeks working on building up my portfolio and playing some games. I'm eager to get started!