In years past, the VGXPO, an East Coast consumer game show, had been both critiqued and appreciated for its garage-style homeliness: arcade machines, bargain bins, and rickety Intellivision set-ups.
This time around, expectations were heightened, given the open landscape left for consumer shows after the announcement that E3 would be severely downsized. But those expectations fell mostly flat as the humble event (billed as being in Philadelphia, though actually in the suburb of Valley Forge, Penn.) suffered from its retro-gaming beginnings, offering consumers nothing exceptionally new and everything old.
But the atmosphere of the expo, held October 27-29, was boosted by two or three related events running alongside the down-home game show over the course of the weekend.
One attendee, Nina Gates, a student, hungered to play more modern games. "I thought there would be more newer games, like [for] Xbox and PlayStation 2. There were a lot of arcade games."
Others made use of separate rooms that were arranged for online tournaments, though the variety of games available was lacking. "I was expecting more Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 games," said Brad Gordon, another attendee, adding that although he played in a few tournaments, "I wish they had more selection, maybe like Soul Caliber 2 or 3 ... or they should have had a stash of games" so players could request tournaments in specific titles.
Side conferences related to or partnering with the VGXPO attracted a small crowd of tittering, Halloween costume-clad (or game character-disguised) teens, who enjoyed a large room set up solely to play Guitar Hero.
Another unique group drawn to attend the VGXPO were young adults, from high school to working professionals, with aspirations to become game developers. The Game Career Summit, produced by the CMP Game Group, which also runs the GDC and owns this web site, offered two days of content focused on breaking into the video game industry.
Over 100 people attended this event, the first of its type by CMP, which made for an intimate single-track conference. Speakers included developers from Large Animal Games, GameLab, Saber Interactive, Bethesda Game Studio (part of Bethesda Softworks), and Kaos Studios, as well as industry professionals like Fiona Cherbak of developer recruiter Mary-Margaret.com.
Darius Kazemi, who gave a talk on the importance of networking in the industry, stressed that attending conferences like the Career Summit is extremely worthwhile experience because of the number of potential game developers an attendee will not only meet, but also establish a peer relationship with.
Although Kazemi recognized that the price of GDC may keep students from attending, he noted that volunteering may be a loophole for those desperate to attend. The IGDA, he also said, has ongoing volunteer opportunities where students can work their way into the community. "Getting to know other people who are volunteering and are students" is really valuable, he said. Additionally, "if you meet as peers, you're just going to be peers forever," he said, showing the importance of making friends and acquaintances at these events while young.
Gates, although unsatisfied with the outdated games at the VGXPO, attended the summit as a budding character creator. "The conference I believe has been very helpful. I've got more of an idea of what I want to do in the game industry and have gotten hints on how to get known and start networking while I'm in school rather than waiting toward the end."
Gordon, a graduate of chemical engineering, has been thinking about getting into game development, too. "I learned a lot of things I need to know. I know a lot of the business ends of the industry," he said, but noted that the Career Summit shed light on all disciplines, from art to programming to design.