As promised, today I’ll present a more complete review of what we’ve seen in Rio during the SBGames. Yesterday we had our weekly meeting and basically discussed about the Symposium. Undoubtedly the most important aspect of our participation in the event was the networking we did there: game industry consultants, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture (MinC), publishers incubating programs, fellow developers, students and researchers. Secondly we agreed that the panels, as Bruno said three days ago, were the highlights of the event. Two of them, on Game Development Education and Governmental Policies, promoted some good discussion, but sadly also highlighted some misconceptions that are still deeply stuck in the minds of many in the Brazilian Game Industry and Educational System. Some of these include: the belief that is by trying to do the “Next Halo” – as put by Jason Della Rocca – that new developers will prevail, that there is no opportunity in remaining independent and in small business, that games should be viewed as simple entertainment industry goodies, that the artistic aspect of a game is limited to it’s visual aesthetics, that sound design is something alien to game development, that Game Design has more affinities to Product Design than with Chess, and so on. But don’t worry, as a coin has two faces there’s always the bright side. We discovered that the MinC has a very interesting opinion of Games and their artistic value, found some small developers and starter teams with some nice ideas and made some good acquaintances. Jason’s keynote was a very interesting and provoking exposition. Talking about the trends and the innovative cycles that permeates our industry, Jason urged the Brazilian developers to ignore the mainstream box (big budget, big teams, blockbuster AAA titles) and look for other ventures (indie, casual, advergames, etc.) to flourish. We hope that those wise words will be heard by the Brazilian developers.
Other remarkable pieces of the Symposium were the Indie Game Festival and the VideoGame Art Exhibition. Despite the short time we had to appreciate all the material in them, both seem to be great initiatives and had some good material to present. The sad part is the huge disparity of the contents. The Art Exhibition presented some concept arts and visual assets with artsy aesthetics (although in general the final assets tend to completely destroy the most beautiful and experimental concepts trying to look “realistic”), a nice character design competition (with both good ideas and childish-awesome-super-ultra-characters) and specially good exemplars of games with artistic meaning, such as the indies Passage, Gravitation and I Wish I Were The Moon. On the other hand, the games in the Indie Festival, as we were able to percieve them, lacked in general the deeper meaning and potential to transform a player through reflection and/or more experimental mechanics that are among the key features of many indie games done around the world. Many of the games in the Indie Festival had more garage-made-like, low budget features, and a clear desire to be a mainstream game, instead of focusing on innovative and experimental ideas, creative freedom or meaningful experiences. Once again we spot the evilness of the “Next Halo” Syndrome, even small teams tend to believe that the best way to go is, with a team of less than 20 people and a small budget, try to do something that will compete with EA, Ubisoft and Activision-Blizzard. So, remember Jason’s words and let’s start thinking out of the box or, even better, show us that there’s already more than meets the eye in the Brazilian industry. As I said in the first lines of the post, the greatest treasure of the Symposyum was networking, and people we met in this and the past SBGames give us hope that the second option is true. Some of them are our friend Guilherme Xavier and his team from Donsoft, the developers of the great winner of the Festival, the promising Capoeira Legends.
So, creative minds, bold designers, indie developers from Brazil, we call you all, we ask you to show yourselves!