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A student’s take on the Nordic Game Conference 2012

Ever since I moved to Denmark, as a Computer Science student and a game designer slash programmer, I have commenced an innocent, yet not too ostentatious flirt with the local gaming industry. This end of the week though, I had the opportunity to expand my knowledge-greedy paws over the stretch of water which is Øresund and get a taste of what the whole Scandinavian region has to offer when it comes to game design, in Malmö, at the Nordic Game Conference. 

It was my first year at the Nordic Game Conference so I don’t really have a baseline for comparison. But at a first glance, the whole event bears the stigmata of the term that Richard Hogg coined (or rather brought into focus) in the Indie night debut on Wednesday: whimsy. What is whimsy, you ask? Dictionary.com would hint: “a quaint or fanciful quality”. Hogg would elaborate: “the quality of having an internal silly logic that only makes sense in the context of the whimsy object in question”. Whimsy is not surrealism though, it’s not art for art’s sake, with the purpose of consolidating a supra-reality. Whimsy is a “whatever because I say so” notion. Like building an Italian village in the middle of Wales or dedicating a Greek-themed statue to the splendour of one very hot summer.

So, the Nordic Game Conference had this very whimsy quality. Struggling to prove that Nords too care about games and have a really healthy thing going on, yet at the same time feeling cosy and intimate, with a Danish “hygge” feeling written all over it. Pretty little stands, fancy wedding-like dinners, triple A titles squished between a plethora of indies, all in the shadow of the pixelated darling Minecraft, which was nominated for the third year in a row, due to that oh-so-convenient Xbox release. Yelling games, last year’s titles and conferences in which companies present themselves like rare breeds of dangerous animals outperforming each other in a circus.

So what is in this for a Master student who, like Guybrush Threepwood, can boast some metaphoric ludic hairs on their chest and wants to know how to become a pirate on the stormy seas of game design and programming? Well, there’s gummy bears. In bowls. Lots of them. And also some really good fables about how some games got to be, or some glimpses of genius in some well hidden indies that you can test out. And you get to know and talk to people. But that’s about it. I didn’t get to feel that after the Nordic Game Conference I’m a better game designer wannabe. It was more of a show-off without deep substance, somewhere where you wanted to be so that you could show you count. Well then, at least I counted.

Discalimer: this is an off-the-record first impression of the ACADEMIC in me, with no actual facts on who-won-what what-happened-next . The editor in me is slowly polishing its final song piece, which you will be able to read, with facts and figures, on www.computergames.ro.

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