I sorta can’t believe it’s real, but yes, Wonderland Nights: White Rabbit’s Diary won the Poetic Serving – Excellence in Narrative prize at the Pavs!
Hoo boy, there is so much to write about this week! I’ll try and get through it in a sort of summary fashion, as the bulk of my reflections on the NZ Games Festival are coming up in our podcast episode which will be out on Monday.
I started off the conference part of the festival last Thursday with a 3-hour workshop on marketing with Tim Ponting. I had to keep constantly reminding myself that it was ok, I wasn’t an impostor! I had released two games, while maybe 80% of the people in the room hadn’t released any yet, and we were all allowed to be there, we were all valid. But yeah, the impostor syndrome was real!
The second workshop of my first day was Jess Woodward on leadership and communication strategies. I’ve actually known Jess for maybe a decade now, and it is super cool to see how she’s an integral part of this whole festival! I learnt a lot from her session, though a lot of my brain was taken up on relfecting on misleadership and miscommunication I’ve experienced in the past, since Jess was finally giving me the language I needed to give voice to my feelings about my past experiences. It hit pretty deep… again, more on this in the podcast episode!
I’m only going to touch on each of the rest of the talks very briefly, but stay tuned for a full breakdown coming next Monday.
- The Opening Keynote: Bigger Than We Know by Amber Taylor – Got me really excited to know more about her company ARA Journeys who are doing amazing things with AR and Te Ao Maori
- Good Goods for your Game by Steven Thompson – Definitely a few things for me to think about there… do I keep doing middleman merch, or do I try and find a third party to work with?
- The Long Life-cycle of a Game by Philip Buchanan – I felt this one in my bones. Philip gave a pretty bracing account of everything that actually goes into developing and releasing a game as a solo dev
- My Players Won’t Stop Romancing the Bartender: An NPC Design Primer by Andy Astruc – this was fun! Like the marketing workshop the day before, got me thinking about are my stories and NPCs grabbing your attention enough from the get go?
- Swiss Army Producer by Calliope Ryder – I could really relate to Calliope’s talk, as someone who has to be a bit of a Swiss Army knife herself. And also as someone who just left an industry…
- Applied Immersive Games are Bigger than you think! by Heide Lukosch – big opportunities here! Going to bookmark these ideas to look into in the future
- Navigating Networking for Neurodiverse Folks by Cameron Hopkinson – This was the one I needed to hear the most at that particular moment. It’s ok for me to feel anxious in social situations!
- Beyond D&D: RPGs as Skills and Growth by Josh Kamau and Rick Stemm – At first, I thought I knew what they were saying, because I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a player, I’ve been a dungeon master… but then they blew my mind with the fourth dimension that roleplaying can aid in… you’d better listen to the episode if you want to know!
- Be your best you by critiquing everything your workmates do by Hannah Mackintosh – so this talk actually ended up being way less dickish than the title sounds, and in fact was a really good look into iterative processes that I will no doubt end up using myself
- Show me your passions! by Juan Alejandro Morais – the perfect way to end day 1! Juan was super charming and had us all laughing and feeling hopeful, and turning and chatting to each other which is a hard ask in a room full of game devs!
- Putting the Noble Savage to Bed by Timothy Russell – This was great, just straight up bringing the facts to the table about things I am really done with seeing in representations of Maori. Gave me some useful strategies for if I want to include Maori themes in my future work.
- Burnout and me by Gabriela Roque Lopez – I needed to hear this one too. It’s really important we all look after ourselves!
- The Power of Content Creators and their Communities by Lorien Gugich – Dang, this one honestly is probably going to change a lot about the way I advertise.
- A Programmer’s Swansong to Designers in UE4 by Ben Carnall – This is the one talk that maybe James would have struggled with, every other talk was so general and less techy. For me, I was able to take away ideas about organising game data where it has ballooned out to huge proportions
- A Short Introduction to Video Game Sex by Robert Yang – Hands-down the funniest talk of the weekend, and yes part of me wants to go and play Robert’s games now… but a really good theme throughout here was that games are actually more than we just programme them to be! There is a metagame level where games can transcend what the developer originally saw them to be.
- Rolling the Dice: The Game of Life as a Gamedev by Ben Tuhoe-Kenobi and Rich Durham – this was a pretty bracing look at the randomness or whims-of-fate sort of feeling that comes with seeking funding in the games industry.
- Life in Three Dimensions by Tana Tanoi – a lovely reflective, philosophically-grounded look at how spaces in games feel to be in
- Art for Small Teams with Big Ideas by Brianna Fromont – so apart from the usefulness of the talk this was like a huge ad for Best Friend Forever and I WANT TO PLAY IT SO BAD RIGHT NOW
- The Real Secret of Mana: Māori Representation in Video Games by Lisa Blakie – this was such a good place to end, looking again at appropriation in games and how we can truly get past that. Sure there was overlap with the first talk of the day but it approached it at a much different angle, so the two felt complimentary to each other rather than repetitive.
For a more in-depth overview join James and me on Monday when the podcast drops!
Then it was time for the Pavs with our mates Rose and Dave, the artist and the proofreader of White Rabbit’s Diary respectively. I knew I missed them but I had no idea how much I missed them until I actually saw them and felt my heart at rest to be with them again. We had a great night, did a bunch of networking, and then of course there was the surprise of winning the narrative category! And then, to bring the whole weekend to a complete narrative arc for me, when Tim Ponting won the Te Maunga Kai Kapua (Tuakana) award for being a pillar of the industry, he said in his speech that HE HAD IMPOSTOR SYNDROME! So like… that finally made it hit home for me that these dumb feelings we have all the time about not belonging never ever go away, and we just have to try our best!
A huge congratulations to all the winners and finalists! It was a massive honour to be counted amongst you all. Thank you so much to all the speakers and organizers. I hope I get to go every year from now on!
So just to quickly wrap up everything else… oh yeah, god, I completely forgot one other major thing that happened in the rush of all of this. Yes, James did hit his 100k word goal just before we left Auckland. Yay!!! So that’s Dragons of Tirenia Draft #… ok so he’s saying this is Draft Zero now, he has so much more work to do before he’s happy! Fair enough really.
Now that life is maybe finally settling down again… knock on wood… I have a few fixes to White Rabbit in Japanese that have just come through in the last week. Since that’s nearly all done I had better give it a quick regression test! And then once that’s out of the way it’s back to the voice acting release regression test for the Nine Lives re-release. So close and yet so far! I actually have the draft version of a kickstarter page planned for the next project… but it is NOT going live until Nine Lives voice and Nine Lives Chinese are released! End of story!! Who would have thought I would be spending so much time on maintenance of past releases (well, Philip Buchanan would know!)…
Thanks for reading ^_^