Rezzed 2016 – It’s all Fun and Games

Last year’s Rezzed was my first one, first time heading to the Tobacco Docks to see dozens of indie developers and their creations, book interviews and come in with press credentials. Last year, as I intended to use Rezzed as the first step in my push for The Mental Attic, I overbooked and spent time running around from one interview to another.

This year I decided to book fewer interviews going for the stuff that really caught my attention and, because it was a new one for me, the games for which the developers, publishers or public relations officials contacted me personally. This is not me being humble, and you can ask my friends—if you can find them—it really isn’t, but I’m not the guy people recognise, I’m not used to video game industry professionals contacting me directly to set up interviews or even telling me they follow The Mental Attic, that’s something that happens to my friends and colleagues but not me. But for this Rezzed it happened, more than once, and it still as new for me now as it was at the start of the event.

Rezzed lasted for three days and unlike last year’s, the press pass gave me access for the full duration. So every day I was at the entrance before ten in the morning to go in through the press entrance and rush to try out games, before the hordes of gamers rushed in and set up mile-long queues.

First day I walked in calmly, taking it all in, noting the differences in organisation and layout. They used more of the basement rooms and the right side of the Tobacco Dock upper floor rooms as well, but the ones on the left were empty. For a moment I thought it was strange, considering the food tents were there—charging exorbitant amounts of money for tiny morsels of very good food—but then I remembered we had the BAFTA games awards happening the first night and they took place in those auditoriums. Then the following days they would use them for developer sessions.

I found the SpecialEffect booth, something I look forward to every time as a supporter of the charity, and found Kim and Ben from 1001Up volunteering there, showing people how to use the customised control schemes SpecialEffect created, such as the Eye-tracking controls for Minecraft I played with at EGX in September last year and chin-controls for Rocket League. As always, playing with these custom setups and imagining how they might change someone’s life was inspiring. And it took me going for chin-controls to actually win in Rocket League.

I spent close to an hour that day on the Versus Evil booth just talking to the Banner Saga artist Arnie Jorgensen, about the game, the plot and characters, where it’s all going, etc. It was a blast talking to him and I could’ve stayed all day there, but we all had things to do.

The rest of the day was a blur of new games, developers and fun stuff. I even bought my first ever Vinyl figure, one of Deathwing the Destroyer from the Warcraft universe, one of my favourite characters—not so much his appearance in World of Warcraft which I felt didn’t do justice to the character I read about in the novels, but I won’t get into that. I just couldn’t resist. Little mini-Deathwing looked at me from the shelf, and I had to adopt him. It was inevitable.

Deathwing Vinyl

Welcome to the family!

First day ended and I had already seen a few games that I could call my best of Rezzed but even if the other devs asked me, I kept my mouth shut because there was still a lot of time to go before the event was done, the fat lady hadn’t sung yet!

I left a bit early and went straight to a pub where my good buddy Timlah, from GeekOut South-West, would meet us and we had a fun night of drinks, card games, bad jokes, terrible puns and a lot of laughs.

Day two was more games and interviews, including some of the phenomenal stuff on the Square Enix Collective room. I also tried out Dark Souls III and came away so impressed I bought the game as soon as I came home. Mind you, I would’ve bought it anyway, but I just couldn’t wait after how much fun I had with it.

I attended a Rezzed session on Adventure Games in the 21st century. Pretty nice, not mind-blowing but nice nonetheless even if I disagreed with some of the things said in there. After the event ended, I left for the same pub from the previous night for the Senshudo TV after-party only to discover they’d been double-booked with a wake. I left very soon after that. It was too uncomfortable.

My last day was a shorter one, because by then I’d seen and done pretty much everything. I only had a couple more interviews to go and took care of them early on, because I doubted I’d be around very long. I was tired and my feet hurt like hell.

Last year’s Rezzed taught me that I should pace my interviews better, to not have to rush from end of the Tobacco Docks to the other. This year taught me that I shouldn’t book any more interviews in the future. For one, the scheduling forces me to stick around even when I’m exhausted and just can’t go on for the day. Secondly, it puts me in the awkward position of trying out a game, not liking it and then still have to interview the developer. It’s not very good and I won’t be as effective an interviewer when I don’t like the game.

In the future, I’ll just go in, play the games and if I like them I’ll approach the developers for a chat. It’s more organic and natural and the best interviews I’ve had are those that I didn’t book. The chat I had with the Banner Saga artist, the many conversations throughout the three days with Wes Platt and Colin Dwan from Prologue Games and Alasdair Beckett-King, creator of Nelly Cootalot, were all impromptu and I consider them the highlights of this year’s Rezzed. It’s the same with my interviews with the developers of Expeditions: Viking, Man O’ War, Electric Lullaby (NFTS Games grad students whose work I wrote about last year) and Seraph, to give some examples. They were natural conversations between the creators and someone who thoroughly enjoyed their creations.

That’s not to say that my booked interviews weren’t good. They were, but I will admit that sometimes the games for which I was interviewing the developers weren’t to my tastes. But in some cases they asked for me by name, contacted me directly, so I couldn’t say no. The games they showed me were impressive in their own right, in their genres, but they’re just not my taste.

This week is going to be all about Rezzed 2016, the things I saw, the people I interviewed and the games I played. Hope you enjoy!

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