Vancouver’s Got Game and The Full Indie Summit Proved It

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Whenever there’s been news announcing the closing or relocation of a major gaming studio in Vancouver, it’s like a pending apocalypse for the local industry. However, the city’s gaming community is more than just the big Triple A studios, as evidenced from the recent Full Indie Summit. There a diverse, dynamic and thriving independent game development community was on showcase.

Alain-Daniel Bourdages, one of the event’s organizers, talked about the second Full Indie Summit being the result of an idea they had last last year. “Since all the big developer conference in the areas were leaving (GDC Canada, Casual Connect), we thought that it would be great to bring high quality talks to the folks who don’t attend GDC for example,” he told BetaKit. “We set our goal to bring the community together, have great talks and make it as affordable as possible to attend: for indies, by indies.”

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Last year they sold out the 400 seats venue and the event went well. Based on that success, the organizers decided that being bigger would be worth the effort. With almost 600 attendees, including the likes of Valve’s, Rami Ismail and Sony presenting, they’ve got some traction.

The event was organized by the Full Indie group, which has over 2100 members from the game developer community. They’ve been meeting for the last four years, sharing tips, demoing games, and building a creative collective.

For East Side Games Josh Nilson CEO, Co-Founder, this event “is not just about the indie community, but about the bigger game community. We’re seeing lot’s of support from grassroots studios as well, like A Thinking Ape, our studio, and people new to this market like YMC. It’s so awesome seeing other sponsors coming up from San Francisco like Playhaven and Chartboost to support us and see what we’re doing is great!”

The line-up of speakers shows this isn’t just two days of talking games, game play, game design, and technology. As Bourdages said “because of the small team dynamic, rarely is a person a great developer, artist, marketer and entrepreneur all wrapped into one. This event is the chance to help people see more about the business than what they usually think about.”

Considering the weekend was postcard Vancouver weather, the enthusiasm for listening, learning, and connecting that filled the theatre was impressive. Another organizer Alex Vostrov talked about how much it matters to have a creative community. “Creativity isn’t the lone wolf endeavour where something magical emerges from the cave. The best ideas come out of groups of people who support and inspire each other within a very unique culture that can result in something wonderful and groundbreaking.”

Vostrov added that Vancouver has so many talented and accomplished people makes this community great because “we have this chance to learn from each other.” An open and engaged community has many pluses.

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Brian Fernandes is a local independent developer leading VictoryBite Media, and commented that for him this event and the overall community “is important for the motivation. Every time you get out, meet people and share ideas in the community you feel motivated to do more.”

As one who lives by the mantra “fiercely independent” Nilson summed up the state of Vancouver’s game scene fittingly. While the likes of Ubisoft and Rockstar games have left, he said “so what! This event is proof the community isn’t in shambles.”

The profitable mobile game studios seem to stick to the only culture they know, and the Triple A mindset still permeates, he added. “If we’re not careful, we’ll just end up with the next generation of Triple A game studios that are mobile studios. Which is stupid!”

John Gray

John Gray

John jumped into the start-up world in early 2009. He was co-founder of Mentionmapp, a visual analytics company that was acquired in October 2011. John is Launch Academy's Program Facilitator, and is leading their Lean Entrepreneur Program. He's a freelance writer, focusing on keeping the humanity in our conversations about technology. John has a B.Ap.Sc. in Communications and a B.A. in English, both from Simon Fraser University.