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8:48am on Thursday, 7th June, 2018:

Gotland Game Conference


The Gotland Game Conference is over for another year. 34 games to play and judge, four hours of discussion among the jury about which should get one of the 8 awards on offer, an entertaining ceremony then a party that I skipped because I've been too old for that kind of thing for quite some time.

I had the pleasure of handing out the award for best social game. By "social game", we meant games that were actually social, rather than the games on social media which are called "social games" but are pretty well exactly the opposite. There were several outstanding nominations for this award, and indeed some that might have won another year that didn't even make the last four (one about swinging elevators springs to mind).

The winner of the social game award was a two-player co-op called Twined; I was asked to present it as I'd been advocating the game most loudly if not necessarily most persuasively. It was written by first-year students and had a simple but wonderful mechanic. So, each player is a ball; the balls are chained together; you can swing your ball up or down; you can adhere your ball to a surface; you win when you get to the top of a set of moving platforms. What happens is that one player swings up while the other holds, then they stick while the other swings up, and so they climb. Occasionally they have to release and jump together to reach something above. What results is a superb dance as players learn each other's rhythm and come to trust and anticipate one another, covering each other's mistakes, and with occasional pauses for discussion of tactics. I adored it — and would have done even if this hadn't been the one game out of all 34 I was actually good at.

The winner of the award for best game was Momentum Drift, a hovercar-racing game with a difference: if you switched off your thruster you could point your car in a different direction without changing your direction of motion, then turn on your thrusters again and shoot off like a rocket in the new direction. Right-angled corners were a cinch to take this way even for someone like me who regards an XBox controller as a new-fangled invention. This is a game with a great future ahead of it; it won the award voted on by the students themselves, too.

The only other dual award-winner was a game called Symbio, which was another two-player co-op. This was a platformer that had two players, only one of whom could see the whole screen at any moment; they had to lead the other across the platforms until the roles switched and they saw just a small circle round their character while the other player got the full screen. There was an additional mechanic involving having to hold hands through a hand-hold-detecting-hole at one point, which some members of the jury absolutely raved about but which to me was unnecessarily gimmicky and not necessarily everyone's cup of tea. Symbio got a special spotlight award basically for coming second in every other category; it also won the educators' award, which is perhaps the best as it means the game will be installed in the public library for anyone to play until next year's GGC.

I'm staying on for a second conference, run by the Higher Education Video Game Alliance. This one is likely to be more informative but less fun as I expect I'll have to behave like an adult for it.

Here's a photo I took at 9:30 last night, all credit for which goes to my cameraphone and mother nature. I just pointed and tapped.

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Copyright © 2018 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).