This is not about MIGS My travel diary from the Montreal International Game Summit

Airplanes seem to be an unavoidable reality if you’re a game developer in Canada. Whether meeting with a publisher or collaborating with a fellow canuck, there’s a very real chance that you’re going to have to travel outside your immediate surroundings. And if you want to go to a gathering of developers? You’re probably going to have to pack a passport, too.

Outside of small, locally-focused events, Canada suffers from a serious dearth of gaming conferences. If you want to go to GDC, Casual Connect, MGF, Unite, or any big, international-scale event, you’re going to need to pack a bag and say goodbye to the true north strong and free.

Unless you’re talking about MIGS.


Day One

My kids have never been to Montreal. As a father (and a proud Canadian), this November seemed like a perfect time to rectify that situation. The Montreal International Game Summit was on the horizon, and after doing a little math, I quickly realized that it made just as much sense to bring the wife and kids along as it did to fly out by myself. We loaded up our tiny Ford Focus and arrived early so that I could spend some time with the family, dragging my kids to the remains of what was once Expo 67 to pay homage to that one time Canada threw a really great birthday party.

Come Sunday, though, it was time for Dad to work.

Despite nearly a decade spent in the world of games journalism, and more conference visits than you can shake a stick at, I rarely get out to many events in my own country. The Montreal International Game Summit, or MIGS as it’s colloquially known, is an annual event meant to draw game developers from around the world to Canada while showcasing what our country does best. We’re the third largest games producer in the world, and we have plenty to be proud of.

In terms of speakers, MIGS events have frequently read like a global who’s who of the gaming industry. This year’s keynote speaker, for example, is Ian Livingstone; one of the UK’s most celebrated names, the co-founder of the (now) Warhammer-centric Games Workshop, and the man who played a key role at Eidos during Tomb Raider‘s ascent to cultural phenomenon. In 2012 MIGS was dual-wielding keynote celebrities, with a day one keynote by the Epic Games’ Tim Sweeney (America) and a day two keynote by Peter Molyneux (UK), the legendary creator of Populous and Fable (and, frequently, Public Enemy #1 among the gaming public).

In short, they’ve no shortage of international participants — at least when it comes to speakers.

"This is me role-playing being a business man." Ian Livingstone, it turns out, is hilarious
“This is me role-playing being a business man.” Ian Livingstone, it turns out, is hilarious

Walking the show floor and talking with people, however, it becomes quickly apparent that the vast majority of developers in attendance are from right here in Canada. In fact, most of the faces I meet are from Montreal itself, if not a little further out in Quebec. Students from UQAM — a school whose campus I can see from my hotel window — flood the Expo area in the hopes of making career-defining connections. Likewise, most of the exhibitors on the show floor were from Montreal and seemingly on the hunt for students that could increase their ranks. EA’s Motive Studios, Square Enix Montreal, and Ubisoft were all proudly in attendance, shaking hands and having chats with the gaming industry’s freshest faces.

One company even set up a “Server Challenge,” letting attendees compete to see how quickly they could assemble server hardware in the correct configuration. There was the promise of daily prizes for the fastest competitors and — if my hunch is correct — the promise of potential new hires for a company that could benefit from fast hands and competent skills.


After exploring the Expo Zone for a few minutes, I can’t shake the feeling that MIGS has a mixed sense of purpose. On the one hand, you have the talks themselves. These won’t start until tomorrow, but having been to more than a few similar events in the past, it’s not hard to get a sense of what these will be. Whether they have a focus on business or development, the talks are aimed at helping gamemakers sharpen their approach; to make better games, or grow their tactics in marketing and monetization.

Talks at a conference like MIGS are all about taking what the attendees do and helping them do it better. A lot of conferences focus exclusively on this (and, of course, networking). MIGS though, has built out an Expo floor that at times feels like a circus.

“Step right up ladies and gentlemen, step right up! Our amazing, stupendous, splendiferous performance tonight will be sure to amaze both young and old alike! Be shocked by the AAA publishers looking to recruit! Mezmerized by the indie developers putting their wares on display! Transformed by not two, not three, but four displays of virtual reality that can take you to another world! Be judged by our panel of experts, and discover up-and-coming new talent in our on-stage interviews! It’s a world of wonders, the likes you’ll only find at Circus MIGSimus!”

That’s not necessarily a complaint mind you, but as I walk the floor, I find myself at a loss for what to focus on. This may have more to do with my own mindset than MIGS, so I’m certainly not trying to cast blame. I’ve come to the Game Summit in search of a story, and as I walk the floor on day one, I’m just not sure where to find it.


I start to make an inventory in my head. Hibernum are here with Magic the Gathering: Puzzle Quest, which looks fantastic. There are a few other mobile games on display, too, and from Canadian indie teams. Grumz, Feudal Feud, Shop Heroes… I lock them all away in my brain for safe-keeping. If nothing else, there might be some great content here for my day job at Gamezebo.

Parabole Games are here showing off Kôna, a game set in the dreary cold of a Northern Quebec winter circa 1970. Despite my personal aversion to first-person gameplay, Kôna has been high on my want list for awhile now. Not just for personal play, but for a potential Ookpixels article. After all, what’s more Canadian than a snowy mystery in Northern Quebec?

I lock that away in my brain, too. I’ll need to talk to Parabole before my trip is over; explain to them what we’re doing at Ookpixels.


Sunday is a strange day at MIGS. With no talks going on, there’s only so much one can accomplish. The show floor, while an adequate size, can be walked in its entirety in about five minutes. And after making countless laps I find myself unsure of what to do next. I have a seat in the small theater section at the end of the room. Temporary seating has been set up in front of a stage adorned with some furniture and a podium. As I sit there, slightly disillusioned with my dayplanner, four fresh faces in the world of games journalism take the stage. They’re young and happy and full of optimism.

migsjournos

And it’s at this point I decide to have a fairly public mid-life crisis on Twitter.

“Anytime we talk about video games is a good moment for any of us, right?,” asked the interviewer, getting nods of agreement from his peers on the stage. “We’re lucky enough to have a job other people wish they had.”

I’ve been writing about video games for the last ten years. That’s a long time by industry standards. Most of the writers I started out with have aged out, given up, or moved on to bigger and brighter things years ago.

This might seem counter intuitive to those who read the bigger sites, as our industry is led by those who’ve toughed it out deep into adulthood, but I’d argue that the vast majority of those doing games criticism are young and idealistic, and doing it for little or no pay. They’re just happy to be here, like I was ten years ago.

And that’s a terribly worrying thing.

There’s a lot of scary talk about “ethics in games journalism” out there, and while I have no interest in lending credence to a certain unpleasant movement in any way, I will say that there’s some serious concerns to be had about an industry where access is controlled by marketing teams and not by common sense. Games journalism is built on a slippery slope of convenient relationships. For a site to be able to report honestly and credibly, they need access to a publisher. But to ensure access to a publisher, they can’t always report honestly and credibly.

In short, if you piss off a publisher in an attempt to satisfy your readers or serve the greater good, you risk cutting yourself off from any access to that publisher in the future. In the days following my visit to MIGS, Kotaku published a very frank and open discussion about this very struggle; in their case, as it pertains to their relationships (or lack thereof) with Bethesda and Ubisoft.

Much to my surprise though, public reaction didn’t generally side with Kotaku. Even from my peers in the world of games journalism, there seemed to be a general consensus of “what did you think was going to happen? You said things they didn’t want said, so of course they were going to blacklist you.” And sure, we’re just talking about video games here. This isn’t the Cuban Missile Crisis. (It’s not even a game about the Cuban Missile Crisis — which, for the record, I’d totally play).

But integrity matters. Journalists aren’t supposed to be a freelance extension of a publisher’s marketing department, and that’s all too often how we’re treated. Which brings me back to those four young whipper snappers on the stage. The fresh-faced game journos who are so damned happy to be here.

As an industry dominated by low paid enthusiasts, fresh talent are sometimes really excited when a publisher starts taking their calls. When those first $80 games start showing up on your doorstep, you feel like a kid in a candy store. You never want it to end. You’re enthusiastic, and so… maybe you aren’t as critical as you’re supposed to be.

After all, you’re just happy to be here.

Me at an Xbox event in 2008, happy to be there
Me at an Xbox event in 2007, just happy to be there

To be clear, I’m not accusing any of the people on stage at MIGS of any wrongdoings, maleficence, or shenanigans. It’s just… they’re enthusiastic. And I know how dangerous that enthusiasm can be. It’s a temptation we all have to deal with.

I also find myself thinking about the bigger picture a lot these days, but these journalists seem to be focused on the games themselves. I’m sitting here thinking about industry trends, and they’re up there talking about games. When asked about the most disappointing moment of 2015, one respondent said the Batman Arkham Knight on PC debacle.

That’s mindboggling to me, but maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe I’ve started to lose touch with average gamer.

There’s a very good chance that they’re right, and I’m wrong.


Still, that’s not to say I’m averse to writing about games these days. I’m absolutely gushing about the gameplay I saw of For Honor at MIGS.

for honor migs

Adding another ring to the MIGS circus, Ubisoft orchestrated a For Honor tournament on the Expo floor, ensuring that eight players were always glued to eight seats, showcasing how jaw-droppingly gorgeous their upcoming team-based battler could be. The Ubisoft booth is one I kept coming back to during my first day at MIGS, trying to catch a fresh peek time and time again.

Still, there’s only so much one can accomplish when there are no talks on a Sunday, and your existing social network is nowhere to be seen. Today was the pre-show. Tomorrow is game day.

I swipe my Metro card and descend the stairs towards my train.


DAY TWO

After several days on my “dad” schedule of getting up with the kids and exploring the city, I find myself shifting into work mode. This means tiptoeing delicately around the hotel room as I grab a quick shower, button my shirt, and head for the door.

Julia, my oldest daughter, wakes just as I’m leaving. “You look nice,” she tells me. And she’s right, I do. At least by Jim standards. Most days she sees me in a worn-out t-shirt and sneakers. Buttons and loafers must make me look like a Rockefeller by comparison.

Good news, gentlemen — I’ve set the bar incredibly low for when it’s marryin’ time.

I swing by the McDonald’s near my hotel as I make my way to the Metro station. Much to the (understandable) shame of my friends and family, I’m a self-identified fast food junkie. And there’s just something about a Sausage McMuffin in Montreal that’s better than anywhere else in the world. I think it’s the bread. All the bread just tastes so damned good in this city.

I enter the convention center, Palais de Congres, wiping crumbs off my jacket as I stroll towards the escalators. This year’s keynote starts in 30 minutes, giving me plenty of time to stretch my legs and visit the Expo floor before the place gets super busy. I go hands-on with Magic The Gathering: Puzzle Quest, and am suitably impressed. When I get back home later in the week, my experiences with the game (and chat with the developers) turn into an article at Gamezebo.

I hope to jump into the PlayStation VR line, but like Sunday, it’s already too long to manage. They’ve switched games today; whereas Sunday featured a retro-inspired arcade game, this time they’re playing The Playroom VR, which looks cute (though, admittedly, I can’t quite figure out what’s going on).

Virtual reality has a pretty big presence at MIGS15. In addition to hands-on experiences with PlayStation VR, one company is showcasing their skills using Samsung’s smartphone-based Gear VR, the Oculus Rift game Time Machine VR is playable, and there’s even a motion capture studio putting VR on attendees heads and giving them an in-game tour while standing beside them in a mo-cap suit. Trippy doesn’t even begin to describe it.

After checking out the mo-cap / VR demo set up in a hallway between the Expo and the conference rooms, I make my way towards the main hall to attend the keynote address. This year’s speaker is Ian Livingstone who, as you may recall from earlier in this diary, helped bring role-playing games to the UK via Games Workshop and helped bring Lara Croft to the world via Eidos.

But that’s not what wows me. I’m here because, along with Steve Jackson, he created Fighting Fantasy.

During the keynote address, I’m delighted to learn about the origin of the series. For those not in the know, Fighting Fantasy was a series of gamebooks that combined Choose Your Own Adventure-style storytelling with role-playing elements, essentially creating single-player RPG campaigns that you could enjoy on the bus. (You can still do that today thanks to a series of digital adaptations by Tin Man Games).

The books came about when he and Jackson (a fellow co-founder of Games Workshop) were approached by the publishing giant Penguin to write a book about role-playing games. Instead of saying yes, they replied with a pitch that was one better — they wanted to write a book that was a role-playing game.

Listening to the story of Livingstone’s career, from the early days of Games Workshop to his current passion for making computer science a part of the core curriculum in UK schools, I find myself charmed. More than that, I find myself inspired. Contrary to my “aged out” attitude of Sunday, I’m bearing witness to a elder statesman of the games industry who has reinvented himself time and time again. A man with a passion for the industry, and a willingness to explore it in whatever direction that takes.

Sitting here in this auditorium, it’s entirely possible that I may have found my spirit animal in Ian Livingstone.

"The three people to the right of me are all dead, and I'm next in line." - Ian Livingstone
“The three people to the right of me are all dead, and I’m next in line.” – Ian Livingstone

As a member of the media, I’ve been invited to a roundtable interview with Livingstone after his keynote address. I’m tickled pink by this, but quickly feel the tug of responsibility on my coattails. I have an 11am meeting that I’m now late for, and a no-show simply wouldn’t pass mustard with my personal code.

I miss my opportunity to meet with Ian Livingstone, only to realize I can’t find my meeting. I am forlorn.


As I descend the escalator to grab lunch, a dozen police are standing in the lobby of the convention centre. The first exit I try to use has been closed, with staff redirecting guests to alternate exits. No explanation is given.

Given the timing of my visit to Montreal, it’s hard to not feel a lump in my throat when seeing such massive police activity concentrated in one location — especially in a big city.

The terrorist attacks on Paris took place just days before the start of MIGS15, and the world is still reeling in its aftermath. Am I safe in a public space like a convention centre? Are my family safe where they are, exploring the city, and god only knows where? Every worst case scenario races through my head.

I text my wife to keep her in the loop. At the very least a strong police presence should mean we’re safe should anything terribly occur. As I exit the building, I see another dozen officers outside — this time alongside motorcycles.

I never find out what was happening. Nothing surfaces in the news, and nobody I ask has any idea what was going on. Few even seemed to notice. This isn’t the only incident of its sort to unfold during my visit. On day three, a major street is taped off by police just to the west of Palais de Congres. My wife and kids are unable to leave the hotel room on Tuesday morning as the police are in a scuffle with the guest in the room next door for 40 minutes. Again, nothing surfaces in the news.

I suppose this is just the sort of thing that happens in a big city, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t scary.


After lunch, I decide my time would be best spent in a talk on the “10 Biggest Mistakes Free-to-Play Game Developers Make.” As a market-watcher who’s utterly fascinated by free-to-play, I hope to glean some interesting tidbits that might lead to a fresh perspective. After all, making a free-to-play game that’s profitable and fun seems like a mythical beast to most, yet some studios manage to hit on a winning formula time and again.

The speaker, Jesse Divinch, is the VP of Product Strategy at Tilting Point — a publishing partner that I honestly hadn’t thought of as a free-to-play company until now. It’s not that they aren’t making an impact in that space, but rather that the first games to come to mind when I think of Tilting Point are the critically-acclaimed Leo’s Fortune and the recently-released Apple TV exclusive Beat Sports — two premium games with very clear price tags.

IMG_0486

Regardless of my confusion about Tilting Point and the free-to-play model, Divinich knows his stuff. The advice he dispenses is world class. Any developers in attendance with a free-to-play game in development walked out of this session with a much better understanding of the model, and what their games will need to do if they want a chance at success.

But as much as I could respect the lecture from a business point-of-view, as an outsider it felt a little too much like seeing how the sausage was made. Hearing how developers should stop focusing on games of skill and instead focus on the “illusion of skill,” or that they should have a plan to repurpose their content to prolong its value — it all makes perfect sense. I can’t stress enough that this is really valuable stuff for the intended audience of a games conference like MIGS, but I’m quickly beginning to wonder if I might not be in that audience.

I suppose this is why I don’t make games, I just write about them.


I attend another session immediately after Divinich’s, dubbed “Indies Versus Evil.” I choose this expecting a palette cleanser, but instead discover it’s a talk from the indie games publishing partner Versus Evil that — again — provides fantastically valuable information to game developers but feels much too much like sausage construction for my tastes.

Before you agree that I’m the wrong audience for MIGS (which is entirely possible), there’s a talk coming up that shows how you can reveal top sausage-making practices and still look delicious. But that will have to wait for day three, because as I wrap up my visit to the Versus Evil session, I check the time and realize that I’m due back on the show floor for the main event: I’m a judge in MIGS15 The Big Indie Pitch.


Created by Steel Media, better known as the company behind Pocket Gamer (and its sister site, PocketGamer.biz), The Big Indie Pitch is a travelling competition of sorts, giving local developers around the world a chance to compete for an industry award by showing their creations to a panel of industry experts.

In Canada, this apparently includes me.

the big indie pitch migs15

The Big Indie Pitch has appeared at just about every notable industry event you can think of, from GDC to Gamescom. Most frequently though, you’ll find it at Pocket Gamer Connects, a mobile-focused event organized by the Steel Media team that occurs several times a year in a number of global locations. As of this writing though, we’ve yet to see a PGC in Canada.

“We’re coming to Vancouver in June,” James Gilmour tells me. James, like everyone I’ve ever met at Steel Media, is a friendly chap who knows how to juggle the behind-the-scenes madness of event planning in a way that makes it look effortless. Along with his compatriots Alex Boucher and Matt Suckley, James has flown in from the UK to run The Big Indie Pitch at MIGS. After a quick introduction (and an even quicker teardown of the impromptu theater seating on the Expo floor, now replaced with cafe-style seating), I pull up a chair and await the arrival of my fellow judges.

I’m quickly joined by Jason Della Rocca, co-founder of Execution Labs (whom I secretly refer to as The Mayor of Montreal Games), Chillingo’s Levi Buchanan, and a wonderful conversationalist who I would only later learn is Tanya X. Short of Kitfox Games (creators of the upcoming Moon Hunters).

Man oh man, I would’ve talked Moon Hunters the whole time had I known.

The event was designed around five tables with two judges at each. I grabbed a seat next to Sebastien Borget of Pixowl, creators of The Sandbox — and before we knew it we were off to the races.

big indie pitch migs15

Each participant had just three minutes to wow the judges, which meant that their pitches needed to be honed, streamlined, and polished to really get our attention. Or even better, the games should have been able to speak for themselves.

That was certainly the case with Grumz, an “endless stopper” for mobile devices that was as elegant as it was intuitive, and ultimately awarded first place with a ringing endorsement from the judges table.

The two runners up managed to bring something unique to the table, too, with Shop Heroes offering a free-to-play game that allows players to trade for premium currency, and Eon Altar: a desktop dungeon crawler for four players that uses mobile phones in lieu of controllers.

More about Grumz

big indie pitch grumz

“Grumz is a stopper [game]. It’s a gameplay mechanism that’s pretty primal, and as far as my research [went] is fairly ignored,” says momo, lead designer at Picnic Lab Games. “If you take Pac-Man — Pac-Man is an infinite runner if you think about it. Pac-Man led us in a direction where it’s about changing the direction of the main character. The game [Grumz] is a slightly more minimalist approach to this. Grumz is 1D [one-dimensional] Pac-Man… We’re not changing directions [like Pac-Man], we’re just stopping.”

It’s a strange pitch, and yet after you’ve played your first round of Grumz, it’s one that makes perfect sense. Grumz is a game that’s minimalist in terms of gameplay and presentation, but don’t let that fool you into treating this as an amateur production. In my time with the game, I found Grumz to be a highly polished experience, tasking playing to travel back and forth across a horizontal line and tapping to stop their avatar from moving whenever they need to dodge incoming danger. It’s a simple concept, but the challenge and variety of obstacles scales fairly quickly.

momo, it turns out, comes from a fine arts background, and is pleased to bring his knowledge and experience to the Picnic Lab Games team. “The horizon line being in the middle of the screen [in Grumz] is pretty efficient. Sometimes you want to look at the center of the composition. The middle line creates a level of dramatic intesity, but also, you always kind of go back to the middle where the action is.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but what momo was describing was more than just fine art — it was fine gamemaking. I’d recently read an article discussing how, for almost the entirety of his 2D platforming career, Mario was always in the middle of your screen.

“If you speed run Mario, you’ll feel something similar to Grumz,” momo says when I point this out. “You’re always running [in a Mario speedrun]. You’re just doing the critical jumps.”

Grumz is available on Android at the time of this writing, and should be available for iOS gamers shortly.

More about Shop Heroes

While I’d heard of Shop Heroes in passing, it’s not a game that I’d honestly given much thought before The Big Indie Pitch. At a glance, it looked like it could be any one of a dozen different free-to-play games. As the old saying goes, though, you should never judge a book by its cover.

When I returned to the hotel Monday night after The Big Indie Pitch, I installed Shop Heroes onto my iPhone to give it a whirl. Within minutes, I was hooked.

“You take the classic RPG, where usually you play as the hero and go out questing and have to equip yourself — in Shop Heroes you play as the shopkeeper that equips those heroes.”

It’s a succinct description from Cloudcade’s Frédérik Laporte-Morais, and while there are a handful of games that may share a similar description, there’s something supremely satisfying about the quickplay nature of the crafting you’ll do in Shop Heroes. The process has been streamlined so that players will focus almost exclusively on the essentials, letting you grind away on forging swords and shields to your heart’s content.

shopheroes

What truly sets Shop Heroes apart, however, is its social aspects and how they affect the game’s monetization in a way that’s incredibly kind to the player. “You group up with other players who are also shopkeepers,” Frédérik tells me, “and together you invest in buildings in the city to progress in the game. Everything in the city unlocks content for everybody that is a member of that city.”

Instead of creating roadblocks to content that players will have to wait out (or pay to speed up), Shop Heroes gives players the opportunity to work together towards a common cause. And what’s more, once you’ve reached a high enough level to begin trading with other players, you’ll be able to sell crafted items to other players in exchange for premium currency. “We wanted to create this ecosystem where players can help each other out… so far, if we look at the discussion the players are having in the chat and on the forums, this network of players really help each other out… It’s really fun to watch grow.”

Shop Heroes is available now on iOS, Android and Facebook.

I hang around after the Big Indie Pitch to chat with James and Matt about the games we saw. It’s fun to talk about games — especially with people who’ve just played the same things you have. Maybe this is why the younger game journalists focus so much on the games themselves. There’s a point of connection there; a chance to disagree and debate about a shared experience, even if only through the comment section.

As much as Livingstone may be my spirit animal, I remain unchanged about my feelings from yesterday. Maybe Livingstone has just made me more comfortable with feeling older; like there’s a value in seeing things differently.


As day two draws to a close, I find myself giving in to my social anxiety just a little bit more. There’s a cocktail party tonight, but I’m not sure who I’ll know. The Pocket Gamer guys are heading back to their hotel rooms to write up the days events, so they won’t be there. And besides, I haven’t transcribed a single note from my pad of paper yet, and I have so many more thoughts I need to get down if I’m going to turn this trip into something worthwhile for you to read.

I head back to the Metro, this time switching trains and going to the La Belle Province near our hotel that my wife managed to find. It was only my second meal of the day, and a perfect start to an evening filled with note-taking and emails. Skipping the cocktail party was a good choice, even though it seems that I was missed. Still, there’s always another party at a gaming conference. I’ll make plans to attend the “after-party” tomorrow night.


DAY THREE

I grab a few more McMuffins and hit the train. This “living out of a Montreal hotel” lifestyle is one I could get used to very quickly.

The final day of any conference is usually best summarized by the phrase “winding down,” or at least that’s how I see it. Most of my scheduled meetings have passed, I’ve seen damned near everything I set out to on the show floor, and I’ve come to the pretty clear conclusion that the business-oriented nature of the talks at MIGS just aren’t my cup of tea.

And yet day three remained remarkably eventful.

For starters, the second day’s keynote was prefaced by a surprise performance from L’Orchestre de Jeux Video:

By the time the orchestra played its last note, I’d received a tweet from the team behind Indie Games Level Up, a webseries based in Quebec with a mission statement striking similar to our own here at Ookpixels. We meet and talk the business of talking business.  When I get back to my hotel room later, I dive into their archive on YouTube. As it turns out, they’ve already interviewed a few people we’d love to chat with. Remember Kôna, the game set in Northern Quebec that I spoke so highly of on day one? Indie Games Level Up posted an interview with the creators at Parabole back in September.

I make my way to another talk. This one’s about “Learning from mistakes, failures, and regrets with Kickstarter.” It is here that I discover the awesome conversation I had at The Big Indie Pitch was with Kitfox Games’ Tanya X. Short.

Unlike the previous business talks that I’d attended at MIGS, Short didn’t talk about how to repeat success. Instead, she spoke on how to avoid failure. It was a riveting 60 minutes punctuated by the kind of transparency that so few developers seem comfortable sharing. In short, the lesson was this: don’t look at successful projects and try to uncover what went right, look at the failures to figure out what went wrong.

As the day winds down, I start to make my way back to the PlayStation VR booth. The clock is ticking, and I’m eager to finally go hands-on — especially with today’s offering: The Getaway London Heist.

On the way, though, I’m stopped by Keith Makse. Keith was one of the participants in yesterday’s Big Indie Pitch, and today his team at Red Meat Games took home a huge prize from Microsoft’s Codename Goa competition. Keith says that Norma, one of his associates at Red Meat, is dying to meet me.

As it turns out, Norma also works with Blot Interactive, a studio whose Facebook Messenger game Chat Fu (now sadly defunct) I helped arrange coverage for at Gamezebo. She wanted a chance to say thank you, and much to my delight, that turned into an afternoon of conversation between the three of us.

I’d made some new friends at MIGS after all.


Postscript

The after-party was wild, loud, and spectacular. As it turns out, these are three words that again make me feel really old, because I could only stand the excitement for about 40 minutes before heading back to the hotel.

That’s alright, though. It was a good trip, and a learning experience on many fronts.

I learned that I’m well above the median age for games journalist, but that means I’m just as likely to be a fine wine as I  am a spoiled glass of grape juice.

I learned that a virtual reality future is pretty much unavoidable, and that PlayStation seems to have the experience nailed down tight. (I played it at the last moment of the last day, and it was AMAZING.)

I learned that Canada needs a national gaming conference. MIGS is great, and tries to be a lot of things, but in the end it felt very Quebec-centric. We need something that entices developers from around the world to see what Canada is made of.

I learned that MIGS offers fantastic talks for game developers looking to hone their craft and / or make delicious sausage.

I learned that Ian Livingstone is my spirit animal.

I learned, I think most importantly, that “networking” isn’t as terrifying a word as I make it out to be, and there are always plenty of opportunities to meet new people, even when you’d least expect it.

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