Game on: Nottingham launches its fifth gaming festival

Nottingham is set to host its annual games festival this week but the organiser suggests "it's not really about games". So what is GameCity's purpose?

Nottingham is a rather curious city, it has to be said. Once dubbed Shottingham during a spell in which it was named the gun-crime capital of the UK, it is nevertheless famed for the legend that is Robin Hood, remembered for the success of Brian Clough and his double European Cup winners Nottingham Forest and revered for its lace making.



For the past four years, however, it has also made a name for itself by hosting one of world's quirkiest videogaming festivals. Tomorrow night, the fifth GameCity officially opens, promising another mix of big name keynotes, interactive events and cosy debates with top industry figures over a bite to eat and a few drinks.

Last year, Japanese games designer Masaya Matsuura, producer of the astoundingly brilliant rhythm-based game, Parappa the Rappa, gave a speech in Nottingham's cutely named Council House. In a venue that is perhaps more closely associated with dry chatter from the city's councillors, Matsuura dished our kazoos among the audience and conducted them as they played a rather tuneful rendition of The Beatles' Hey Jude.

Another Japanese developer, the equally leftfield Keita Takahashi, creator of kookily named Nobi Nobi Boy and a game called Katamari Damacy in which gamers play a character who takes everything laid before him and rolls it up into a ball, is this year making his third GameCity appearance. But he's not going to be announcing a new game. Rather he is providing an update on a children's playground he has agreed to design for a Nottingham park.

And yet for all all of this inventiveness, GameCity still remains largely on the outskirts of the videogaming circuit, frequented by few press and attracting far smaller crowds than the current major events appear to command. The likes of E3 or the Golden Joysticks are spoken about in greater detail than Nottingham's gaming festival which must surely be frustrating for organiser Iain Simons, an animated chap who, at times, works a microphone is a similar manner to former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher.

“We always wanted GameCity to be different and it began an experiment into what a videogame festival would be,” Simons says, adding that he didn't want it to follow the traditional method of packing a big hall with games. “It seemed like there surely should be some kind of alternative; some other ways into game culture than just standing up and playing them with strangers.”

The experimental aspect of GameCity has been stark since its debut in 2006. In previous years, the organisers have used a cinema and a nightclub to host events. Neither worked massively well. Last year, a huge tent was put up in the town's main square and all events were free. Such was the prominent nature of the venue, it attracted a host of passers-by. And all of this has, in previous years, been achieved without a massive input from the gaming industry's major publishers.

“Originally, I think we were really beholden to the games industry itself,” Simons reflects. “I think we imagined that they were going to be a deep well of ideas of how they might want to engage with the public - and it took a few years to come to terms with the fact that they operate in a different way to other cultural industries.

“Once we made the leap that the success of the festival wasn't contingent on their explicit endorsement or involvement, things got a lot easier.”

Not that GameCity operates in isolation and this year the industry has started to come round to the event. Deals have been struck with Crytek and Nintendo. Electronic Arts has teamed up with the NHS to showcase the health benefits of gaming. “The spread of developers showing work is far wider than ever before, and I think the audience mix is going to be much broader,” says Simons. “The establishment of the OpenGameCity platform for extending the festival and showing work on has been rolling out very well and has yielded a number of very interesting projects, particularly bits of work from the public themselves. This year feels a lot like a coming-of-age for the programme for us, I think. We used to have a strap-line about "we're trying to find out what a videogame festival could be", well now I think this is what one is.”

GameCity tries to break the paranoia of the industry by knocking down the barriers between those who create and those who play. You frequently see gamers walking around the city with big names – something that would never happen in film and music. Intimacy is rife - last year, Robin Hunicke sat in the midst of a closed shopping centre in the 7pm glow of darkness to play her game, Flower, surrounded by hundreds of gamers. She uttered not one word as she did so and yet there was an undoubted connection with the audience.

“The dirty secret about gaming is that a lot of the games don't really work very well for spectators,” suggests Simons. “It sounds stupidly simple, but the important thing about interactivity is that it's you interacting – so for that reason the spectatorial demands of a festival can be pretty tricky to meet.

“I don't really see a gaming festival as being different to any other kind of festival, and I guess that might be where we've had whatever limited success we have. Festivals are about creating exciting period of time, in specific places, where people interested in the same stuff can come together and have fun / learn / hang out. We're just trying to do that, really. It's not really about games.”

* GameCity runs until Saturday and you can find out more at : http://www.gamecity.org/

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
people
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

    £60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

    Head of Affiliate Sales for Emerging Markets

    competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you looking for your next role ...

    Brand Engagement Manager - TV

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

    1st Line Technical Support Engineer

    £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Thame i...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past