Last Sunday saw Screen Australia’s contribution to the gaming themed events of The Perth Festival manifest like a brooding caterpillar in the form of the #CTRLDEV talks. Similar to The Game Changers, the event consisted of panels and Q&A, although much more practically focused than the previous day’s offerings. Bajo and Hex were no where to be seen, but the same guests graciously offered their time and sage advice to a packed out TAFE room of primarily young, aspiring game developers. They were ego-less, articulate, and (most importantly) real.

It’s often easy to delude ourselves into thinking something we made is worthwhile, regardless of it’s quality, when ignorant to the sheer volume of better content that’s out there. In somewhere like Perth, so isolated from other cultural centres of the world, this could not be more true. If you live anywhere in Europe, it can be a simple drive to visit another country’s museums, bars, restaurants, or festivals. As for Perth, well, it’ll take a plane ticket to the closest neighbouring capital, and accommodation ain’t gonna be easy on your 15 year old Yu-Gi-Oh wallet. Being so separated from the pack means that our benchmarks and expectations can be totally different from somewhere such as New York, London, or even (eugh, here it comes) Melbourne (GUH!).

This is not to say that Perth has nothing to offer. Stirfire’s “Freedom Fall”, Gnomic’s “Square Off”, and SK Games’ re-invention of the arcade machine are wonderful examples of the latent creativity of our developers. Where the problem lies is in our access to cultural events, historical places, and gaming-related stuff. This most likely extends out to Australia as a whole, where the industry’s last major contribution to the global scene was Ashes 2013, and what a fun weekend of Youtube videos that was. Nothing is happening, which is forcing most new developers to either try their luck in other countries or start up their own fledgling firms (see the above three dev teams for examples).

The other part of the equation is the ol’ stigma of ignorance chestnut. We’ve all experienced that moment of shock when you find out your best friend hasn’t played ‘That One Game’ so unequivocally perfect that to criticise it is a sin. You look at them with a new-found wanting for them to understand, to play the masterpiece and grovel in it’s perfection. Until they do, you don’t see them the same way, and if they didn’t like it? They know not what it is to consume the medium of entertainment that is “video games”. It’s not unique to video games (Star Wars VS Star Trek), but it is a far more prevalent trope.

When it comes to game development, there is the danger of this trend bleeding into a group’s work. I personally have been in cahoots with a friend about making a game, and the perception of what is expected of each other’s skill set or genre preferences sometimes borders on toxic. It’s like a competition of knowledge where the one that knows it all wins all eight game dev badges. I’m almost worried to discuss ideas with them simply from fear of persecution, and that is not a place anyone should be in.

It can sometimes feel like it’s all a bit of a cruel joke being played on us by the mysteriously invisible hand of Peter Molyneux. It is for this very reason that the #CTRLDEV talks were so wonderful to be part of. There were no illusions of grandeur, no false promises, just straight talk with people experienced in an industry that is practically an underground collective in Perth. The information provided was relevant and perhaps a little hard to swallow at times, but all of it was valuable for every attendee regardless of background.

Knowing what skills you bring to the table, adapting your thinking based on your circumstances, choosing to work with a publisher or go solo, and generally not being a dick in interviews or otherwise were just a few of the topics covered. None of it was preached to us, but presented in a manner that was true to the harsh realities of the industry. There was no fear that our fragile minds would shatter or that our ignorance was worth preserving. Clint Hocking made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t blinded by cynicism, rather that he wanted to accurately reflect the reality of game development as a career path.

I commend Lets Make Games and Screen Australia for bringing a panel of this calibre to the local area and making stuff like this happen. Sharing the opinions and knowledge of well-renowned game devs outside the local sphere fosters the community of us stuck here to constantly learn and better ourselves. Not only does it enrich the local game dev culture, but also helps to break this war of ignorance by basking in the shared knowledge provided. There was a lot to take from the panel, and if it ever happens again, I’d highly recommend anybody interested in pursuing game development to check it out.

… So, uh, yeah. I really liked it, please do it again ASAP!

Nick Ballantyne

Nick Ballantyne

Managing Editor at GameCloud
Nick lives in that part of Perth where there's nothing to do. You know, that barren hilly area with no identifying features and no internet? Yeah, that part. To compensate, he plays games, writes chiptunes, makes videos, and pokes fun at hentai because he can't take anything seriously.

Note: The photos used in this article were taken by Richard Kong from Let’s Make Games.

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