Notes from the Underground: The Thinkosium!

By Kieron Gillen on October 29th, 2008 at 3:55 pm.

The gentleman at the bar was bemused for the whole thing. Which you've got to understand.

So, the Thinkosium then. Firstly, thanks for everyone who managed to work their way into the heart of Soho to share in a little intellectual debate and a lot of drinks. What was it like? Well, glad you asked…

Well, fairly glad anyway. It was an enormous rush of sensations for several hours, and bits and pieces are cheerfully lost in the melee.

The venue was downstairs at the Alphabet Bar in Soho, which had cheerfully moody/completely dark lighting. Ignore the flash-powered photos. The basic state was club-style subterranean gloom. Which, I suppose, is kind of appropriate for a PC Gaming event. Equally, the upstairs bar’s toilet was downstairs too, which meant that anyone who wanted to blag their way into the event needed only to claim to be going to the toilet. Man! Organisation generally speaking was somewhat questionable – by which I mean, I was somewhat questionable because it mostly fell on my head, and I pulled stuff together by the skin of mine (and several other people’s teeth). Special Credit needs to go to Ste Curran. If it wasn’t for his ability to locate three microphones and a mixer at the last minute, it’d have been the RPS shout-a-thon.

We started at 7, gathering questions on carbon paper to make copies, and then escalated towards the actual show. Which involved these gentlemen…

That's Alec on the bottom right.

From left to right, Introversion Director Mark Morris, Splash Damage designer Ed Stern, Zoe Mode Creative Director, One Life Left presenter and Edge’s long-lost Redeye Ste Curran. Oh, and Jim Rossignol, who works for some old blog about a dying format. The guy on the right in the suit isn’t bar-staff. It’s me.

You’ll note that we’re all standing behind the actual bar. This is because doing anything else lead to the largest amount of feedback seen in a cellar since early Mogwai gigs in 1997. Equally, it allowed us to get in the way of the Bar Staff trying to do their jobs. Before us – and until more footage and photos turn up, you’ll have to use your imagination – were ranks of gaming men. And I do mean men. Anyone planning on using future hypothetical RPS events as a chance to meet women are going to be sorely disappointed.

So with a shout out to the gentlemen and gentlemen of the audience, we began. Questions were gathered from the audience, and then presented by me to the panel. So issues like whether Deus Ex was slow, whether a non-gaming audience will ever actually understand stuff like Darwinia’s Graphics and whether there’s any room in the games industry for people with passion rather than businessmen was hacked out, with impressive clarity. And jokes.

The second part was handled by Alec. I’d scribbled six words on pieces of cards beforehand, and whenever they were said, people had to drink. The words were Piracy, DRM, Peggle, Gameplay, Immersive and one more which I forget. In practice, it was more an element of silliness added to the evening rather than a serious attempt to encourage the evils of alcohol. And, more in practice, it seemed people were more than capable of pacing their own drinking – seeing gamers pass other gamers bottles of beer back through the room was actually an oddly cute moment of community. At least for me, anyway. I get all teary over anything involving booze. The actual words were primarily something else to follow through the debate, as the people answering it desperately twisted questions to avoid saying the words in question. Immersive was never said, for example, and it took a surprising amount of effort for Piracy to raise its head. And admittedly, the sound of a room full of gamers cheering when the word “DRM” was finally mentioned is unlikely to be repeated at any point in the world.

The real meat was actually the questions, with all the guests walking people through their impressively candid perceptions. I’m not sure whether it was the intimate venue or the spirits, but people seemed genuinely clear and oft inspirational. Mark leading us through the trials and tribulations of Indie development, Ed Stern explaining how everyone in the cellar was the beret-wearing bohemians of gaming and Ste talking the passion which everyone he works with takes to the form was fun. Hell, even Jim did a good job.

There should be some recordings – not of the whole thing, alas, but snippets – emerging in the next couple of days, which I’ll link to as and when they appear. But I’ll say the event was a success – and seeing readers meeting other readers and getting on was another real heart warming thing. Thanks for everyone who came and talked to us. Thanks to our guests. And thanks to the London Games Fringe who both provided the drinks and the venue, and have many other splendid things still happening if you want to toddle along to them.

We walked away wanting to do something like this again. Anyone else have any particular memories of the evening?

Everyone's wondering what I was on about here. You can tell. Look in the eyes.

[Photos courtesy of Dartt and Poisoned Sponge. Sponge also writes up his impressions here.]

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47 Comments »

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  1. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    I would do a little paragraph here, but you’ve already quite deftly linked to me little space. So I’m just going to keep schtum, apart from to say it was very lovely.

  2. Jonas says:

    It is a tragedy of unparallelled proportions that you managed to schedule this a week after I was in London. How could you do this to me? Heartless monsters.

    So… was Deus Ex slow, then? Great question.

  3. Ian says:

    So during the mingling of the “normal” people was there a lot of conversation involving people introducing themselves by real names followed by “RPS Names”?

  4. teo says:

    Since you have mics I’m hoping you recorded the audio

  5. Owen says:

    “it was very lovely”
    I’ll second that.

    Highlight for me has to be my lovely girlfriends question “Why are the graphics in Darwinia rubbish? Are they just lazy or can’t they draw?” being answered by Mark from Introversion. Brilliant stuff and I took much pleasure from telling her this morning ;)

    A wonderful, interesting and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

    Good stuff guys. Thanks again and see you at the next one.

  6. Alex May says:

    I had a great time. Thanks! I just can’t drink that beer stuff like I used ta could. Hope I didn’t bore the tits off Jim and Alec too much after the panel finished.

    I liked the girlfriend/mother/says hi/things aren’t that bad yet exchange between Ed and Kieron, but as is my wont I cannot remember it word for word so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was laugh-out-loud funny.

    I also enjoyed cringing at the agenda-laden rants coming from some of the audience guys when presented with the mic. “Time to read this speech about Deus Ex I prepared!” – good work guys :DDD

  7. Cataclysm says:

    Sponge, arent you one of the WAR RPS guild leaders? If so come onto the WAR RPS forums! :|

  8. dartt says:

    I couldn’t have hoped to spend an evening in a pitch black cellar with a nicer group of people. Hardly any unsolicited touching at all!

  9. StalinsGhost says:

    The guy on the bar looks hilarious in the first picture.

    Poor guy had a tough job, handled it admirably I have to say.

  10. El_MUERkO says:

    i see a eurogamer expo wrist band on someone

    /eagle eye

  11. terry says:

    What an impressively awkward photo that top one is. Any chance of a caption competition?

  12. Acosta says:

    Why I wasn’t born in UK? I would have loved to come, is there any type of record? video? voice? gnome’s drawings?

  13. phil says:

    This was my second best ‘meeting people from the internet’ experience ever – the first was a two hundred strong plowfight flashmob in Covent Garden, and even then it’s a close run thing.

    Any chance of another one? Soho’s seemingly knee deep interactive media talking shops who could host.

  14. Andrew Doull says:

    Really enjoyable. Thanks especially to the people who took the time to explain to my non-gaming friend what the heck was going on.

  15. Aubrey says:

    I was a shit heckler, pointing out that there are not 10 reasons people play games as Mr. Morris would have us believe; THERE ARE SEVEN, CLEARLY:

    1. Gumption
    2. Excessive Yellow Bile
    3. Loss of Sense of Filial Piety
    4. Gender Dysphoria
    5. Undefinable Odors
    6. Bloody-Mindedness
    7. Gigantism

  16. Meat Circus says:

    I liked it.

    Yes sir, I liked it. I shall come again.

  17. Ross says:

    I came away incredibly impressed by the event, considering this was the first (of hopefully many more) event ran by rps, the quality of the questions (apart from mine – damn booze) was very high and the passion on display by everyone involved was something I won’t forget.

    Also braving the apocalyptic conditions outside to get to the venue was quite an achievement and shows thats us gamers will travel under pretty much any weather if booze and games are involved!!

    As Borat would say “Great Success”

  18. ChaosSmurf says:

    Did anyone try to beat up Kieron for making them buy Invisible War?

  19. rod humble says:

    recording? transcript? I hope…

  20. Kieron Gillen says:

    There was some footage recorded, but it won’t be the whole thing, alas.

    KG

  21. Premium User Badge

    Ging says:

    Importantly, we discovered that there are in fact many people who merely lurk, reading the articles but not posting anything yet who are happy to attend a geek fest such as that cellar!

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    Damn, really wanted to come but was too late for tickets.

    “Ste talking the passion which everyone he works with takes to the form”

    Well, apart from Ann Scantlebury, presumably.

  23. Michael says:

    I’m one of the aforementioned lurking types who showed up and had a great time, and I’m looking forward to the next one of these!

  24. Mike says:

    I was at a meeting and had to give my ticket away for the greater good. I sat there, discussing how best to take forty miserable sods ice skating to try and cheer them up, and pretended we were discussing microtransactions and open worlds instead.

    Also, Ste was Redeye?

    What?

    Did everyone know this, or something?

  25. Butler` says:

    Any of you hauling yourselves up to sunny Nottingham for GameCity?

  26. Quater says:

    Ooh, I might have actually come along had I but known it was happening in the first place. Maybe next time.

  27. Alec Meer says:

    Thanks to everyone who turned up, and apologies to anyone I both did and didn’t talk to. I was super-dazed from it being my first venture out of the house after 10 days of monstrous illness, and wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. It involved a lot of men in dark clothing, I know that much.

  28. PleasingFungus says:

    Sounds awesome! If I lived less than 5489 miles from London, I would totally have attended. Transcripts (even partial transcripts) seem much desirable.

    Also, tangentially: Is this the first (non-sarcastic) positive comment that Meat Circus has ever posted? It may be a matter of historical record.

  29. Pod says:

    I had a ticket to this but I thought it was friday.
    Very sorry I wasted a ticket :(

  30. Andrew Doull says:

    Fungus: Harden up. I live 10553 miles from London and was able to make it…

  31. Rei Onryou says:

    I remember the event starting like this:

    Ste: “We’ll be starting in 5 minutes. You’ll know when we’ve started thanks to Kieron’s big mouth.”
    Kieron from the stairs: “Your mum’s got a big…….no we won’t go there.” *dissapears*

    Also, I think the final drinking word (or phrase) was “What a shame”. I’m pretty sure I saw it in big letters on one of the cards.

    Highlights for me (in no particular order):

    Talking to Chris Delay at the bar and seeing the happiness in his eyes that I had bought boxed copies of all the Introversion games
    Speaking to random RPS people
    The reaction given when people found out who Meat Circus was (“ooooooohhhhhh!!!!”)
    Getting Jim to sign my copy of This Gaming Life
    Drinking
    The cheers (sic) for DRM
    The whole bloody thing!

    Cheers RPS, I’d definitely attend any other events you come up with. Hopefully it won’t be a tiny dark cellar next time. And that you won’t have to open with “Gentlemen and gentlemen”.

  32. mrrobsa says:

    A wonderful night, many thanks to people who were willing to talk to a beardy student who’d ventured out alone,

    Robbie McKnight

  33. The_B says:

    Also, I think the final drinking word (or phrase) was “What a shame”. I’m pretty sure I saw it in big letters on one of the cards.

    Actually, that may have been me sneaking it onto the cards during the break… *Ahem*

    Before us – and until more footage and photos turn up, you’ll have to use your imagination – were ranks of gaming men. And I do mean men. Anyone planning on using future hypothetical RPS events as a chance to meet women are going to be sorely disappointed.

    My female non gaming hostage housemate that I had brought along to use as my personal GPS had not a clue what the hell was going on, but noticed very clearly she was the only female in the room.

    Still, very much enjoyed it – and err… sorry guys, we never got as far as Koko in the end either (no idea if you guys did) – we had a couple in Oh Bar and a takeaway and by the time we got there it was already closed.

  34. Pags says:

    The picture at the top makes it look like a very bizarre DC hardcore show. Only with beer instead of straight edge kids.

  35. Premium User Badge

    Ging says:

    I have learnt to not pass the message back from the bar requesting that empties be passed forward… I was inundated – though thankfully less so than the guy in front of me who got even more empties handed to him, bwhahaha.

  36. Alex May says:

    Haha yes. That was me. I was a bit zealous. I blame working as bar staff for most of my time at university.

  37. Darth says:

    Shucks, Jim Rossignol was there?

    I could have cornered him and extracted Planetside secrets, using threats of awkward conversation. :(

    Next time Jim, next time!

  38. Andrew Doull says:

    Darth: Yeah – that was my biggest problem (recognising everyone). I figured out Kieron based on the recent photographs Tom Fidgit took of him dancing, and the fact he was greeting everyone as they came in, but I spent 5 minutes talking to a John who’d been talking to Jim Rossignol before realising he wasn’t John Walker :)

  39. Kieron Gillen says:

    “I figured out Kieron based on the recent photographs Tom Fidgit took of him dancing”

    I missed this, unless it’s a gag.

    KG

  40. Andrew Doull says:

    Ahem – I meant Tom Francis… as shown here.

  41. ShaunCG says:

    Dear RPS, how about a weekend event for us 9-to-5ers? Sadly my beret bohemianism has fallen by the wayside in recent years, along with the clove cigarettes. Oh to be a coffee-drinking cafe-frequenting game-playing 1920s Parisian!

  42. Kieron Gillen says:

    In an ideal world, we’d certainly try and do a weekend.

    KG

  43. Yontan says:

    A most entertaining evening! I think someone I went with recorded the second half. Also took afew photos that will end up online eventually. thanks!

  44. Crispy says:

    “Dear RPS, how about a weekend event for us 9-to-5ers? Sadly my beret bohemianism has fallen by the wayside in recent years, along with the clove cigarettes. Oh to be a coffee-drinking cafe-frequenting game-playing 1920s Parisian!”

    I’m a 3pm to 10.30pm-er and I still made it. Priorities, people! Next time I heartily recommend you take the day off, or at least a half day. It was a great night, my only disappointment was not being able to catch Mr. Stern before he did a disappearing act, but it was nice to talk to (corner) Jim at the end with a few other RPS readers and talk semi-coherently on a range of topics so broad I can’t really remember any one of them in particular, apart from the bit where Jim said he didn’t like Natural Selection and couldn’t really give me a reason why.

    I’m waiting, Jim!

  45. Morgo_the_MonkeyGod says:

    I Remember nothing but the argument me ‘n the missus had when I came home absolutely bolloxed and stinking of kebab. Bloody hailstones were a bit weird

  46. Shanucore says:

    Sadly I’d used up all my holiday, and couldn’t take any time off!

  47. ROCHA23ELISABETH says:

    Various people in the world get the credit loans in different banks, because that is easy.