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Mid-Atlantic Jamboree

Hello you. It’s been a while. That’s because my early November has been as rudely busy as ever, and this year I had to juggle numerous game-related activities, and still find time to go to The North America for a holiday. And by holiday I mean a week-long shopping spree. Man, that weak dollar is ace. Except when you get paid in dollars. Mmm.

Anyway, what I missed out on (other than suckling at the grand info-teat of Mother Internet) was the one game-convention fan-festival thing I’ve ever gone to out of my own free will (and still enjoyed): The Eve Online Fanfest in Reykjavik. My own thoughts on this particular event (the 2006 iteration) will soon be immortalised in the dead-tree tradition via a “book”, set to be published by DigitalCultureBooks in 2008. That’s a project that I’ll talk much more about closer to the time of lift-off. Others meanwhile did attend the 2007 Fanfest and came away with many different impressions of their own, including this lengthy interview-feature on Gamasutra.

Gamasutra’s Tom Kim had similar impressions of the event to me, which largely seemed to be people drinking and talking, with a bit of Eve PvP going on in the background.

The tone of the interaction was refreshing. There was very little defensiveness on CCP’s part, even for issues which they couldn’t address to a participant’s satisfaction. Each roundtable had a CCP employee present whose sole duty was to keep notes of participants’ suggestions. Implicit in the open nature of the face-to-face forums, they put a fair amount of faith in their player community that the participants wouldn’t monopolize the experience for each other. And for the most part, their goodwill was justified.

Part of this seemed to be due to the attendee demographics. Although Gamasutra doesn’t have an exact breakdown, anecdotally the crowd seemed to skew a little older. Because there was an open bar at the event, attendees had to be 18 or older. Most were considerably so. The average age appeared to be in the late 20s to mid 30s. Many attendees also worked in tech, IT, and game development themselves. Women players seemed to be fairly represented, too.

Then there’s the place itself. While almost all games conventions take place in the convention centre facilities of hyperbland Swindons of the soul across the globe, CCP’s big bash takes place on a extrusion of black volcanic rock in the middle of the North Atlantic, in the depths of winter. I can only guess it’s the Viking musk combined with this bleak geography that gives Reykjavik its unique perception-filtering qualities. There’s a kind of irrational exuberance that arrives with going out for beers in Reykjavik, as if the entire bars and clubs experience had been completely revalued for that tract of the world, and made to seem more healthier and more interesting than ever before. It’s perhaps a blessing that Eve wasn’t as successful as World Of Warcraft, because there’s just no way the tiny city could have coped with a giant influx of globe-trotting geeks.

The convention seems to have been much the same as last year, only much closer to some of things they’re announcing: like the long-awaited graphical update. (Which, if I’m honest, doesn’t look all that much better to be jaded peepers. It’s shinier, yes. But does shinier mean better? I mean /always/?)

And my holiday was just fine, thanks. I visited the offices of Wello Horld, and they made me sick with jealously. A welding lab, an see-saw-powered art-installation, high-speed broadband, derelict factories and picnic benches, all in one location! It puts RPS HQ to shame.

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Jim Rossignol

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