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Notes from the Underground: The Thinkosium!

Featured post 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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Kieron Gillen

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Kieron Gillen is robo-crazy.

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