It was the best of times. It was the worst of timetabling. Somehow, in the videogame cultural desert that is the UK, two progressive, forward looking and fun videogame events got scheduled in the same week.
Nottingham's GameCity, in its second year, "explores videogames in new ways, trying to uncover the most interesting parts of their culture and inviting you to join in. You'll find games to play, speakers to hear and talk with, music to dance to and plenty of surprises. We hope you'll discover something you'll love". Meanwhile, the London Games Festival features "diverse events in different venues for different audiences. Whether you’re a gamer, a parent needing advice on games, someone working in the industry, or just want to find out more about how games work and where the future of entertainment will take us, this is a festival for you." Which makes you think that the Nottingham one, with clear Indie Cred, would be the one the always-ready-to-posture RPS would back up.
It's certainly what GameCity organiser, the ever-sharp Iain Simmons would argue. "The fact that we're independent gives us a mandate to do anything we want", he argues in his GamesIndustry.biz interview. "From what I can gather, we're trying to do quite different things." he continues, "The fact that we're independent and we're not industry run – not instigated by ELSPA or a publisher's point of view – gives us a mandate to do anything we want." Except it's not that simple. The London Festival is of such a size that it has its own Fringe. Our contacts inside argue that they're probably just as "independent" as GameCity, and the events are mostly free to get into.
So, being videogames, the only way to settle this is a HEAD TO HEAD DEATHMATCH WHERE I AWARD POINTS FOR RANDOM BITS OF THEIR PROGRAM WHICH CATCH MY EYE.
Before we get underway, confession: I was meant to be on a panel at GameCity, but that's not going ahead. I also know several people involved in GameCity. But I also know several people involved in the Games Festival too. So I could be biased for or against. Perhaps you'll be able to ascertain it from careful study of my analysis. Meta-games are lovely.
Anyway - let's go!
GameCity is in Nottingham. London Games Festival is in London. While most would argue as one of the world's leading metropolitan areas, London clearly wins over boring old Nottingham, I had many great teenage nights drunk out of my tiny little mind at Nottingham Rock City, so I'm going to call it a draw.
London Games Festival: 1
The Big Name Guest?
Well, Illegal-Car Racer Will Wright is doing the BAFTA lecture, which sounds pretty neat at GameCity. However, it's already been going on for an hour as I write this, I suspect GameCity has to win with their roster which includes people like Tetris-creator Alexey Pajitnov. LGF fans may grumble I should have written this yesterday so they'd have scored higher, but that shows that they're taking this a bit too seriously, so deserve to be docked a mark anyway.
London Games Festival: 1
The most "Huh?" thing on the programme?
Well, you'll think that GameCity has this tied up, when you scan down their list and hit a talk by OneLifeLeft's Ste Curran on "My Mum". Ste describes its purpose as: "I want to tell you about My Mum; why she loved videogames, why she stopped loving videogames, and what happened next". We can only hope that it's not "started having sex and begat me", because - Ste - too much information, man. Except then you glance over at the LGF fringe and notice Guy Debord's Game of War. Fancy-coffee drinking types will know that Debord isn't some kind of french Equivalent to American McGee in terms of wanting to get his name on a games' box, but one of the premier Situationist thinkers who pretty much every fanzine writer in the world has ripped off one time or another. Frankly, at least seven awesomes. And the fact that we've already missed it as it was last night - so can never experience it - means it's even more mythic.
London Games Festival: 2
Do you get to have a Curry with Dave "Taurus" McCarthy?
Dave Taurus, Raconteur, is famed for his enormous racoon estates. GameCity features the opportunity to sit down with him, his two mates, and 107 other people for a curry. No, really. Unfortunately, due to his alcoholic gallivanting, pretty much everyone in London has had a curry with David McCarthy, so we can't award any marks for that. Sorry, GameCity.
London Games Festival: 2
Coin flip Decider?
Okay, let's give it a shot. Coin goes...
Oh, it's gone beneath my bed. Bollocks.
London Games Festival 2
So, hopefully avoiding the Paris-judgement-of-Goddesses related punishment by choosing no-one to have the apple, we can move onto simple advice. Both are worth going to. Go to whatever's nearest you, then spend the remainder on fizzy pops, 1 penny chews and gifts from RPS' amazon wish list.