Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Dream Gaming Convention

For the past few weeks we've been to a couple of gaming events and we are very, very grateful to have been a part of them. We're happy to have been part of Anicon, Playground's booth at Level Up Live, and the WCG's League event this past Sunday. All these have been great experiences for us and we're also glad that our involvement was also a lot of fun for other gamers, too.

Now, let's just imagine for just a second....a dream scenario. Now, let's be clear about a few things. NOTHING about what I'm going to post next, is real. The following is just an imaginary scenario that I dreamed up in my mind, after all these great experiences I've had in these gaming events. Let's be clear first that this post is not meant in any way to criticize or demean the game conventions and events that I've been to. The following is a scenario that is practically impossible, it's imaginary and it will probably never happen.

* HYPOTHETICAL, DREAM SCENARIO FOLLOWS ; AGAIN, NONE OF THE FOLLOWING IS REAL... *

One day, a multi-billionaire walks to my doorstep and offers to help fund a kick-ass gaming convention to be held in the Philippines. The convention's goals/objectives are made clear from the very beginning:

- To introduce console and PC gaming to the mainstream as a worthwhile hobby for the whole family
- To depict the console and PC gaming industries as thriving businesses that people can make a worthwhile living out of
- To provide people with more information about games currently available, as well as games that will be released in the future.
- To bring together gamers from all walks of life and let them enjoy a unique experience that normally can't be had anywhere else

There would be no business or sponsorship politics that would become a hindrance for this convention. Yes, sponsors will be invited in and they can be a part of the event but no sponsor can push away the other sponsors simply because they have more money or more of a foothold in a particular business area. Every kind of sponsor, large and small, who is directly and clearly a part of the gaming industry in some way would be allowed to participate.

The event would be held for three days, most likely Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The convention would be at the SMX and it would be properly marketed two months before the time of the event itself. There would be advertising about the event on TV, print ads, posters, billboards, online sites....you name it. Everyone both online and offline would know about this event, and they'd know far earlier and where and when it will be held. They'd see consistently more marketing about the event as it draws nearer. The days for it should be sometime like Christmas where everyone's on their break and it's easy to ask them to take time off from their usual busy schedule to visit [or, maybe it can be at some other time like Summer, when school's out]. In either case, the dates for the event would be a well-researched decision that factors in the weather and the holidays of the year. The decision on the dates would not be some off-hand arbitrarily chosen date when it would be convenient for the organizers or one or two people. It would be a well-chosen date which would be ideal for most other people outside of the organizing committee.

The dream gaming event would be focused squarely on gaming. Gaming on consoles and PC platforms in particular. Every type of game platform and format would be given an equal opportunity on the show floor to draw people's attention, and not one of them would be the theme of the whole event. Perhaps the floor space (if it's large enough) would be divided into several areas, some for consoles, some for PC games; and these divisions have their own subdivisions that are clearly understandable for visitors. For instance, for console games, you'd have the Xbox 360 area clearly marked off and separate from the Playstation 3 area or the Nintendo Wii area; the point being that a convention visitor can easily find their way on the floor to wherever they want to go. There would be ample amounts of signage around the convention area and there would be people on the floor who are knowledgeable about the convention floor layout, to help people who are getting lost or need to get somewhere quickly.

The console areas would highlight key games, some of which are already out and others which haven't been released yet but are being previewed for the public. Now, normally in other game conventions, most of the games shown are newer games and preview builds; but I thought that for the Philippines, there should still be a few older titles on the convention floor because some people here aren't aware that certain games are available for certain platforms. Part of the goals of this dream convention is to inform people about games, not just to entertain, and this is clearly in line with those goals.

Since the dream convention is extremely well funded, it would be able to afford all the consoles, hardware and peripherals needed to properly showcase all the available game titles. All the online communities involved with gaming in some way are invited to participate in the convention, but their participation is voluntary and not completely required; the convention organizers are well prepared for the scenario wherein an online community is unable to participate for some reason or another. In a way, online communities are treated like sponsors; they're provided with space to let them mingle with new gamers or with existing members, and they can use this space to have their own mini-events or tournaments within the convention area.

In the dream convention, gaming for consoles and PCs is truly the focus. While anime cosplayers will be allowed to visit and be part of a competition, there should be an emphasis on cosplayers who decide to dress up as game characters. One of the biggest sub-events of this gaming-focused convention is for cosplayers who dress up specifically as game characters. And they have to be game characters in the strictest sense. For example, just because there is a Naruto video game, does not mean that everyone who dresses up as Naruto automatically qualifies for the gaming character cosplay competition. The same goes for other anime characters who have licensed video games. The rule for the dream convention's big gaming cosplay contest is very clear and strictly enforced---gaming characters only. For instance, a guy dressed up as Cloud Strife could join. Or a guy dressed up as Marcus Fenix or Master Chief. Or Sackboy...Mario and Luigi...Kaim Argonar from Lost Odyssey...Yuri from Tales of Vesperia, Kratos from God of War, or Hilde, Talim or Sigfried from Soulcalibur. There are tons of characters in gaming that cosplayers can draw inspiration from. The idea here is to promote the gaming culture more strongly as something that is really separate from Anime and can exist on its own. The dream convention organizers will be extremely strict about this one. Of course they'll still invite the Anime cosplayers and they'll have their own separate competition, but a big part of the convention is the cosplay for the game characters, and the biggest prizes will be offered for it.

Since the dream convention is a three day event, it will have several sub events in line for convention visitors. Already mentioned is the game character cosplay competition. In addition to this, there will also be a running series of several gaming tournaments that will be held for the next three days. And we're not just talking about one or two games emphasized or focused on for the next three days. The convention could have five or more game tournaments ongoing all at the same time for the next three days.

Let's say that on Friday, there's a Soulcalibur IV tourney, a Gears of War 2 tourney, an NBA 2K9 tourney, a Command and Conquer Red Alert 3 tourney, and a Racedriver: Grid tourney. For the next three days, tournaments for these titles will be held at a large, separate area at the convention hall. There will be several game consoles and several very large high definition displays available for use by the players during the ongoing tournament. Some matches will be shown on stage at various times of the day, while others will be held separately at a cordoned-off 'tournament area' properly managed by convention officials. The selected stage matches will be shown on a stage area decked out with three giant screens, using three high definition projectors. There will be LCDTVs strewn throughout the convention area, so that visitors can either watch the players themselves on stage, or watch the match on the three giant screens, or simply look to the side and watch the match on the LCDTVs nearest to them. Basically it gives convention attendees a choice on how exactly they're going to comfortably watch the tournament match being held on stage. Also, occasionally a crew will switch the views being displayed on the giant screens or LCDTVs to highlight key things like the expression on the players faces, match stats and highlights, or anything else which might be of interest to convention attendees. Seats will be provided for attendees who decide to watch ongoing tournament matches. Also, tournament matches are scheduled properly so that players can have time to leave the tournament area to explore other places in the convention hall, or simply so that players can schedule their day accordingly (if they have other activities on that day, the tournament won't be a hindrance or a hassle for them; at some point they'll be allowed to leave and won't be forced to sit through watching other players' matches if they don't feel like watching). The dream convention organizers have properly timed each game and have meticulously computed and calculated how long it would probably take to hold each tournament match. That way, they can block off the time and create a schedule for players, and then tell each player what time of the day their matches will start. Tournament players will be very comfortable in playing their tournament matches; they can focus more on their actual game instead of worrying about things like a tournament match encroaching on some other essential task that they have to do on that day. The dream convention organizing committee understands these concerns of players and have made every kind of preparation and backup plan to provide a unique and comfortable experience for their tournament participants.

But wait....there's more. The selected tournament matches being highlighted during parts of the day....since they're scheduled, attendees will be given enough information on what time those matches start and they'll be encouraged to watch if they want to. During the matches themselves, there'll be running commentary from a commentator well-versed in games and gaming culture; someone who actually understands how certain game mechanics work, and can explain to an audience what exactly is going on. The game commentator for the dream game convention is quite capable of calling a match in such a way that it adds to the atmosphere and excitement of actually watching it; he delivers his commentary with a unique flair and strong emotions that can cause the entire audience to cheer on the players battling it out on stage. The goal with the tournaments being held during the dream gaming convention is that they should highlight how exciting video games can be, when treated like spectator sports. When there's no match going on, some LCD displays around the convention floor will highlight the best matches of the day for people who might have missed them.

The convention floor is spacious enough so that several activities can be held all at once. But the dream convention organizers know that some activities shouldn't be held at the same time. For example, a game tournament shouldn't be taking place while a famous band is playing game music in another area. It would make the whole endeavor feel so disorganized and would confuse convention goers. As much as possible, each time of the day there is a central event where many attendees can focus on, while at the same time, smaller events are being held around the convention hall that attendees can be a part of. The dream convention organizers will not always have a live band blaring music throughout the day. Some times of day, there will be loud music playing, while at other times, there won't be. The dream convention organizers will properly manage and direct the events occuring throughout the hall so that they don't end up competing with one another for everyone's attention.

Also, the music to be played by the rock bands in attendance are required to be gaming music. Again, to depict gaming as a unique culture of its own, the bands will be asked NOT TO PLAY introduction or ending music from anime series or other things unrelated to games. They also can't simply pick from the playlist of Rockband or Guitar Hero when it comes to choosing music. They have to play game music specifically or else, they won't be allowed to be part of the convention.

Another kind of event that the dream game convention organizers will include is the invitation of a key gaming luminary like Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo or Cliff Blezinski from Epic Games, or a team of game developers like Bungie who are about to preview a key gaming title. This will introduce Filipino gamers to the personalities behind the gaming business, and will help them appreciate the amount of time, effort and creativity it takes to create games. Of course, the dream game convention organizers have so much funding at their disposal; they'll give the developers the superstar treatment---hotel and accommodations, first class flight and everything else to make them never forget their visit to our beautiful country.

Developers from around the world will be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a major announcement at the dream gaming convention....be it the next generation of hardware, or the next game in a famous series or franchise, or the next exclusive that will go multi-platform, the dream convention will have it. Because of this, gaming press from all over the world will visit the convention; this event will rival E3 in scale and it will go down in gaming history as one of the most memorable events ever held.

* END OF ABSOLUTELY HYPOTHETICAL DREAM SCENARIO *

So there you have it, the dream gaming convention. If there were a larger gaming industry in the Philippines there'd probably be a very, very small chance of that actually happening. Gaming in the Philippines does have to overcome so many hurdles, both culturally and from a business standpoint, for it to truly grow as a real industry that Filipinos can be part of.

For now, we've got our parallel imports and grey market imports for our console games, a little bit of support for PC gaming, and a lot of MMORPGs which promise interactive entertainment at a cheap price. From the perspective of a gamer, those aren't much, especially if you read online of how it's like in first-world countries.

But I do realize that it's a start...it could take so many years before we'll actually see a game industry rise in the Philippines. Problems such as game piracy, lack of government regulations (to combat things like piracy), and general apathy from some Filipino gamers towards understanding gaming as a business will hinder the growth of interactive entertainment locally. Things could be the way they are now for a very, very long time. I could be dead and long gone and things would still be the same.

It's very difficult to change the general local mindset, but I don't believe it's not worth the effort.

Maybe I'm just crazy.

After all, only a crazy person would write all that.

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