I think we all can admit that us gamers in the true north, strong and free nation of Canada, tend to get the short end of the stick, and no, not a hockey stick, when it comes to localized, large scale events and conventions that focus exclusively on gaming.
It’s hard not to be a bit envious of the rest of the world when we look at their extensive roster of gaming shows like E3, GDC, PAX Prime and East, BlizzCon and HaloFest just south of the border in the US of A, Gamescom in Germany and the Tokyo Game Show held in, you guessed it, Tokyo. As such, it’s quite a relief to see we’ve had some love thrown our way by our friends over at Reboot Communications and EP Media. With their annually held Canadian Video Game Awards, and the debut of their new fan driven convention Fanfest, they are looking to celebrate the robust Canadian gaming community of both developers and players, for the 6th year in a row. It’s refreshing to see that us igloo dwelling game enthusiasts are being given the attention we so rightfully deserve.
With strongholds in major metropolitan cities like Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, the gaming business is booming, and shows no signs of slowing down either. Canada plays an intimate role in the world of interactive entertainment, and this show celebrates our spot on the world stage as an industry leader. Seeing as this is more of an industry centric event, this year, the CVA’s are proud to debut FanFest, a weekend long, community driven celebration of all things gaming here in the great white north and abroad. Fans will have the opportunity to get their hands on the holiday seasons most anticipated games, and speak first hand with their favourite devs in the Canadian Game and Fan zones.
Both events will be held at the Mattamy Athletic center, with FanFest running through December 5th and 6th and concluding with the beginning of the CVA’s on that same evening.
That hysteric day is creeping ever closer, and it’s progressively becoming more and more difficult to tame the overwhelming excitement of the fanboy within me. Luckily, I could let out all of my pent up excitement once I spoke with Nicole Emmett, an organizer for the CVA’s.
“The Canadian game industry is so unique. There is such a diverse culture in gaming here in Canada. We have a large indie studio population, and from coast to coast, there is a really large triple A presence from international studios that have set up shop here as well.
There is such a diverse group of talent for various platforms, and that’s really what keeps it going. Canada produces a phenomenal variety of games that are competing and showing off what we have to offer on an international scale.”
Now I’m a proud Canadian, and equally as much, a proud gamer. I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement with every characteristic Emmett listed off. Yet despite all that, I find it baffling that we still often go overlooked by the community at large. In light of this confusion, I ask Nicole why this phenomenon occurs:
“I think as Canadians, it sort of speaks to who we are, I mean we’re fairly humble. We don’t stand up and say, hey look at us celebrate this phenomenal industry, or product we are putting out internationally. That’s kind of where the Canadian Video Game Awards comes into play; they started because this industry is so well deserving, but doesn’t celebrate itself!”
Awards ceremonies like the CVA’s, are looking to drive home that notion of appreciation and awareness amongst industry affiliated professionals and public game aficionados alike. In fact, last year, they were able to house a staggering 570 of them in the downtown core of Toronto, and that number has nowhere to go but up come this year!
In any discussion surrounding video games, those at the forefront should be the hardcore fans, the lifeblood of the industry as a whole. I was relieved to see that this years CVA’s have placed emphasis on satisfying those noble individuals, the people whose flaming passions have allowed gaming as a business and a past time to evolve into what it is today.
Rest assured, they have kept you in their thoughts, and with the inclusion of FanFest, are affirming your importance in action. FanFest is any Canadian gamers utopia; a giant celebratory party and competition series dedicated exclusively to video games, I mean what more could you ask for? I ask Nicole to detail the motivation behind creating the convention:
“I remember back in March, our production team sat in a room and thought, you know what, we have to start opening this stuff up to the fans. They’re really what drives this industry forward, and are quite the force to be reckoned with. We wanted to give them a chance to really experience and celebrate Canada and Canadian gaming as much as we could before the holidays.”
Fortunately enough, I was able to speak to one of those individuals whose leadership at the renowned Canadian studio Vagabond Dogs, has and is adding to the already sterling reputation of Canadian video game creative talent within our borders and on a worldwide scale. Justin Amirkhani is a proud Canadian game developer whose title, Always Sometimes Monsters, ending up bagging him two awards in the previous years CVA’s.
Justin has always had an undying passion for games. He first began his career as a video game journalist who toured across North America visiting multiple game developers. He conducted countless interviews with the intent of learning and absorbing all the creative wisdom his brain could possibly fit. During his what he calls, ‘Gamer Unplugged’ journey, Justin came to the realization that he had a fantastic idea for a game that after a little over a years time, turned into the story driven, life simulation game, Always Sometimes Monsters we all know and love. I asked him why he believed the game resonated so much with people:
“It’s a strange game. You are encouraged to embody the role of this character that you are developing in participation with the game. I think a lot of people found that this was a game that really respected your ability to approach a character with honesty. People just fell in love with their characters that they built with the game.”
With Justin unexpectedly entering into an entirely different realm of the gaming industry, I asked what he believed was so special about being a celebrated game designer:
“I like the fact that I don’t ever shut off. I’m constantly thinking about the game all the time. I’m constantly figuring out how I can implement different instances of life in the game. All of these ideas come to you at a constant stream, and that’s what I believe is the best part about making games.
When you really get into it, there are so many facets of the game that you have to be thinking about all the time. You can often times get lost, and at the end of the day, it turns into something really cool that a lot of people seem to like. The ability to get lost in your work, that’s really what its all about.”
Justin’s exceptional writing style and story design, won him not one, but two very well deserved awards within the categories of best writing and best indie game. I asked him what he personally believed Vagabond Dogs specifically did to be deserving of these awards, to which he modestly replied:
“I don’t know if I deserve it, its entirely possible that I don’t. There are tons of talented people in this city, they’re all making games, everybody’s got cool games, and everybody’s got interesting games. They all put as much thought into this as we do.”
I asked Justin where within that process Canada lied in influencing both his game, and his life as a whole in a game developmental career:
“On an international scale, Canadians have a really good reputation. I’m not 100% sure how well I hold up that reputation. I get a lot of warm reception from different sorts of communities around the world and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m Canadian. When we travel, and people know we’re from Canada, they’re interested in asking why we came so far, and what the Canadian gaming community is all about. I don’t know if that happens for everyone.”
Justin would like to thank his fans for their existence, and I would like to thank both Nicole and Justin for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak with me on such short notice. Canadian gamers rejoice, the time of celebration is almost near, be there or be square eh?