Devcom 2018 – Diversity Wins!

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Job Cube.
Job Cube. © 2018, Susan Tackenberg

Cologne, Germany (Weltexpress). For the second year running, devcom, the German games industry’s new conference, gave the starting signal for the annual games celebration week in Cologne.

Devcom has closed its doors for another year, but the buzz and excitement linger on.

Under the motto “Diversity Wins!”, devcom 2018 kicked off its first day at the Messe in Cologne with quality speakers and a great buzz. The opening keynote on Sunday 19th August had industry legend, Cory Barlog humorously share his involvement over the years in Sony’s God of War franchise with a packed auditorium. Other speakers gave insights into a wide range of aspects of games creation. From the role of narrative in VR games (Tatiana Delgado, Vertical Robot), through to the advantages of connected thinking, particularly in relation to music in games (Matthew Florianz, Frontier Development), there was plenty of inspiration for the aspiring game developer to choose from.

The devcom exhibition floor was a hive of activity, featuring some of the latest developments and services of, among others, CryEngine (currently in its 5.5 iteration giving a brilliantly realistic feel to Crytek‘s new game, Darkness Anomaly), Ubisoft Blue Byte (on a hiring binge for their three German studios), Twitch and SAE, commercial educational experts in the creative industries. Newcomers in the exhibition area included Ares Tech, a Berlin-based company whose SDK service utilizes the blockchain technology underlying Ethereum, and nutaku, a gaming platform for adult content. An all-new industry presence had its first stand ever at this year’s devcom: the Global Games Industry Network. Set up by seasoned games industry event creator Stephan Reichart, head of devcom and consultant to the industry for over 20 years, the network aims to be a marketplace and a rich source of knowledge and expertise across the global games industry.

The main exhibition floor was taken up by young developers from North Rhine-Westphalia exhibiting their exciting games projects. Incorporating the Respawn concept of former years, it enabled devcom to offer a more focused and targeted environment for up-and-coming young developers to come together, display their work and rub shoulders with some of the industry’s grey eminences.

Other features at devcom included the Meet to Match business area, a venue for hundreds of meetings set up to fuel business deals. Another new arrival was the Jobs Cube – sponsored by Fluffy Fairy Games – featuring on one side a wide variety of jobs available at games developers and publishers in Germany. In addition, it bore a somewhat analog printed programme for the two-day event as well as the devcom awards nominees. No shortage of ideas, opportunities or hands-on hero worship here!

The devcom programme on Monday opened with a strong keynote by Saralyn Smith of Blizzard. Under the title “The Great Fandom Frontier and the Game Developer Imperative“ she shared useful insights into how the handling of a fan base is one of the core drivers of success for a games company. The fact is, these guidelines are patently applicable to almost any organisation providing a product or service and well worth the spotlight.

The rest of the day was taken up with dozens of talks and panel discussions over the 7 presentation stages – from art creation to writing, checklisting the combination of creative and strategic targets in game creation, music in games, pitching, legal topics, streaming elements – in short, a top-quality pool of knowledge for attendees to dip into. In keeping with the “Diversity Wins“ motto, a panel on hiring for diversity highlighted the need for games companies to examine their company culture and hiring practices to embrace a balanced approach to this sensitive subject. There was a well-attended Women in Games networking event where volunteer mentors handed out advice to younger women seeking to tap into their experience, in the benevolent presence of games industry supremo and global industry instigator at large, Kate Edwards.

What would a games conference be without at least one attempt to predict the future? Under the heading The Future of the European Games Industry, a cross-border panel composed of Erik Robertson (Nordic Game), Dr Jo Twist (UKIE) and Arne Peters (ESL) chaired by media legal expert and controversialist Dr Malte Behrmann, made an heroic attempt to see beyond the possible effects of Brexit and envisage what the European games industry might look like a few months down the road. As with any Brexitological speculation, beyond expressing concern, they agreed that there was not much that could be said or done other than to heighten awareness of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit and the disruption it would doubtless bring with it. Unlike in many other industries, the creative industries traditionally draw on talent and inspiration from across the globe, from the US, Asia and beyond, with alliances across all barriers – language, commercial, geographical, cultural etc. – being commonplace. Devcom 2019 will no doubt provide a showcase for these new constellations that will have to demonstrate all the resilience and agility they can muster to stay ahead in an even more volatile world than their fast-paced industry has traditionally been in the past. Bring it on.

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