Devcom 2018 – Diversity Wins!

© 2018, photo: 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.

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 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 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 (primarily 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 where hundreds of meetings set up to fuel business deals took place, and a Jobs Cube, sponsored by Fluffy Fairy Games featuring on one side a variety of positions available at games developers and publishers in Germany, and on the others analog information about the conference programme and the devcom awards nominees.

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, but are well worth revisiting from the point of view of one of the largest games developers in the business.

The rest of the day was taken up with dozens of talks and panel discussions over the seven presentation stages. The programme included art creation, 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 and extract value from. In keeping with the “Diversity Wins“ motto, a panel on hiring for diversity, chaired by the founder of Women in Games, David Smith, 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 also a well-attended Women in Games networking event where volunteer mentors handed out advice to younger women seeking to tap into their experience.

What would a games conference be without an attempt to predict the future? Under the heading The Future of the European Games Industry, a cross-border panel composed of Erik Robertson (Scandinavia), Jo Twist (UK) and Arne Peters (Germany) and chaired by European media legal expert 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. But as with all speculation about a post-Brexit Europe, beyond expressing concern, there is not much that can be said or done other than to make people aware of the dangers of a no-deal Brexit and the possible disruptions it could bring with it.

With devcom now having closed its doors to make way for gamescom, visitors can look forward to next year’s programme with anticipation.

Devcom is run by Aruba Events GmbH, Europe’s leading events organizer for the games industry, and a subsidiary of the Computec Media Group.

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