The fourth GameLoop Philly event, held at the University of the Arts on May 16, could’ve had a talk session about butts.
While it wouldn’t be the first time butts in gaming have been talked about, it’s just one example as to how you really don’t know what you’ll expect to hear at this unconference. Essentially a BarCamp Philly for the local game development community, GameLoop Philly is an all-day event where anyone interested in making games can join in to discuss and learn from one another on a number of different topics.
With attendees voting on talks with stickers, this year’s schedule included topics like the ever-popular “Game Jams: What We’ve Learned,” procedural content generation, best practices in Unity, education in video games, character design and visual novels.
Ray Merkler, one of the two organizers for GameLoop Philly and developer of games like Fortress and Monsta Punch!, said he couldn’t pick his favorite talk this year, adding that it was “the best schedule we’ve had yet,” due to its diversity.
“That’s why I love doing this because every conference is just so – I’m hesitating to say, ‘out there’ – but that’s exactly what we need,” Merkler said.
Mila Pokorny, an artist at QuadraTron Games as well as the owner of her own game company DeerFox Games, also praised this year’s lineup and the way GameLoop encourages discussion.
“I think having the reserved space for people who have had experience in doing this, to all talk about together, is very interesting rather than a lecture sort of conversation where this is how one particular person feels and if there’s time we can discuss it overall,” Pokorny said.
On top of volunteering, she led a conversation on player and AI relations regarding fiction, in addition to attending a talk on education in video games, something she’s particularly interested in.
“There were so many different people who had different experiences regarding educational games that I have a lot to go back with if I were to pursue something of that regard,” Pokorny said.
Pokorny is currently busy completing her two-player living card game Mahou Shojo, inspired by the anime genre of magical girls and meant to be inclusive to all gamers.
There weren’t many talks specifically geared towards board game developers this year, and Nicole Kline, the other organizer of GameLoop Philly and co-developer of card game RESISTOR, felt that there should be more representation in Philadelphia.
“I was kind of hoping that we’d get more board game developers this year,” Kline said. “We had a couple, but I’d like to make this a nice combination of the two. … The board game developer community is getting a lot bigger in Philly and everybody’s kind of unifying more which I think is fun.”
In terms of learning new things, Kline is among many who felt inspired to start a new initiative, even though being a senior editor of a website and developer at Cardboard Fortress Games with her partner Anthony Amato, can keep her busy.
“Every year when I come to these, I’m like, ‘This is the year that I’m going to learn Unity’ and ‘This is the year that I’m going to sit down and start coding’ but it’s just hard cause we’re so busy,” she said. “But being around everybody here is so inspirational, it’s really fun.”
Chris Hoopes and Dustin Twilley of Ghost Crab Games, known for Drive to Hell and Bungle!, were busy gaining insights into how to get their games on consoles, in preparation for their upcoming Joust-inspired game Hastilude.
“Nobody had tried to update Joust and I thought it was strange, because it was one of the better remembered old games,” Twilley said.
Dave Voyles, a senior tech evangelist for Microsoft and big proponent of the local indie dev scene, was on hand to provide advice to the two developers, even in between bites during lunch.
It’s the way in which GameLoop Philly has brought together people passionate about making games that Merkler leaves leadership of the event this year knowing that its contributions have been impactful. As he moves on to pursuing his Master of Social Work in the fall, Merkler feels that the community will only continue to flourish.
“There’s just so much productivity happening right now and such a huge breadth of different projects that are going on,” Merkler said. “I love being a part of it and I absolutely intend to continue being a part of it, even though I’m not actually making video games anymore.”