Now in its fourth iteration, GameON Finance has grown into a superb niche conference focused on the biz aspects of the games industry. The 2011 edition was sold out, and had a stellar line up of speakers: from bigwig bankers and VC types, to single-man micro studios providing case studies of their success. Also, it was the most international so far with folks from Europe, the USA and Latin America in for the event.

Admittedly, I’m a little biased as I’m on the advisory committee, but unsolicited feedback was great. This year, I didn’t do a lecture (or last minute keynote replacement). Instead, I moderated three different sessions: one on indie successes, another covering connected consoles and the final a panel on business aspects of social games.

Here are some quick photos from the conference:


Ontario Minister of Economic Development & Trade, Sandra Pupatello, kicks off the pre-conference reception at Ryerson University.

 


Nathan Vella tells the Capybara story for the reception keynote speech.

 


Remi Racine (Behaviour Interactive) provides the opening keynote.

 


Piers Harding-Rolls (Screen Digest) dives deep into the numbers…

 


…I really liked this graph looking at the average spend per user on consoles vs. social games. Hmm, would be more interesting if he filtered out all the non-paying social players.

 


Key slide from the Mark MacLeod (Real Ventures) presentation!

 


A look at alternative funding strategies. Moderator: Marc Jackson (Seahorn Capital); bonding: Risa Cohen; incubation/acceleration: Juan Benito (Joystick Labs); indie self-funding: Nathan Vella (Capybara/IndieFund).

 


Dino Patti (Playdead Games) discusses the background and success of Limbo with Shaun Hatton (Electric Playground).

 


VIP dinner on the KPMG executive floor (FYI, its 46th) with Malte Behrmann (European Game Developers Federation) and Interactive Ontario bossman, Ian Kelso.

 


Separated at birth: Dino Patti (Playdead Games) and Nathan Vella (Capybara).

 


Dino showing off his hardy European drinking skills with a “Flaming Burning Lamborghini”(yes, the glass is on fire). Tom Frencel (Little Guy Games) and Trevor Fencott (Bedlam) watch on. Not pictured: Scott Simpson’s flaming mustache!

I generally don’t dwell on the past. I’m very much a “live in the moment” kind of guy and as such I don’t do a good job of celebrating anniversaries. But, the 10 year milestone for the Montreal chapter of the International Game Developers Association seemed like something important (and luckily, others from the advisory committee were smart to push for us to do something special).


Past/Present/Future Panel Discussion: Standing = me. Seated (from left to right): Martin Lizee (Gamerizon), Sebastien Ebacher (Ubisoft), Denis Lacasse (Behaviour Interactive), Reid Schnieder (WB Games), Francois Dominic Laramee (freelance writer/journalist). On Screen = first ever chapter photo with Francois Dominic Laramee, JF William, Sebastien Ebacher, Christine?

I barely recall the first meeting back in January 2001. It was well attended by a few dozen folks and all we did was drink and network. It has been a fulfilling ride along the way, helping to drive and grow the chapter along with the growth of the game dev scene in Montreal overall. And, in small, often intangible ways, serving as a critical nexus point for the progress of game development in the city. It’s been fun.

Some photos from the anniversary night are posted at IGDA-Montreal’s Facebook page. Also,one of our long time chapter members wrote a little summary note. A full report covering the panel discussion and a video will go up shortly…

Alright, gotta run off and plan the next event!

As is tradition, here is my list of books I read over the past year. Shame on me as I came way under my self-imposed two books per month “quota”. I blame video games!

Business/Economics

Leadership/Management

Culture/Etc

Self-Help

Of the bunch, I found Drive and Switch to be particularly good books with lots of applicability to my day-to-day efforts. It was also great to finally read The Innovator’s Solution, as I have often lectured about the dilemma side of the equation… On cultural front, I thoroughly enjoyed both American Nerd and The Fighter’s Mind, as oddly enough I belong both to the nerd/geek and fighter tribes.

In the self-help department, I was mainly looking for marketing and promotion related guidance to help with my consulting efforts. Of the bunch, the only one that fell flat for me was The Language of New Media. Despite being a significant book on media theory, I found it too academically opaque to get much out of it. Oh, and I read a book on ethics since I taught a university communications course on media ethics last fall.

Oh my, 2010 was a busy year for travel. Staying active on the conference speaking circuit, along with a bunch of international work/client gigs means the airmiles start to rack up.

Here’s roughly where I went in 2010:

Admittedly, a little surreal when you look back at a year where you got to Rome twice, along with visits to places like Lima, Kuala Lumpur, and Iceland. Gotta say, I kinda like what I do :)

For my final trip of 2010, I flew to the other side of the globe to lecture at the kre8tif! Digital Content Conference in Malaysia. It was my first visit there and I was truly struck by the diversity - of race, culture, religion, food, talent, architecture, etc.

The conference itself was very well put together with many top-tier speakers from around the games, movies, animation industries. Though, I’d classify the games industry as still being quite nascent in the region, with very few large scale production efforts and the indie scene just starting to take root. Lots of talent and potential, but playing catch-up to powerhouse Asian countries like South Korea…

Despite a wonderful trip I was eager to get home for the holidays, and consider myself lucky to have made it back. I was scheduled to fly home via London, which was totally snowed in. Good thing I’ve got a decent amount of globe-trotting experience and did not hesitate to say “well hell, just fly me back the OTHER way around the globe!” Indeed, I flew home via Shanghai and over the Pacific.

Anyway,  some pics from the trip:


Inner courtyard view of hotel.

 


View outside my room: The Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

 


Street shot in Bukit Bintang district. Notice one of the Petronas Towers peaking out from a distance…

 


The Petronas Twin Towers. Awesome.

 


Christmas shopping in the base of the Towers.

 


Jason Manley (Massive Black) gives the opening keynote.

 


Alex Laurant (Studio LXL) gives a hands on master class on art direction.

 


…and then Alex gets interviewed by the media students from Australia “logging” the event.

 


Leah Hoyer (Levity) leads the panel on pitching content.

 


Eating late night Indian: Ian Abercromby (Symphonic Pictures), Amir Irwan (e-One Studio), Sten Selander (Nordic Game Program), Alex Laurant (Studio LXL), Patch Khan (HP), Kamarul Ariff (MDEC) and Jojo Azeizul Azrein (MDEC). They almost lost me, but we all made it back safe…

 


Sten Selander (Nordic Game Program) discusses Swedish design.

 


Ivon Smith (Codemasters) reveals how talent is trained and nurtured at their Malaysian art production studio.

 


Nice lights/decor.

 


IGDA-Malaysia’s Pecha Kucha session gave exposure to several up and coming game development efforts: chapter chair Buzz Akmal Bidin discusses current efforts, local devs wait their turn while Hilmy Abd Rahim moderates the session.

 


Awards night!

 


Bar fish tank with sharks and Christmas decorations. Admittedly, not a combo I was expecting to see.

 


The X|Media|Lab 1-on-1 advisory sessions in progress.

 


The X|Media|Lab mentor match-making grid.

 


Shiao Yee (X|Media|Lab) sings us a traditional Chinese song with tradition Malaysian musicians at the closing dinner.

 


Searching for (late night) shawarma in KL.

 


Brendan Harkin (X|Media|Lab) serves as impromptu tour guide.

 


The “spider bridge” in Putrajaya.

 


Arches of the “Steel Mosque” in Putrajaya.

 


Inside the Steel Mosque.

 


The Prime Minister’s office (aka the Malaysian White House ;)

 


A more traditional mosque across from the Prime Minister.

 


Praying posture instructions.

 


Inside the mosque. It sparkled.

 


Doorway for the prayer leader to enter the mosque.

 


Across town at Comic Fiesta, a local fan-driven manga/games/cosplay/etc festival.

 


Top quality cosplay!

 


Artisans and creators selling their hand-made goods at the comic convention.

 


Booth for Lim Kok Wing University, one of leading schools for games and animation.

When I visited IO Interactive back in September, Thomas Howalt was kind enough to give me some swag, including a copy of mini ninjas. For a kids oriented game, it is surprisingly well designed, with polish and depth. I finished the game, playing alongside and swapping the controller with my kids… Fun times.

For Christmas my 8-year-old son gave me the below interpretation of Futo, Hiro and an evil samurai from the game.

This piece joins my ongoing collection of video game inspired artworks by my son: Assassin’s Creed, Castle Crashers, Borderlands. Though he’s since done a much better Castle Crashers scene, and I need to dig an old Far Cry 2 piece…

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