For an entertainment medium that's 40 years old, you'd think video games would no longer be scary and weird and misunderstood.
But movies, music and television all went through long stretches of cultural puberty, too. Before long, perhaps games will be fully grown up and universally embraced, and we can stop asking questions like, "What do you mean, a gaming festival? How is that even a thing?"
In Toronto this weekend, it is a thing. Gamercamp is the city's annual celebration of interactive entertainment - sort of a TIFF with joysticks - with sneak peeks at upcoming made-in-Toronto games, panels by and for game developers and a relaxed, all-access vibe for folks who just like to play and talk about digital diversions. It runs Nov. 3 and 4 at the University of Toronto's Victoria College and Isabel Bader Theatre.
"Looking over the list of games that have been released in the last few years, it's scary good," says Gamercamp director and co-found Jaime Woo, citing critically lauded, Toronto-made gems such SuperBrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Sound Shapes, Dyad, Mutant Blobs Attack and To the Moon as proof Toronto game-makers are thriving creatively.
"I think we can say Toronto has a viable game development scene, and it's all about sustaining it and preparing the next generation of developers."
Now in its fourth year, Gamercamp covers some of the same ground as the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the Montreal International Game Summit, allowing game makers ranging from solo rookies working from their basements to the folks at development giant Ubisoft Toronto to mingle, swap ideas and learn.
In addition to workshops, demos, speakers (including New Zealand native and DayZ creator Dean Hall making his first Canadian appearance) and purely social gatherings, Gamercamp is also hosting the Toronto premiere of the game-to-movie adaptation Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, by legendary Japanese director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition.)
"I can't think of another adaptation that emulates the experience of the game so well, while managing to tell an accessible and crowd-pleasing story," says Peter Kuplowsky, who is coordinating the film's two Gamercamp showings.
"These screenings are also an opportunity to attract filmgoers into a space where they can meet gamers and game developers, and also take notice that games are telling stories with as much sophistication and visual panache as the movies."
Gamercamp day passes start at $39. For schedules and more information, see www.gamercamp.ca.