Wow! Berlin is a dynamic and exciting city, and plays host to the intense annual International Games Week Berlin festival. I was invited to speak, and participated on several sessions primarily about indie development and funding. It was quite an impressive line up of activities (eg, developer conference, awards show, museum exhibits, indie showcase, chiptune concerts, etc).

While in Berlin, I also crossed over to the startup/venture side of the ecosystem. The startup scene is booming, forming a major economic engine in Berlin, with a constantly growing flow of venture capital into the region. In addition to various VC meetings, I had the privilege to visit (and present at) Betahaus, the cornerstone of much startup activity in the city.


Yasuhiro Wada (Toybox), the father of Harvest Moon, discusses designing for love.


Dungeon diorama in the school showcase exhibit. This one was made by the girl team.


Stephan Reichart (Aruba Events) gives the welcoming speech during the business matchmaking dinner.


The Urban Spree gallery/exhibit space, home to the A.Maze portion of the festival.


Many indie games at A.Maze were sporting alternative input devices and methods of interaction. Hug input?


Hard to capture in a photo… She had an Oculus Rift on while the guys swung her around to control her flight movement.


Worming? Wiggle wiggle!


Urban Spree was packed all the time.


Chiptune and 8bit bands were performing each night at Urban Spree.


Betabreakfast session at the legendary Betahaus.


Quo Vadis party on the Games Academy rooftop.


The party was sponsored by Poland. Mmmm…


Did I mention there was an underground rave party in an abandoned indoor swimming pool? The DJ was in the deep end.


The pumps and pipes in the basement of the pool served as interesting spaces for bars and dance areas.


Selection of mezcal at an “illegal” bar. I sipped one that was 56% and it made my head spin!

Another year, another crazy intense GDC. As odd as it may sound, I always feel like I’m returning home… I also feel like every year is more insane than the last. On top of an agenda packed with meetings, press, parties, etc, I also gave five official sessions (rant panel, publishing/funding lecture, 2x incubator roundtables, and a talk on indie branding), along with a talk on indie entrepreneurship at the Game Industry Support summit at Game Connection across town, and a private briefing session with all the trade commissioners from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Admittedly, I was too caught up in meetings to really suss out any major trends or undercurrents. Though, I would say there was a generally more optimistic vibe that last year. Also, was fun to see the various teams from Execution Labs whizzing around GDC, networking, having good meetings, and generally being productive - and serving as great ambassadors for the program.

Oh, and the IGDA was nice enough to present me with a Lifetime Achievement Award during their VIP luncheon. It is the IGDA’s 20th anniversary, for which I served as executive director for almost 9 of those years. Ernest Adams, the founder, was recognized as well.


Juan Gril (along with Dave Rohrl and Steve Meretzky) kicks off the summits with the always insightful free-to-play year-in-review.


Execution Labs’ very own Keith Katz reveals all of our indie marketing secrets to a packed audience.


Dan Menard (Double Stallion) pitches during the Execution Labs VIP cocktail reception at the Armory Club.


I had an offsite meeting with GlassLab, co-hosted in the Co.Lab learning+games incubator at Zynga.


Nick Rudzicz (KO-OP Mode), proud of Gnah!’s IndieMegaBooth showing.


So ya, apparently throwing cake into the audience is Steve Aoki’s thing. Thank you WarGaming for hiring the craziest DJs!


The Lost Levels unconference in action in the Yerba Buena gardens.


A classic Nintendo NES and R.O.B. display case in the Videogame History Museum exhibit.


Cool VR action…


IGF nominee, Crypt of the Necrodancer, in action on the show floor.


Oh my, Goat Simulator. Yes, this is for real.


Quantum: Eric Zimmerman’s first commercially released board game. Super cool!


Super fuzzy shot, but you can still tell it is Ernest Adams (talking about the founding of the IGDA) because of the top hat :)


Once again, post GDC BBQ action at Keith’s place. mmmm, ribsssssss


The Execution Labs crew chowing down.


My snazzy plaque from the IGDA :)

India is a special place. It is hard to properly describe the many paradoxes in effect… Extreme poverty to extravagance. Over-stimulation and chaos versus zenness. Modernity side by side with ancient traditions. And, you experience these clashes at every moment, much of which I got to see first hand in the context of entrepreneurship in India.

I was invited to Delhi to speak on the future of games at the GSF Super Angels Conference. The Canadian High Commission took advantage of the invite, and booked me solid for a week in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore to meet with investors, game developers, universities, incubators, press (BTW, here’s an interview with MCV India), etc. Was a super intense week.

In just that single week I got a real sense of how the entrepreneurial ecosystem is on overdrive: Access to capital, number of startups, volume of engineering grads, number of regional incubators, etc. This is happening in the game sector as well, though perhaps at a more nascent stage, as developers who have historically been geared towards work-for-hire services, now try their hand at creating original IP for digital platforms. Also, from a local market point view, downloads and userbase are obviously massive, but there is still too much friction from a payment point of view (ie, lack of credit cards, greedy carrier billing, etc) for the sector to yet have much weight financially.

Will be interesting to see where the Indian game industry is in two years!


Gate to the Canadian High Commission compound in Delhi.


The palatial Leela Hotel.


View from Leela… Delhi pollution/smog level is crazy bad.


VCs in discussion at the GSF conference.


Outdoor stage on day 2 at GSF conference.


Elephant in the regular flow of traffic!


Hello Mr. Elephant!


Gate to the Taj Mahal.


View of Taj Mahal through the entry gate arch.


The Taj Mahal is truly stunning, made from sparkling marble.


The bench/pool from which the emperor remembered his wife, buried in the Taj.


Nearby Agra Fort.


A little rougher at Agra Fort, but still beautiful.


Rohan Malhotra with inspiring words in the lobby of Investopad.


The India Gate at the tip of the peninsula in Mumbai.


The famous Taj Palace hotel in Mumbai.


Most expensive home in the world! Wow. Look it up…


Shot of the bay in Mumbai.


From the stunning rooftop bar of the Four Seasons hotel in Mumbai.


Breakfast tea and palm trees at the Taj West End hotel in Bangalore.


Wonderful wall art at Tiny Mogul Games.


Throne of Games.


Rajesh Rao proud of Dhruva Interactive, one of the oldest/largest game studios in India.


A new game incubation initiative driven by Rajesh…


Kshiraj Telang (Pencillati) lectures on art bibles at the NASSCOM meetup in Delhi.

Each visit to Rome is full of wonder and discovery. This was my first time back since the opening of the Vigamus game museum, that I advised on during their ramp up. The result turned out even more amazing than I could have imagined. If you are ever in Rome, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit – it is walking distance from the Vatican!

A bunch of us were there to speak at the Vigamus conference (including of the unveiling of the Suda51 exhibition) as well as participate at the Ludica Fair, which covers all forms of games/play (ie, LARPing, board games, etc).

 


Massive sculpture at the entrance of the war museum at the Vittoriano.


The impressive hallways in the Vittoriano.


Nighttime view of Piazza Venezia from the Vittoriano balcony.


Ancient Roman LARPers gearing up at the Ludica Fair.


Ancient Roman helmets ready for action.


Some oldskool board games.


Massive Game of Thrones Lego diorama.


Game of Thrones Lego castle.


Eating “Italian sushi” with Suda51 and Massimo Guarini (Ovosonico). Mmmm octopus!


Enter into the dungeons… a ~2000 year old Roman cellar…


…to eat dinner Frascati style. So good!


Start of the Vigamus permanent exhibit, mainly focused on historical game consoles.


Oooh, how I love thee, Sega Master System. The main console of my youth :)


Suda51 cuts the ribbon to the exhibition in his honor.


Vigamus director Marco Accordi Rickards with Suda51 and works of concept art from the Grasshopper Manufacture library.


Massimo Guarini discusses his time in Canada and Japan, and his move back to Italy to start Ovosonico and create Murasaki Baby.


Manuel Llanes returned to Rome to discuss his work on Battlefield 4 at DICE.


Always something new to uncover in Rome! Spotted this “invader” at the Spanish Steps.

I still remember over 10 years ago, nagging a bunch of industry leaders and the board of Alliance Numerique about the need to establish a major conference in Montreal. The initial goal was very much geared towards professional development and investing in the local talent. I’ve been involved with MIGS since the beginning, primarily via the advisory board, and that talent focus remains to this day.

This year, being the 10th edition of MIGS, was a bit different than most for me, as it is the first time I had a booth! Well, more accurately, it is the first time Execution Labs had a booth at MIGS. Last year we had only just announced the formal creation of XL…

Was fun to be there with a whole batch of teams, and see them shine (eg, Xin and Jongwoo from Kitfox winning the studio battle jam, and having 5 XL’ers  speaking in the program, etc). Also, our unofficial afterparty was a blast!

Hard to say what has really changed over the past 10 years. Sure, the event has grown in size (by around 5x from the original), but ultimately it is still about everyone getting together to share and learn, and push this amazing industry forward.


Joe Kreiner (Epic Games) hosts an epic pre-dinner for a handful of local indies.


The legendary Ray Muzyka returns to give the opening keynote (FYI, he opened the very first MIGS).


Jennifer Whitson (Execution Labs / TAG) delivers a polemic on metrics.


Team Kitfox JongWoo Kim and Xin Ran Liu on route to winning the game jam.


Keith Katz (Execution Labs) digs deep into mobile marketing.


Mmmm cupcakes at the VIP reception.


Richard Rouse (Microsoft) and Chris Avellone (Obsidian) at the VIP reception.


Hustle and bustle at the Execution Labs’ booth.


Ruben Farrus with an emotional and moving look at Minority Media’s next game centered on bullying.


The ever dapper Tommy Palm (King) discusses the success of Candy Crush.


Jason VandenBerghe (Ubisfot) kicks off the closing brain dump panel with flair!


A quick snap at the XL afterparty…. check the FB group for more pics.


Got a little steamy at XL…


Nicholas Lovell (GamesBrief) doing some post-MIGS mentoring at XL.

 

Why do I think of the Bill Murray whiskey scene in Lost in Translation every time I go to Japan???

The Department of  Foreign Affairs was kind enough to invite me over to Japan (my 6th time) for their Canadian<>Japanese Game Summit, and to visit key game contacts. I also took it as an opportunity to meet with potential strategic investors for Execution Labs (given all the investment activity coming out of Asia).

It was a quick trip, spending roughly 2 days in Tokyo, and then heading up north to Sapporo for two more days of meetings. This was my first time not only in/around Tokyo. Sapporo is a lovely city, and at ~5million population, more spacious and less intense than Tokyo, of course.

As a special treat, on the last night, after all the meetings/work was done, we ran off to a special natural hot spring hotel to relax and rejuvenate from the intense week.


You know you’re in Japan when the toilets have control panels ;)


Beautiful plant sculpture in the hotel lobby.


Cool walkway up to temple in Akasaka district.


Endless barrels of sake at the temple.


View from KDDI offices.


View from Crooz offices.


The legendary Sega, with more functional lobby.


Duncan Wright (DFATD) addresses the Canadian<>Japan Game Summit audience.


Ah, good old SR&ED tax credits to get the crowd revved up!


Kiyoshi Shin moderates a panel discussion on collaboration case studies (including Inafume-san’s efforts on Dead Rising 2).


Tokyo Tower +cityscape view from Mori Tower in Roppongi Hill.


Networking and demos at the Inter-x-Cross Center in Sapporo.


The historic government office in Sapporo.


The special tatami meeting room at Crypton Future Media, creators of virtual pop star Hatsune Miku.


Traditional meal at Marukoma hot spring hotel.


Lake view from the Marukoma hot spring hotel.


Lake view from the Marukoma hot spring hotel.

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