Interview: Gamercamp’s
Jaime Woo on LVL 4

Gamercamp LV2 - Jaime Woo and Mark Rabo
Gamercamp founders Jaime Woo and Mark Rabo. (Photo by Ryan Couldrey)

Gamercamp, the little games-festival-that-could, returns for its fourth annual outing in the city. The brainchild of co-founders Mark Rabo and Jaime Woo, Gamercamp is a celebration of everything related to games and the people who make (and play) them. With keynote speakers representing games ranging from AAA (Mary DeMarle, Deus Ex: Human Revolution) to indie (Vander Caballero, Papo & Yo), Gamercamp Lvl 4 aims to be the most ambitious iteration to date.

It’s still a few months away, but now that we have an official guest list we spoke with Jaime Woo about the lineup and what’s new for attendees at this year’s festival.

Dork Shelf: Who are you excited to bring to Toronto and how will their presentations lend a different flavor to Gamercamp 2012?

Jaime Woo: We’ve reached out farther than ever this year with speakers coming from Vancouver, New York, Montreal, and, of course, Toronto! We have a blend of bigger games like Mary DeMarle with Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Pat Redding with Splinter Cell: Blacklist combined with exciting indie titles like Shawn McGrath’s Dyad and Capy’s Super TIME Force. There’s something for everyone.

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DS: Is it important to have a blend of voices representing independent and AAA developers?

JW: Absolutely. Creativity blossoms at many different levels.

DS: How do you keep Gamercamp fresh year after year?

JW: We spend much of the year keeping our eyes and ears open for ideas that really stand out. It’s our goal to bring as many of those people to this city as possible, because that’s how cool new ideas sprout. Truthfully, if we weren’t excited by the speakers, we probably wouldn’t be that interested in Gamercamp either.

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DS: You’ve been seeking out several of the artists who participated in the No Quarter Exhibit at New York University and have already helped bring some of those games (Ramiro Corbetta’s Hokra comes to mind) to Canada. How has that relationship influenced Gamercamp? Are you looking to further integrate the No Quarter exhibit with Gamercamp?

JW: We love what NYU is doing in New York and the artists involved with No Quarter is a who’s who of future legends in this industry. No Quarter looks at how we play games and how we maintain a social quality. To us, that makes it a great fit with Gamercamp. Sure, you could hear these talks or play these games at home, but there’s something irreplaceable about being around hundreds of other people who are just as excited by these works.

DS: How do the games in the New York indie scene complement the Toronto indie scene (and vice versa)?

JW: I think both are playing with the boundaries of games and pushing them into new and sometimes uncomfortable places. It’s hard to make a blanket statement about a whole city. No Quarter specifically is very clever in its mandate to redefine the arcade for a contemporary audience. Some games that come out of No Quarter have a kinetic feel to them: watching people play Hokra or BariBaraBall or Nidhogg there’s a sense of connection between the game, the players, and the audience. Then, you also have thoughtful meditations on how we relate to the world around us like From A Distance and Deep Sea, which tweak the idea of public space (although it should be noted that Terry Cavanagh and Robin Arnott are from the UK and Austin, respectively).

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In Toronto, I find the inspirations for the games tend to drive games into new areas. A love of music, for example, drives works like Sword & Sworcery, Sound Shapes, and Dyad, into innovative takes on the role of sound in games. I like the fresh takes DrinkBox has made on the 1950s science-fiction genre and on luchador culture in Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee. The latter, for example, is fairly played out as a caricature in Western culture, but by honouring Mexican culture in Guacamelee, it makes the game’s ideas feel fresh.

DS: Why is it so important to have an international presence at a largely local event like Gamercamp?

JW: Toronto is clearly picking up steam as a game development city and we’ve grown alongside [it]. We want the people who are doing the coolest stuff out there, whether or not they’re doing it in Toronto. Not only does that give our attendees something they wouldn’t find anywhere else, but – who knows – maybe that international presence will find some neat collaborations with our awesome local community.

DS: You obviously have big plans for Gamercamp, so where does the event go from here?

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JW: The festival continues to evolve as games culture itself grows and changes. We’re inspired by the large cultural festivals in Toronto that unabashedly love film, art, and music, yet also welcome everyone to the table because the belief is “the more people who love film, art, or music the better.” Similarly, if we can inspire more people to love games and people who already love games to love them more, we’ve done our job.

DS: Time for the sales pitch. In one sentence or less, why should people come to Gamercamp Lvl. 4?

JW: Gamercamp is the place to get inspired by some of the most creative people in the videogame industry, play the games that will set the standard of the medium, and meet other people who love games.

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Gamercamp Lvl. 4 kicks off at the Isabel Bader Theatre on November 3. You can find out more and register for the event at the official Gamercamp website. (gamercamp.ca)



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