If any of you are unaware, I’ve recently embarked on an 88 day trip around Europe. The maximum amount of time I could travel with a 90 day visa and a limited budget. I’m currently patiently waiting inside Berlin’s finest (I assume) laundromat. In fact I’ve been in Berlin for the last week or so. This post is about that week.
I had a lovely plane trip from Cape Town via Joburg and Abu Dhabi where I read Spelunky by Derek Yu cover-to-cover. It was as excellent as I’d hoped. I also got to share my plane trip with Ben Myers, which was an awesome surprise.
Upon arriving in Berlin I met up with my good friend Raxter who has graciously provided me with a mattress to sleep on in his flat for the last week. Raxter and his flatmates Bartek and Julia have been incredible to me. Thanks guys, come sleep on my couch in Cape Town please!
Anyway, that night we visited a robot-related exhibition put on by some other games friends (Robin, Leon and Jakub) before joining them back at their place for drinks, Rocket League and Samurai Gunn. I had one day before AMAZE, which was mostly spent organizing sim cards and meeting friends as they slowly started arriving from all over the world and gravitating towards Urban Spree. That night (by chance) I ended up going to a punk show with Richard, Joon, Alicia and Brendan. Rich and Joon are massive PUP fans and I couldn’t help but be really excited because of how excited they were. It was a great gig too.
The next day was the opening of AMAZE festival. AMAZE is the reason for the timing of this trip and possibly the best thing any person can do with a few days. It’s hard to explain what AMAZE means to me, so I’ll try to explain what it is instead. AMAZE is games and playful media festival. There are talks, workshops, exhibitions and parties galore. What it really is though, is a gathering of the best creative minds and most loving hearts in the industry (and outside of it).
AMAZE is not about games as a business (even though most attendees are game developers), it’s not about games as most people know them (a recreational past-time). It’s celebration of games as a creative medium, as a way of storytelling, as an art form. It’s about pushing the boundaries and celebrating people who make weird or interesting interactive experiences.
I loved AMAZE. I loved every moment of it. I made new friends, I got to see some of my most cherished friends from abroad, and I even got to hang out with some of my favourite friends from Cape Town, but in Berlin!
The scale of love given and received is by far the most important and distinct thing about AMAZE. It is unique. GDC is similar, but with more of a business agenda. GDC is less of a glorious celebration of playfulness. This post kinda sums up the atmosphere nicely.
But there are other things at AMAZE too. I watched some excellent talks which really got me thinking about the kind of games and experiences I want to create and share with people. I recommend the talks by Robert Yang, Hannah Nicklin and Patrick Jarnfelt in particular.
Games! There were so many cool games and weird experiences. As an example of the kind of things you can find at AMAZE: There was a game where an entire underground room had been converted into a makeshift spacecraft. To play the game, you must climb into a little pilot’s pod, put on a space suit (of sorts) and then attempt to pilot the thing with almost no information about the game state. Another friend then sits outside the room with a microphone and a monitor shouting instructions. There were games where you physically dive into walls, games where you feed things peanuts, games where you absorb colours from passers-by with a vacuum cleaner, games where you try fit your body into a small moving rectangle and games where you just wak with your grandmother in the woods. Needless to say, there were a lot of inspiring games.
There were also parties. My god were there parties. Sos drove his firetruck (of course Sos has a firetruck) from Poland and parked it at the venue to be used as a open music DJ station. The slots were filled in on a piece of cardboard, the quality of the sets varied wildly, but there were always people dancing outside the firetruck.
This was of course in addition to the actual scheduled parties. The lineup for the last night was absolutely insane. I probably only joined around midnight, which was in time to catch DJ Scotch Egg, a ridiculous Japanese man who climbs on the amps, screams into his microphone and plays Christmas songs.
After him was Justice Gladiator and experimental punk duo comprised of Jukio and Joonas, good friends from Finland and some of the best audio people in the games business. Armed with nothing but a bass, a drum kit and a sheet of metal, they played a crazy improvised set. No written or rehearsed songs? No problems.
Next up was chiptune-screamo band Werewolf Fucking ASSO, a delightful ensemble that sparked one of the craziest and most fun mosh-pits I’ve ever been in. I had a wonderful plat in my hair, but head-banged it out almost immediately. Game developers are great.
Finally, Thorsten, our much beloved and thoroughly ridiculous festival director got on stage as DJ Storno. Thorsten always ends his festivals this way, and it’s always special. He was wearing his pink onesie, watermelons were crowd surfing, shader gurus were creating incredible generative art as they VJ’ed. It was all just the best.
I left at about 4:30 because I could hardly walk or hear. It took a full day for my ears to stop ringing. Thorsten was still going strong.