Greetings once again from a FlixBus! Currently on my way to Copenhagen and these buses seems to be the only place I ever get time to write.
Last we heard of our strapping you protagonist he was on a late nights bus headed from Antwerp to Utrecht. What he didn’t mention though is that he had messed up his accommodation plans like an idiot.
Yes, it’s true. I accidentally booked my hostel for the night after I was arriving in Utrecht. When I looked again, there was nowhere cheap to stay. Luckily video games came to the rescue once again and indie power couple JW and Kitty took me in at the last minute.
Messing up my hostel booking turned out to be my best mistake of the trip so far because Kitty and JW were unbelievable hosts and I had an absolute blast hanging out with them. Aside from offering me a place to stay, cooking me breakfast and buying me food; JW and Kitty also gave up a whole day to show me around town.
We spent the day roaming the canals and streets, stopping every now and then to sample the goods from a cool restaurant, coffee shop or food market. Utrecht itself is nice. Like, really nice. I like Utrecht a lot. Aside from being beautiful and full of nice places to eat food; it just feeeeels nice. Everything is calm. It’s not bustling with tourists or souvenir shops. There aren’t a lot of cars or traffic issues either, just wealthy students pedaling their bikes around.
It might just be that I caught two days of rare excellent weather, but Utrecht felt like a place where people were enjoying themselves and not stressing out. Nobody seems to to do any work in Utrecht. Being a small student town, you might expect insufferable drunken douchebaggery around every corner. But I encountered none of that. I felt like there was a focus on quality of life in Utrecht and a noticeable absence of big city business vibes.
On with the story then. In the evening I took a train to Amsterdam to meet up with another equally inspiring Dutch game designer: Adriaan de Jongh. Adriaan took me to a pizza place which he had promised me had “the best pizza you’ve ever eaten”. We got our pizzas and sat on the edge the canal for a couple of hours just eating and chatting. It was a reaaaaally nice evening. The aforementioned best-pizza-ever turned out not to have any cheese or tomato paste and it was delicious.
Adriaan has a some pretty unique views on game design (and life in general). And while I don’t think I can make games like his, it was super great to get to know him a bit better. One of the (very few) downsides of the Cape Town scene is that I feel like there aren’t many experienced game designers that I can learn from. I really wanna collaborate with more good designers.
After dinner with Adriaan I went back to Utrecht for another night with Kitty and JW. They showed me the lovely handcrafted zelda-esque game that they’re working on and I showed them our Stugan prototype. They had a lot of ideas and talking through the game design got me all excited about Stugan again. It’s just stewing in the back of my head constantly. I can’t wait to work on this game.
Side note: Staying up late gushing and brain storming about a game idea with other rad designers is pretty much my favourite thing ever.
The next day I moved into the hostel that I had mis-booked and proceeded to rent a kayak. I used said kayak to paddle all around the canals of Utrecht. Aside from being a fun and different way to spend an afternoon, a canoe is also a pretty good way to see Utrecht and get an idea of the scale of the place. You get to paddle right through the busy heart of town, but also around the backs of houses and through scenic gardens. It was hard work though and I woke up feeling rather stiff! Next time I’ll take a jet-ski.
I spent the next day in Amsterdam (which we’ll cover in the next post! Stay tuned!) but I returned to Utrecht for one last evening. JW and Kitty organised a game dev meetup of sorts and around 10 makers of games pitched up to drink beer and chat (mostly about the making of games).
I’ve met a lot of game developers at events. In fact I try really hard to meet a lot of game developers at events. But events make it tricky. A lot people (including myself) go into a networking mode. We scurry around, pouncing on chances to shake hands and bond over our mutual love of game development. But it’s hard to form actual relationships at events.
But the thing that I want is exactly that: real relationships. In a way, events are just a vehicle to get that first introduction out of the way. Outside of events is where genuine friendships are made. Doing things with people is how you really get to know them.
A lot of my life philosophy these days is centered around trying to make and take opportunities. And one of the things I’ve noticed, is that if you have cool friends who are doing cool things, then cool things can happen to you too. So basically, my free expert life advice is this: try to make friends with people who inspire you. I don’t wanna try to get things from them or curry favour. But if you’re lucky, you might end up with actual friendship. FRIENDSHIP YAY!
I’ve gone off on a significant tangent, but what I’m saying is that things like hanging out in Utrecht with all the Dutch devs, eating pizza with Adriaan or cheese with Kevin. Those are the moments I really care about. That’s the important stuff.
Anyway, I had real blast in Utrecht and the little meetup was the perfect way to top it off. I left with a warm fuzzy feeling despite the physical temperate taking a nosedive. Kitty and JW were unbelievably generous to me and I really got along well with them. Ya’ll made it really special and I can’t thank you enough!