The other place that Sos lives is in Poznan. Seeing as we were heading through to Warsaw for Pixel Heaven, it made sense to stop and spend a night there along the way. We arrived in the evening and briefly explored the city center before dinner. The center of Poznan is beautiful at night. Poland seems to have a fondness for lighting all their buildings and statues from beneath when it gets dark.
We had some fantastic fish, chips and lemonade before walking to the river while Sos told us how the river banks were transformed from popular covert drinking spots to a popular totally legal drinking spots. I really like these kind of public spaces though. Everyone just goes there to chill. After walking a bit more we ended our tour of Poznan at some place with beach sand and tree hammocks.
We got back Sos’s apartment to discover one of Sos’s flatmates had a couple Spanish friends round and were doing very well on the wine. We joined them briefly before playing more Drawful and retiring to bed. I got the top bunk because I’m the best.
The next day we met up with a bunch more Polish game developers and set off on a 3 hour road trip to Warsaw. For lunch we stopped at Mc Donalds, which if you disregard the food, was actually pretty great. Sos got a surprisingly good toy with his happy meal, Veve got to (finally) play in the jungle gym and I was amazed at being able to order food via a touch screen; a far cry from my usual combination of pointing at things and make confused confirmatory noises.
Arriving In Warsaw we were booked into a hostel room along with three more of Sos’s Polish developer friends: Vera, Threef and Dos. They were all extraordinarily nice and I really enjoyed spending time with them over the course of the event.
Pixel Heaven is a bit of weird one for me to write about. It’s the first time that I’ve felt like a bit of an outsider at a games event on this trip. This is for a number of reasons: firstly, everything is in Polish. It’s much more of a niche event, and very much for Poles by Poles. Consequently, almost none of the talks or content were in English. This is by no means a bad though. I can hardly expect an event like Pixel Heaven to try accommodate the odd traveling South African. In fact, Pixel Heaven would lose something if they did.
The second major reason I didn’t connect with Pixel Heaven was because of the focus of the event itself. Pixel Heaven is about retro gaming and retro computing; and we’re talking REALLY retro here. Whilst I’m certainly a big fan of old games, I’m slightly too young to be the target market for Pixel Heaven. I can’t get excited about the Amiga vs Commodore debates because the first computer I used was a 386. Playing Prehistorik on jurassic hardware (hah) would have given me pangs of nostalgia except that Prehistorik 2 was the one that I played to death in my child hood.
Pixel Heaven is also more of a trade show than an event for developers. Loads of developers attend and showcase games, but there are still a lot of consumer facing things like merch stores and hardware vendors. Not to mention the Kinguin booth babe who just needed to be brandishing the latest AAA shooter to be a prefect manifestiation of everything wrong with the games industry.
None of this is to say I didn’t have a great time at Pixel Heaven, to the contrary, I certainly did. The people were excellent, there was plenty of interesting stuff to browse and poke at and I played several really fantastic Polish games.
That’s the one thing that did stand out about Pixel Heaven for me. The polish game industry is impressively large; much larger than I expected. There was a lot of high quality stuff on display. Even if you discount the well known giants like CD Projekt, there are still a lot of pretty big teams in Poland. Makes me wish that South Africa had a bit more of a AA or AAA industry.