Gr8Bits, and the Indie game scene in Winnipeg

There’s been a ton of amazing stuff happening in Winnipeg lately… I don’t know if it’s just because tools like facebook and twitter have been making me more aware of cool events in this city, or if there really is just more awesome stuff happening, but either way I’m super pumped…

A few months back, a guy by the name of Mr. Ghosty organized an art show called the Gr8Bits show. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the first show, but he was able to run Gr8Bits 1.2 as part of Nuit Blanche back in late September. It was an incredible success, and was one of the fist video game themed art shows in the city. It seems like Winnipeg is finally catching up to the rest of the world… Judging from the amount of people that showed up, I’m overjoyed that there’s definitely a scene here that appreciates this kind of work. These shows are all due to the hard work of Skot and the connections he has from out east.

I threw together a quick video of the Gr8Bits 1.2 show. It was a total blast, and there was an insane amount of people flowing through the exhibit (and the whole art gallery for that matter) that night.

In addition to this, the indie game community in Winnipeg seems to be gaining a lot of momentum in the last year or two. I first heard of Alec Holowka back in October of 2008. He did a presentation for New Media Manitoba on his new game company called Infinite Ammo. There has always been a handful of small game companies in Winnipeg, like Complex Games and a few other guys, but Infinite Ammo’s stuff was different. These guys were actually doing something that looked like REAL games. Alec Demo’d Paper Moon, which is a pretty cool 3D anaglyph 2D platformer. After seeing that, I knew I had to meet this guy :).

What really attracted me to Alec’s company was his philosophy about games, and his approach to the medium. When I first started dating my wife Sarah, I remember having a long conversation with her about how I viewed games as works of art. She’s more of a casual gamer had never really looked at games in that same way. I think I persuaded her to agreeing with me, but I was really shocked that she didn’t see games the same way. I’ve always viewed games as art, and I kind of expected that everyone else did too. It seems pretty obvious to me: Movies, Music, Drawing, Paining, are all accepted forms of art, but why when they’re wrapped together with some code, do people all of a sudden think that it’s not art?

In any case, I finally got to meet Alec in late 2009, and he invited me to help out in whatever way I could with his new game Marian. It’s a pretty epic project for what is essentially a one man show. It’s been really interesting watching this project go through it’s ups and downs over the last year or so and getting a better perspective on the indie game scene.

Fast forward a few months to the spring of 2010, and Alec decided to organize a game jam in Winnipeg. I could go on and on about what a game jam is, but this video from James and Lisanne is much more eloquent than I could ever be:

A TIGJam or ‘game jam’ is basically a bunch of game developers, gathering together for a weekend full of coding, designing and knowledge swapping. It’s rather intense in nature, filled with some serious work, serious fun and decidedly devoid of any serious sleep.

Back at this game Jam, Alec and Marlon Wiebe (another local indie game dev) came up with the idea of creating an arcade cabinet based on locally made indie games. Alec told me about this idea sometime in early October, and I jumped on board immediately. We went to some old arcade graveyards, found a cabinet, gutted it, threw in a PC, and held a game jam to make content for the machine. It was an awesome weekend, and I had way more fun, and was able to help out more than I expected considering I’m not a coder :).

Here’s a short video I threw together with some footage from the Winnitron Game jam:

With all this said, there’s just so much cool shit happening lately, I don’t’ really know what to say. I’m really happy that there’s this awesome community growing here, and I’m thrilled that I’m able to be a part of it in some small way. It’s kind of incredible to think that I spent the last 7 years of my life holed up at Frantic doing VFX… those 7 years already seem like some crazy distant memory…

2010 has easily been one of the best years of my life both personally and professionally, and I’m really pumped to see where things go from here!

 

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