The Play by Play Festival is an annual week-long interactive festival that aims to promote and encourage play for all, as well as showcase grassroots game development talent from New Zealand.
The festival consists of various activities, including the annual Play by Play Conference and Play by Play Awards, which strives to showcase the best games developers in Australasia have to offer in this exciting new medium.
I attended both the conference and the awards night for the first time this year and had a wicked time seeing the talents and capabilities of New Zealand game developers and all those involved in the industry.
Thanks to the team at Play by Play, I managed to mix and mingle with several developers from both Australia and New Zealand the night before of the conference, which allowed me to learn a bit more about the current landscape of game development and innovation in New Zealand. It was absolutely fascinating chatting with several developers, artists, 3D model designers and more, though a lot of what was being said did go over my head a little bit as much of the lingo is like a foreign language to me.
The conference was equally fascinating and incredible educational. It was fantastic listening to speakers who had a wealth of experience and knowledge in their respective fields. From learning about AI chatbots to the working culture at game dev studios, the conference provided a deeper insight into key aspects of the industry as well as other elements that those working in the industry would find intriguing.
What was most interesting, to me, was the opening message by Hon. Claire Curran, the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Government Digital Services. Her message illustrated the government’s acknowledgement of the growth of technology and gaming in New Zealand, it’s benefit to the New Zealand economy and essentially said that New Zealand needs to focus on growth in these sectors as these are the industries that will see more employment opportunities in the near future.
According to Curran, Kiwis spent over $450million on games and that the New Zealand Government want to see the ICT sector become the 2nd largest GDP by 2025. That’s an inspiring commitment to the industry that makes it all the more appealing to be working in games in this country.
After her address, the conference began with interesting discussions about A.I chatbots, retro-gaming art, the working culture and much more. A lot of it were more catered toward developers and artists working in the game development industry, but it was interested from a game reviewers point of view to understand the intricacies of making a video game. It’s all so fascinating! I certainly wished I was a bit more technically minded to be able to create games.
The conference went on for a full day and right after was the Play by Play Awards, which was incredibly exciting as it was the first New Zealand games award show that I’d ever attended. The awards was a fairly formal affair, with attendees arriving in their best evening outfits.
The evening began with a lovely mingling session, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The people I met were predominantly game developers from Wellington and abroad, mostly from Australia which was interesting as I had not expected international developers to be in attendance.
The awards was relatively short but celebrated some of the best locally made games, which I was very proud to witness. Below are a list of categories and winners.
The Game We Couldn’t Put Down:
Dungeon Inc – PikPok
The World We Didn’t Want To Leave:
That Boy Is A Monster – Sav Ferguson
That Tall Glass of Juice (Immersion):
Into The Dead 2 – PikPok
Audio Visual Smorgasbord:
Nykra – Endesga
The Game That Entranced:
Flutter VR – Runaway Play
The Game With A Message:
That Boy Is A Monster – Sav Ferguson
That..What Even Is That:
39 Days Till Mars – It’s Anecdotal
That Game Like Clockwork:
Samsara – Marker Limited
That Game From Across The Ditch:
Florence – Mountains
These are but a few games that showcase the talent that New Zealand (and Australia) have. The Play by Play Festival 2018 not only shows that we possess some incredible gaming talent but also that we have the commitment to develop the industry in this country. With games being more and more accessible and with the growth and improvements in VR technology, we’ll likely see gaming become more mainstream, which will result in the future generation being set on a path to working within the gaming industry.