New format pays dividends for game conference

It turns out size did not matter for the fifth annual Ottawa International Game Conference and its event director said Wednesday the smaller format could allow the conference to have an even greater impact on the local gaming industry in the future.

By Marc Shaw

The conference, held earlier this week, moved away from the convention style of having all events in the same large venue, to a festival style layout with talks taking place at different more intimate venues downtown within a block from each other. OIGC events took place at Real Sports Bar, the Ottawa School of Art, and Mercury Lounge.

“The big conversation we kept having was, what is the realistic size of this conference? Is it just a small local conference that draws in really high level speakers, and are we okay with that?” said OIGC Event Director Catherine Bisson. “This year, that was the decision that we made. We feel like we’re a smaller conference so let’s use this new format. There’s so much buzz for the new format, attendees and speakers this year had such positive experiences and that could increase our attendance considerably next year.”

The new format allowed for more social time amongst attendees which improved the overall experience, said Ms. Bisson, now into her second year as director. There was also an opening day party at music pinball and perogies venue House of Targ, a screening of the movie Beep: A Documentary of Game Audio at the Mayfair Theatre and an unofficial after party at Mercury Lounge.

According to Ms. Bisson, the movie was a last minute addition to the schedule but ended up being a hit among conference-goers. While conference participants got in for free, the Mayfair also sold 60 tickets at the box office on a Monday night.

The Game and Art Expo at Aberdeen Pavilion Sunday was another new addition the conference which saw an unexpected amount of success.

“Doing the expo opens up, to the whole city, information about the studios and the school programs. There’s lots of families going through saying ‘my kid would love to design video games’ but they don’t even know there’s a program that existed about that,” said Ms. Bisson.

Attendance at the art expo was expected to be around 400, but over 2600 people passed through Aberdeen Pavilion to see displays from indie studios and game design students from the city’s post-secondary institutions. Ms. Bisson expects the success of the expo’s first year to translate to an even bigger opening night next year, part of the conference’s continued growth.