Events such as this weekends Eurogamer Expo 2011 are one of the few opportunities we get to reflect on the status on the games industry – the current trends, new technology, new games all in one place. This event is reflective of the UK games industry. The number and profile of sponsors and partners supporting the event shows that the industry is in good shape. There is also a strong drive from private companies and some key universities and higher education establishments to provide a comprehensive education in game development. Most importantly – many of the big publishers and developers had a presence at Eurogamer; everyone had something new to show. Given that the event has increased in size year-on-year, and considering that is has clearly inspired retailer GAME to create it’s very own GAMEfest in the Midlands – it’s certainly having a hugely positive impact in promoting the UK games industry and showcasing the latest developments each year.
One thing – whilst not immediately apparent however is that Eurogamer Expo is demonstrating the sheer strength and cohesiveness of the gaming community itself – made up of a number of smaller communities comprised of the attendees themselves. A quick search on the Twitter hashtag for the event reveals that many of the attendees are not just those who play games – they are the independent gaming community managers, bloggers, ‘youtubers’, reviewers and website owners – those who run gaming websites (big and small). These attendees are constantly networking, and coming together as a community at this event – whilst also playing a valuable role in publicising what goes on there. It should be mentioned that unlike most industry or consumer events, Eurogamer, to their credit actually recognise these people as ‘enthusiast media’ – and in turn such people could apply for a free pass to the event. As well as this, many smaller websites and blogs are listed as ‘official affiliates‘.
Perhaps the reason for this is that Eurogamer started off as ‘enthusiast media’ itself – it has been built from the ground up since Rupert Loman started it in 1999 as “…a hobby, a simple website reviewing games”. Clearly the organisers acknowledge how important and influential this kind of media is in the games industry with their policy regarding perss passes. After all – these people are not those mainstream media journalists – rushed off their feet – who get expenses paid trips to the event, turn up, collect some press releases – all within an hour. These people do it for the love of gaming, travelling from far and wide entirely out of their own pocket, with no guaranteed income. Many are entrepreneurs in their own right making some money from their ventures, but their primary drive is their enthusiasm and passion for gaming – sometimes without knowing it, they are the key to success in this fast paced industry.
It’s important to note that not all of the ‘enthusiast media’ is ‘armchair analysis’, or regurgitated commentary – which they are frequently accused of. Quite often these smaller blogs feature the writing of academics, designers, and big thinkers in the games industry – as opposed to what the press-release style, heavily revenue orientated content mainstream media – and most of the larger gaming websites churn out every hour or so, day after day.
The content these independent communities produce is often of a high quality – and whilst their audiences can range from a handful, to thousands – they all have their own following, and their own reach. Quite often they dig deeper in their stories or their reviews, research more comprehensively and raise more controversial issues than their mainstream media counterparts. They have a broad and detailed understanding of the games industry that many journalists lack – and unlike most journalists this is because it’s their life – whether they work in it – or whether it’s their past-time. They care about the games industry and praise what’s right, and also call out what’s wrong – they hold the big corporations involved in gaming to account because they’re not sponsored and don’t have any tight allegiances to certain people or certain brands – they are truly independent. They also bring together communities; not in the form of people buying in to a ‘brand’, but because it’s where there friends are (online or off), or where they can truly debate and discuss the latest issues in the industry and provoke an active discourse with the audience of games.
A large proportion of the attendees at Eurogamer, whether they have a ‘press pass’ or not are likely to be either owners of, contributors to or at least users of the collection of independent ventures which make up the gaming community in the UK and Europe. Eurogamer Expo should certainly do more to support and embrace this kind of media – and it’s clear they already go some way to do this. The real issue however, goes behind the expo itself. Is the fact that what the communities and those behind them have to say almost always slips under the radar – it doesn’t get the mainstream attention it deserves. This is exactly what we’re working on at PostDesk – creating an independent and high quality platform for these communities, thinkers, bloggers, et all to share their views and engage in an in-depth discussion and debate around them – specifically in the gaming and technology industries.
The gaming community appears to be almost unique when compared to any other industry when it comes to the sheer volume of communities, bloggers, web sites, and other producers of content all sharing their opinions and brining like minded people together. You simply don’t see these kind of communities outside gaming. We’d like to investigate the community behind the UK games industry more – so we’re currently running a survey for those in the UK involved running a website, blog, youtube account or anything similar about any aspect of gaming. Your responses are appreciated.