On the 28th of May, one week after the Shayla VR Jam in Copenhagen, we made the trek to Karlshamn in Sweden to go demo our newly developed game, “S.A.D cat”, at the Creative Coast Festival. This was a prize sponsored by the very generous and beardy Johan Toresson from Gameport – an incubator for game devs that he runs from this small and sleepy, but very prolific, little corner of the Swedish South. Johan was also the organizational force behind the festival, and is seemingly a finger-in-every-pie kinda guy. I initially met this viking, who is the proud, self-proclaimed owner of “the world’s shittiest tattoos”, at Shayla while hanging around the steps observing people become disorientated from a live-action VR experiment. I instantly liked his casual paradoxical brand of nihilist deconstructivism and devotion to creativity – both Peter Pan and Wendy to the band of game devs that he nurtures.
This Creative Coast Festival was the first of it’s kind, but I’ll put my money on it becoming the de facto meeting spot for young creatives (predominantly in the games industry) to enjoy a day dedicated to trialing their wares amongst peers and some industry heavyweights, while participating in workshops and short TED-style talks by creative success stories. The event is a collaboration between Gameport (Blekinge Business Incubator), Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH), Netport Science Park, Sparbanken i Karlshamns Näringslivsstiftelse as well as the Karlshamn municipality, and was held at the Netport Science Park.
We arrived the evening before the festival, and attended a Ladycade meetup – the local chapter of a female-driven games community, and also a welcoming dinner for delegates, where I truly felt the weakness of my mother country’s currency.
When we arrived in the morning to set up our booth, we were impressed to see a number of heavyweights setting up camp – for example, Little Big Planet had an entire stall along with a resident artist who was live-demo’ing the character design process.
We were mostly tied to our booth, as SAD cat proved to be quite popular in the expo, but I had a chance to break away and play a couple of the game demo’s. My very favourite of the day was “Westport Independent” – a “censorship stimulator” where you play as the editor of a newspaper who is tasked to lead a group of journalists through the difficult weeks leading up to new censorship legislation enforced by a corrupt government. Battling to retain the respect of your colleagues, inform the public about events, and evade the wrath of government officials proves to be a very effective game mechanic. It is incredible simple, yet visually striking and engaging.
Otherwise Aer, by forgotten key, was a standout attraction in terms of eye candy.
Mostly we were stallbound as we had three slots for play, but Raxter offered a welcome relief halfway through the day (after travelling from Berlin), and Inger and I were able to attend a couple of talks.
We attended a women in games slot, lead by Cathrin Frismo, the author of “WIFL – Work in Fake Life”, and the soon-to-be-released “I’m a cebra – leadership that rocks in work life 3.0” – she gave us an overview of current trends in Silicon Valley, some general life advice and also introduced us to Jaana Nykänen.
Jaana runs a games company called Divine Robot which is now based in Sweden (previously London), and shared with us her story of developing a game called Blobster with her husband, trailing the events that lead up to the game’s incredible success, and then a curveball: finding out that she was pregnant with twin girls. It was an incredibly personal story, filled with family photographs, private recollections, and a very real retelling of their journey. As their Blobster success started waning, and the baby girls became a full-time occupation, Jaana packed up the family, moved to Sweden (where gender equality was more of a “thing”), and began developing games for toddlers – calling the project Cotbot.
These discussions on the particular conditions of being female in a very male-led industry once again confirmed my beliefs that it was indeed, more difficult to cut it in games if you were a woman: particularly the difficulties of procreating while creating at the same time.
We were sad to see the day end, but excited for the musical line-up Johan had secured for the afterparty. The audio-visual assault that was the next 5 hours did not disappoint…
Hopefully see you again soon, Karlshamn – I’ll be keeping an eye out.
ALL IMAGES CREDITED TO SEBASTIAN BULARCA