Why don’t we have a dedicated Canadian Gaming Convention?
Gaming. What was once a hobby relegated to dimly-lit bedrooms, seedy arcades and family living rooms now host massive tradeshows and expositions such as PAX, GamesCon, Tokyo Game Show, and of course, E3. However, despite the fact that Canada houses some of gaming’s biggest development offices, we haven’t seen the type of large-scale gaming expositions north of the border.
The case of GamesCon
About a month ago, I came across a Kickstarter for an event here in Toronto called “GamesCon”, which was supposed to be a successor to a large LAN party style event held over a decade ago. Touted as a major gaming event befitting of North America’s third-largest metropolitan city, the organizers billed it as a “Premier (sic) Games Exposition”. Spelling woes notwithstanding, the project failed to reach it’s lofty goal of $50k, barely raising enough to pay for an Alienware laptop.
Let me assure you – the problems with GamesCon’s failure to launch wasn’t related to lack of interest. Rather, it was a case study in poor planning and indecision by the organizers, a lame Kickstarter video (those are important!), coupled with a marketing plan that hovered between indifferent and nonexistent. Case in point: I tweeted at them asking if they had more info on the event. They tweeted back a couple days later telling me to check their Facebook. Checked Facebook, and there was no info. If you’re going to give people the run-around, at least make sure there’s a payoff of some sort! They’ve since added more messaging to their Facebook page, and it looks like the event will continue on a smaller-scale as a LAN party. Canadians deserve more.
Of course, one failed event Kickstarter isn’t the be-all and end-all of Toronto gaming events. Prior to GamesCon, I learned about another upstart games convention called the Stage Select Gaming Expo, which actually did take place, and wasn’t just a LAN party. For an inaugural event, apparently it wasn’t bad. The timing was a bit unfortunate as it was scheduled during Canada Day long weekend, and none of us were able to attend, but we look forward to seeing what the future of Stage Select brings.
What’s holding us back?
It’s no secret that there is a lot of Canadian talent in the gaming industry, and we’re lucky to have great personalities involved in the gaming industry. It’s easy to see the impact that Victor Lucas and his Reviews on the Run/EP cohorts have had on gamers today. Along with Vic, we have folks like celebrity/gamer Rainbow Sun Francks, awesome writers who also cover games like Steve Tilley, Matt Hartley and Raju Mudhar, social media mavens extraordinaire the C_ntrollers, and engaging community managers like XBox’s Raj and Ubisoft’s Zack Cooper, among many others. From a coverage standpoint, there’s no problem here.
Canadian Inferiority Complex?
One aspect of being Canadian has always been the weird inferiority-masquerading-as-superiority complex we have towards our neighbours to the south. It’s only ever brought up in hushed, self-deprecating tones and rears its ugly head every time a new American athlete decides to make Toronto his home. It’s what makes Canadians unique and what makes us funny, but it’s not the reason why we don’t have any large-scale gaming events. Canada has shown that it can handle world-class events, and Toronto regularly hosts huge international festivals like Pride and Caribana, along with culturally significant events like TIFF, Nuit Blanche and even Drake’s OVO Fest. If you build it, they will come.
Lack of Leadership?
If there’s one factor that might be holding us back from a large-scale Canadian conference, it’s likely a lack of leadership. This was the issue for GamesCon’s failure to launch, and could also be a stepping stone for Stage Select to overcome. Unlike Caribana or Pride, which have large, engaged communities, or OVO with Drake, there isn’t a remarkable presence attached to Canadian gaming, and that’s probably why we still haven’t seen a massive, world-class Canadian Gaming Convention.
Don’t get me wrong – as noted earlier, there are a lot of amazing people involved in gaming in Canada. Studios like BioWare, EA, Rockstar Toronto — not to mention people like Ubisoft’s Jade Raymond, or Black Tusk’s Rod Fergusson, the controversial Phil Fish or other Indie folks at Drinkbox, CAPY, Klei, etc. There’s no lack of leadership potential. The issue is that all of these people are just so busy doing awesome things with their actual day jobs that there’s little time to push for a unifying Con for everyone.
Vic Lucas was probably the closest to organizing something to unite Canadians by championing the now-defunct Tsilon project — an underground gaming community akin to Fight Club. Unfortunately, as innovative as the idea was, it didn’t have lasting appeal to a broader audience. The meta game appealed to the true geeks like us, but was too insular for the average Joe Codplayer. Its spiritual successor, The Arcademy, seems to be having the same issues.
Oversaturation in North America
It might sound silly, but are there too many expos in North America already? Germany has GamesCom, and for the life of me, I have never heard about any recent noteworthy gaming developments coming out of Germany outside of GamesCom, but it also seems to be the only show in town in the EU. Meanwhile, North America already has E3, PAX Prime, PAX East, QuakeCon, BlizzCon, EVO, and so many others, all within a couple hour flight from Canada.
A silver lining: FanExpo Toronto
Thankfully, the closest we’ll have to a gaming exposition is happening in Toronto in less than two weeks: FanExpo Canada. Until someone comes up with a dedicated gaming event, this massive conglomeration of all things geeky is as close to mecca for us Canadian gamers as we’ll get. While the comic book, sci-fi and anime sections get the lions share of marketing support, FanExpo’s gaming section is no slouch, touting good-sized booths from the likes of Microsoft, Sony and Ubisoft, with EB Games providing a large storefront and demo presence as well. This year’s expo will be no different, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they have in store for gamers.
Stay tuned for an upcoming article where we look at what FanExpo has in store for gamers this year.
Final thoughts? Your thoughts?
What do you think? Is there a market for a large Canadian gaming convention?
Are there any conventions in Canada that are flying under the radar?
Who should pioneer this? A conglomeration of game publishers? A rockstar gaming celebrity/developer? The EP team? FanExpo?
Sound off in the comments below – we’d love to hear more from you. Are we ready for a dedicated gaming expo?