I know a fair few of us have been feeling the post-PAX blues of late. After such an intense three days of community spirit and that feeling of being home it’s hard to come back to the Real World. Fortunately, Moonshot Games are filling in the gap with their GameFest festival next week in Newtown.
With a focus on interactivity and fun, GameFest aims to bring people from all walks of life together to indulge in their gaming passions, and perhaps discover some new ones. I chatted to one of the festival founders, Jon Gracey, about the massive five day event and what exciting things we can all expect from it.
What is GameFest all about?
It’s a celebration of the joy of play. Everyone loves games, be they video games, role playing, board games or a deck of cards. There’s something fundamentally freeing about interacting with people with a ruleset that allows for fresh (and often more truthful) behaviours to come out, and encourages you to be devious, heroic, honest or downright evil in safe, yet exciting ways.
GameFest is about getting everyone together who loves games and having them hang out and play together in an awesome space.
What was the inspiration behind the festival?
I’ve been a gamer since I could walk, but I only got into boardgames and roleplaying a few years ago, and realised what exciting, fascinating worlds they allow you to inhabit and what cool stories you can create in them.
Last year I ran a big game of Werewolf for some relative strangers at a conference in Turkey and it all clicked into place; everyone loved it. These were people from all over the world, from vastly different backgrounds, some big gamers, some completely not, all of varying ages – and they all got it. I realised just how broad gaming’s appeal was.
This year in Sydney I’ve been itching to make a room escape game, organise big D&D sessions, get people together to run big social games and then my girlfriend saw the Old 505 had space available and said, “Why don’t you just try and do all of them?” I gotta credit her – it was totally your idea, Viv.
In general do you think there is a blurred line between certain types of games (RPGs, some board and card games) and performance?
Absolutely. That’s what’s so fun about doing more roleplay type games like Werewolf where people become a version of themselves, depending on what card they draw. Are they a silent and introverted werewolf? Or a full-on psychopathic villager trying to take down whoever they can to save the town? Or any number of variants in between. RPGs are also great for character play, and it’s wonderful seeing what people come up with when put on the spot. Games often give people permission to act in certain ways that are fun and exciting for them, and it’s always thrilling seeing what your friends are really like when put in a tight spot. Someone who’s so nice IRL can be such a jerk within the confines of a game! That’s fascinating to me.
If there’s a venn diagram for all types of games, and I think GameFest lies squarely in the sweet spot in the middle. We’re hoping to do a little bit of everything. (he says, with ludicrous hubris).
The old 505 is such a beautiful space, do you think it will lend to the ambience of the games?
It is! We were really lucky to get it and it’s going to allow us to do all sorts of extra fun stuff with out evening games in particular. Ghosts in Werewolf will be able to sit in the stands and creep out the players. 2 Rooms and a Boom will benefit from there being an actual bar, not to mention a piano for music and atmosphere. The room escape day on Thursday is completely designed around the theatre space – it’s pretty much the quality of the venue that allows us to do everything we want to do.
Who are you hoping will come to the five day festival?
Literally anyone. I can’t think of a person I’ve met in life who doesn’t like to play, and I really hope anyone reading this feels welcome and invited to attend. The evening games will necessarily be more dramatic affairs (though very simple and fun), but my dream is that during the day the Old 505 is full of gamers of all ages, genders and backgrounds playing games with each other and discovering cool things. That would really make it worthwhile. Also please buy tickets for the evenings or I’ll go broke.
What are some of the special night time events you have planned?
Tuesday we’ve got Intro to D&D with some great dungeon masters (inc. David Hollingworth who recently did an excellent talk at PAX) who are going to run some exciting campaigns for people who want to get into roleplaying, or who just want a fun game with top-notch DMs. We’ve also got a panel on What Makes a Good DM from the aforementioned Mr. Hollingworth and stupidly good DM and role-playing guru Nick Irving.
Wednesday we’ve got a talk from architect and gamer Claire Hosking followed by two 20-person games of Werewolf, one at 7pm, one at 9. We’ll have atmosphere, town motto and song, creepy music, great actors setting the scene and one tense village full of suspicious-ass villagers.
Thursday is the only day where there’s no day gaming, as we’ve set the theatre aside entirely for room escape games. They’re every 1.5 hours, starting from midday, going until 9pm, and they’re selling up really fast. Book now!
Friday have a talk from Paul Sztajer (creator of Unpub Mini who run nights for boardgame creators to test out their latest) as well as a large-scale game of 2 Rooms and a Boom, an awesome hidden role game of terrorists vs president where the red team want to sneak their bomber into the same room as the blue team’s president, but no one knows who anyone is, and you might just be sending your president into mortal danger. We’re running that as a cocktail party with a live jazz band and I’m really excited for it!
Saturday we’re running Bring Them Home – a brand new Moonshot Games creation that’s a mixture of The Martian, FTL: Faster Than Light and Space Cadets, where one player is an astronaut cut off from the group, careening through space, and the others all helm space agencies of the world, all trying to get the astronaut back to earth safely, but making sure they get the credit.
Then on Saturday evening we’re having a big dance party – come in costume, have some drinks, dance to a top-quality chiptunes DJ!
Oh and if all of these sound great you can buy a week pass and go to ALL OF THEM
We have a game here at geek bomb called PWR (pronounced POWER) that stands for playing, watching and reading. What’s you’re current PWR?
This is great!
As you might imagine I’m playing all sorts at the moment. Video game wise it’s Alien Isolation (just came out on Mac, and my poor 2012 can only just handle it). Board game-wise, Pandemic Legacy (pretty much the best thing ever) and I also just finished the Shovel Knight DLC which was just a wonderful bit of design. (Editor’s Note – Bomber Brad will be super excited about Shovel Knight getting a shout out)
I just started Ash vs. Evil Dead which could go either way for me at the mo, and am slowly working my way through 2005+ Doctor Who, but after loving the first 4 seasons have been highly unimpressed with Moffat and Matt Smith. Moving onto season 6 with trepidation.
The last book(s) I finished was The Hunger Games trilogy because I’m secretly 15, but when GameFest is over I’m gonna read Empire of Imagination, the Gary Gygax biography, which seems on point. Or I may never look at a game again. Who can tell!