I am currently a teary mess. I am sitting on my couch, having just returned from the AGDA party, the closing act of this year’s Game Connect Asia Pacific (which, itself, is only one event within the larger Melbourne International Games Week). I think it’s telling that the last two awards that were handed out during the night, following the ‘Game Of The Year’ recognition that would conventionally be considered its highlight, were given to people: here, what matters most is not the games, but the individuals who make them. Tonight felt like a culmination of all of the things that made me want to move to Melbourne. More than a year ago, I got a taste of this incredible community; today, I saw it again, and it reaffirmed just how right I was when I decided to move. Of course, GCAP isn’t the same as Freeplay, but they do have things in common: they celebrate people, they are about giving, they feel like an opportunity for a family to come together and share experiences and knowledge and celebrate each other’s achievements in the most kind-hearted way.
It’s really hard to convey the extent to which this is true. To the friends I’ve made here, being generally kind and supportive probably sounds – if not normal, at least natural. It’s all around me, it’s infectious, and it’s impossible to escape: as I was going home on the tram, I thought about just how proud I was of my friends who won the Best Studio award, and how happy I am for them, and got really embarrassed because I was showing actual emotion on public transport. I thought about how I lasted like three whole hours at a social event, introducing myself to strangers, having a good time, and not feeling oppressed or overwhelmed. I thought about Innes McKendrick’s and Tony Reed’s incredibly moving closing talks, which emphasised the importance of people – humans, not giants – who do their best to make our lives better, by simply being around when we need them, and I’ve certainly needed them, and they absolutely were around. But the beautiful thing is, that’s not a radical or divergent notion: it’s just what people do. I saw Tony briefly after his closing address and tried to express how grateful I am for the support that I’ve received, and he just hugged me, which is exactly what I’m talking about: being genuine and charitable and caring isn’t something that happens through bombastic prowess, it’s an everyday mode of being. Receiving that kind of love is deeply humbling but also gives me confidence in my ability to create things, and motivation to extend that kindness onto others. I want to contribute, not only because I love making games and thinking about them, but also because I want to give back; I want to do my best to nurture this community, and help it grow while maintaining that spirit of looking out for each other.
Tomorrow, MIGW will resume its onward march, with PAX – which will certainly be an almost unbearable flurry of sounds and lights for me, but will still be an opportunity for people to show what they’ve been working on – and I do look forward to seeing what everyone’s been up to. Some of my students will have their game on the showfloor as well, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of anxiety about it; but on the other hand, I have no doubt that the same atmosphere of solidarity will extend to their booth. The week’s nights are peppered with parties of all kinds, each of them an opportunity to catch up with friends, to play games that don’t fit under the mainstream spotlight, or just to take a break from the bustle. I have learnt so much during GCAP’s two days of talks and keynotes, and felt so happy and fulfilled; I am sure that this sensation of belonging, of being exactly where and when I am meant to be, will persist throughout the remainder of the week and the following months and years. To everyone who makes this possible: thank you so much.
Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and for doing what you love and for being good; you are all giants to me.