From Monday 8 to Friday 12 February, I went to the Netherlands with some students from Bachelor and Master from ZHdK Game Design. The goal of this trip was to meet the Dutch game industry at his current state and make some contacts.
I was actually more motivated to get to know some of my bachelor colleagues. We arrived on Monday noon in Amsterdam. We had the day free to visit the city and I contacted Hamza to meet him there. I drank with my colleagues one of the most tasteful beer ever, the I.P.A.
I then went on meeting Hamza, we ate at a Japanese restaurant. I showed him Splash Blast Panic. He was involved in the game jam entry, so the changes since then surprized him in good. We talked a lot about our lives, what we were heading to. As I realized he lives in Utrecht and that I was also going in Utrecht on Thursday, he invitated me to his place on Thursday evening.
On Tuesday, we began our visit of Dutch Game Studios, with Orange Games, a conglomeration of several Dutch studios, known for Governor of Poker. As all students in Game Design mostly aspires to create games in the paid model, the reaction against the free-to-play model of Orange Games was mostly indifferent. They give us one of the most disgusting set of cards.
On the evening, we went on to visit Little Chicken, an applied games company. Even if their products were more interesting, the presentation was so boring that I nearly slept. There was no passion in the pitch, no will to make us learn something. It was just a genuine presentation of the company, IN ONE HOUR.
With Simon, we then went on a bar where we could play chess (I hate chess). He beat me twice, but never to easily. During one of the game, a girl came to ask where were the set of pieces to play chess and I answered in French, as I heard that they were speaking French before. I quickly learned that they were studying in Lausanne and when Simon left after the second game, I stayed the night with them.
I really like the openness and the quality of the discussion as we were sharing our different experiences either with EPFL or with UNIL. I manage to speak about game development and my area of research with game jam without feeling completely like a outcast geek, and we settle to do something the day after.
I already had all my nights booked for the weeks, but on Wednesday, we met an artist from the NDSM Werft, an area of Amsterdam that used to be the docks, was abandoned and were now reused by hostel and artists. I found the idea of artistic utopia interesting, but the whole place seemed like ruined and not even completed (after 14 years).
We then wen to meet ijsfontein, a “playful learning” company, mostly doing applied games. His talk, that nerved Philo, was a condensé of shit/fuck/boring words linked to concepts. I found him very pretentious and arrogant, without actually being that important. I mean, talking trashy and trying to impress students is maybe gonna work for high school students, but maybe not with game designers who already work very hard for their projects.
We finally went to meet Jeroen van Mastrigt from the FreedomLabCampus and his several experiences around the game industry. Compared to our trashy speaker from ijsfontein, the man was super humble and ready to answer any question with expertise and not false honesty. He made us travel in the future of the game industry and technology. A very nice experience before running to take the tram to meet the Swiss-French/French girls. We went to eat at the Blue Dutch. We ate specialities from the Netherlands. We then went in a random bar, I trained my pitch for the day after and they gave me useful advices. We finally went in night clubs and, if you know me, I am completely not in my comfort zone in night clubs. But they managed to decomplex me about that, so for that bravo.
On Thursday, we went in Utrecht to the HKU (Utrecht University of the Arts). Several students pitched their game and I pitched my research topic for which I wrote a paper for the International Conference on Game Jams, Hackathons and Game Creation Events. The professors from HKU really liked my subject and a really interesting discussion went on after the pitch. I took the business card from one of the lecturer to keep contact.
We visited the city and then went to the Dutch Game Garden, an incubator for indie game studio and a pillar of the success of the Dutch game industry. We were welcomed by Eline Muijres and began with a talk about a serious game for old people to force them to be active. Eline Muijres talked about her experiences as indie game developer and presented the Dutch Game Garden. I immediately joked that the Swiss version of this model would be the Swiss Game Challet, and if it ever happens, I sure want my beer for the awesome name.
I visited Hamza and meet his girlfriend. I was very happy for them, as they are in the process of moving to a new bigger house and Hamza seems more happy than ever.
We went back in Basel and then Zürich on Friday. It was a wonderful human experience. I was not impressed by the game studios we visited, and by the status of the Dutch game industry, but I supposed that is my pirate anarchist view of game development that speaks for me. I would say, make art not Swiss Francs.