Game developers gather in Victoria for Orcajam

Victoria’s game-producing industry, which has grabbed headlines and made plenty of noise in recent years, is about to go quiet — at least for 48 hours.

Local game producers, artists, engineers, developers and designers, joined by like-minded souls from the Lower Mainland and Washington state, will be tucked behind closed doors at the Victoria Advanced Technology Centre’s offices for two days, starting Sept. 6, for the fourth annual Orcajam.

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It’s put on by Level Up, which represents Victoria’s high-tech gaming industry.

“The idea is to get a bunch of like-minded people together who enjoy making games to build up the community, show people just how big the community is in Victoria and make games for two days,” said organizer Graham Davis.

While game making is central to the weekend — there will be judges and prizes — Orcajam also features a series of panel discussions and speakers discussing issues central to the industry.

Davis expects about 80 people to take part.

“I like anything that brings people together to move the art forward,” said Clayton Stark, head of Kixeye’s Victoria gaming studio.

“[Orcajam] is great as a business person who wants to know where the talent is. It’s great to see someone going ahead and hacking something together. And from a community standpoint, it’s just social and fun.

“One of the draws of this industry is it’s fun, we get together and make games.”

The local gaming industry has established itself as a key component of the region’s $2-billion technology sector. According to a soon-to-be released economic impact study of the gaming industry, there are now 231 full-time equivalent positions drawing salaries at dozens of independent studios and a cluster of big players like Kixeye, Microsoft and Gamehouse.

Stark said the gaming industry locally is thriving and will continue to do so by pulling in fresh, creative talent from schools like the University of Victoria and Camosun College, and using events like Orcajam to increase the profile of the industry.

He also noted it’s a collaborative community that works together, unlike the more cutthroat scenarios being played out among major studios in places like Silicon Valley.

“The industry as a whole is in a really interesting spot in its evolution,” Stark said, noting games played on the Internet are thriving alongside growth in the console gaming world of PlayStation and Xbox.

“Right now, gaming is … the most important thing on the Internet. People who aren’t making games are game-ifying their consumer websites and using game mechanics to draw in users.”

The Orcajam weekend is being held during the week-long Thinklandia festival from Sept. 9 to 15, which in its first year hopes to celebrate the creativity, innovation and imagination within the city.

Thinklandia, which will dovetail into the annual Rifflandia music festival from Sept. 12 to 15, is a collaborative idea driven by groups like the Victoria Advanced Technology Centre, EO (Entrepreneurs Organization) and sub-sector groups like Level-Up and groups who advocate on behalf of the arts, culture, food, music and beer.

“The goal is to highlight the cool, creative and imaginative and innovative things happening in the city and to encourage more of it,” said Dan Gunn, executive director of VIATeC. “That’s Victoria’s key strength — its creativity and imagination and how entrepreneurs apply that.”

Throughout Thinklandia, there are events, presentations and shows highlighting the best of the city.

“It’s a good combination of the music community, technology groups, entrepreneurial groups and other sector groups coming together to showcase what makes Victoria really cool,” said Gunn.

In the coming days, a schedule of Thinklandia events will be posted at Thinklandia.ca

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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