GameOn review – what was on and off the right track

What is GameOn?

GameOn is one of the biggest gaming events in the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), dedicated to video games and the culture that comes with them. The 2-day event was held for the second time on October 29/30th at LITEXPO – Exhibition and Congress Centre. This year GameOn gathered a whooping number of gaming enthusiasts – more than 10 000 – thus proving all the doubters, who said that the Gaming culture in the Baltic States has no place, wrong.
Over 9000 square meters of space was filled with various activities, including:

  • The biggest gaming expo in Baltic countries
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive Cup finals
  • League of Legends tournament
  • Huge virtual reality show
  • Baltic Indie gamedev town
  • Cosplay contest
  • Gaming culture & entertainment conferences
  • Game developers conferences
  • Hearthstone gathering
  • ..and more

But the real question is: Was the event good? Well, the answer is Yes… and… No. The whole gaming event gave a lot of mixed feelings, so let’s jump straight to them!

The bad – where the game was off

Let’s first try to cover the bad stuff first so that we could end up with the positive note.

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There wasn’t any cue to avoid the queue

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First of all, it really felt like the organisers didn’t prepare for the unexpected massiveness of this year’s GameOn. It was held for a second time, but got a huge boost of visitors since last year. In their press release, the organisers stated that there were over 10 000 of visitors for the first day alone.  That’s a very promising growth but the consequences of such an unexpected number of visitors were quite extreme. The queues on the first day were beyond tolerable, even for me, who came rather early. The grand opening event on the main stage was meant to start at 10 a.m. and the gates opened at 9 a.m. I arrived just few minutes after 10 a.m., when most of the nocturnal gamers were still sleeping. And yet I still had to wait for over an hour. I thought, maybe I just came at worst time possible, but I was wrong. By the time I was getting closer to the entry gate, the queue line tripled and the end of it was barely seen in the distance. That means some of the people had to wait for up to 3 hours to get in. That’s way too much!
Luckily it changed the next day. This year there were two type of tickets. You could have bought either one day ticket and come to visit once, either Saturday or Sunday; or, to buy a fan ticket – and get both days. Thankfully, the second day was a lot better for all the ticket buyers. Those who came for the first time, had to wait for only a couple of minutes

(Horribly) late shows, technical difficulties and absence of the event map

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Another pretty annoying problem were late shows. Some of them were badly late: one hour and even more! And one late show caused the chain reaction, making the other shows late too. Most of them were on different stages but shared the same host – Justinas Jankevičius, and it complicated matters even more.

The most notorious late show was on the second day. There was supposed to be GameOn Star Show with people playing NBA 2K17. The event was late for more than 30 min, but it was only the beginning of the problems. After having waited for that long, we finally got to see the host of the show presenting the 5 members of each team. 4 celebrities on the one team, 4 celebrities on the other team and two lucky members chosen from the audience. When everyone was gathered to (finally) start playing the game in their dedicated seats… technical difficulties struck! Nothing happened for, again, more than 30 minutes! Then, after a long waiting, it was clear that only few people from each team were actually playing. That was a huge disappointment. It was even worse, as no one told the waiting crowd how long the delay will be. Similarly, technical difficulties on e-sports stage and one late show after another almost ruined the entire event.

Also, another simple but annoying problem: there was no event map. And no printed programme. I know we live in modern society, but it would be nice to have a printed information about special events and conferences being held around the expo centre rather than to stare at the mobile phone screen every 30 min. And, you know, mobiles tend to discharge.

Please, do control the kids

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Another very annoying thing that I never saw in any other GEEK related expo and convention before: the huge numbers of uncontrollable 8-12-year-olds. Most of them went to the event without their parents, as the organizers haven’t made any rules for age gate. This lead to an expo where 20% of visitors were kids without any adult supervision. You can imagine the consequences: lot of chaos, hustle, rudeness and treaded shoes. Please bear with me, I am absolutely not against kids, but they definitely shouldn’t be allowed without parents. Everything would be very good if not for thee ten or so 12-year-olds, glued to every PC/console screens, who don’t even plan to let other people try out the games.  The only place that got that under control was the HTC Vive booths. Each person had about 10 minutes to try out the virtual reality.

So, my suggestion: if person is below 16 – don’t let them in unless they’re with adults. This event desperately needs an age gate or at least some control in the event area, especially by the tech that let’s you play any sort of games! Or make a special place for kids where they could try out the games. Also, I don’t think that letting children play Hatred is the best idea. All in all, the expo isn’t a “Gaming café” or “running around” place as most of the kids treated it.

The good – where the Game was On

Whew, we covered a lot of problems about the expo. Some might even start to wonder if GameOn was any good. Yes it was, so let’s get straight to it!

The sound

The sound on e-sports stage and in cosplay area was very good. What is more, some of the live performances from games really spiced the mood at the e-sports stage, before the opening. The sound, the music and the live performance of a heart touching story really gave me the goosebumps.

The exhibitors

Since the festival is still quite small and unknown – I’ve got pretty much what I’ve expected. It was a pleasant surprise to see exhibitions from bigger companies, such as „Riot Games“, „Blizzard“, „Activison“ and „Madfinger Games“.

The food

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The food was very good. I really liked the one that was served from the food trucks. You could enjoy some of it right outside and stay under a temporary tent or take the food indoors.

The conferences (on time)

The conferences I attended were all interesting, and always on time! I guess we can thank Nordcurrent that was the main supporter and most likely, the one who took care of the smoothness of the conferences. Also, I did find them interesting and valuable. I’ve got to know more about how games  are created, how the gaming industry has changed throughout the 20 years and why cosplaying is an awesome hobby to have!

There were many conferences held, but I managed to attend only a few of them. On Saturday, I saw The design philosophy of Ronimo and Awesomenauts by Joost Van Dongen, the co-founder of Ronimo Games. He talked about how the game Awesomenauts were created and how they deal with game development inside their company.

cosplay

The next day, on Sunday, I attended the conference named Why Cosplay Is an Amazing Hobby? Basically, they answered the question that was in the conference title, and it really made me consider cosplaying in the future. They talked about how it feels being in a costume: that when you’re acting as a certain character you kind of become the other person and act differently, which helps you deal with such internal problems as social anxiety. Also, it helps you to find like-minded people who share common interests with you.

miguel_caronAnd the last one conference that I attended was Build a positive Culture which will last, that was hosted by Miguel Caron (Head Of Studio) from MADFINGER Games. He talked about the proper way of how to deal with your employees. For example, the company had to lay off people. So instead of just laying them off, they invited all the major game creators (Blizzard, Activision, etc.) and suggested hiring their employees to them. That way the company grew a connection with their employees even after they left the job in the company. And in the end, no one was actually laid off, as all of those lucky 60 people moved to other companies to continue their careers in the gaming industry. The MADFINGER just Let Them Go to prosper in other companies. They also wrote positive reviews about each of the employees who left the company that would go into their curricula vitae. This company also shares their profit with their co-workers and are very open in general.  I must admit, that was very awesome thing to hear –  how one company treats their employees in best way possible. Hats down to this guy!

The price

The last but not least thing- the price of GameOn event tickets. When the sales started, first tickets did cost as low as 10 EUR for a one-day entry. Or, you could buy a fan ticket starting at 30 EUR. It included the opportunity to go to the event for two days along with exclusive GameOn T-shirt and a loot bag.

The conclusion

Overall, the event was a very mixed experience for me, with both things that went very smoothly and things that didn’t. The technical difficulties throughout both days and horrible queues nearly ruined the event. I would have found this unacceptable but… The truth is, the event was organised only for the second year and it experienced an unexpected growth, so it justifies some of the problems. And the tickets were not that expensive.

After the event organizers have promised the attendees to learn from the problems, in order not to let the history repeat itself next year. I myself suggest to make an age gate, prepare a printed event map+programme and avoid the delays… And if it happens that one or another show is late anyway, than it would be good to do the very best to avoid a chain reaction when one late show causes the other one to be late too. I also believe that the bar for the price could be risen. That way, they could invite some other famous gaming related celebrities to GameOn. I personally would like to see a world-wide famous Let’s Play Youtuber like Markiplier, jacksepticeye or Game Grumps. I assure, that way they would gather even more interest and higher ticket prices would be completely reasonable.

I am really interested in how GameOn will look next year, and hope the experience will improve. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and you can be sure I’ll be here next year to write if things changed for the better or for worse. Let’s hope for the former!

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