My Experience at Casual Connect Asia 2017Jun 5, 2017 | 1 Votes by Aethyna 10 rate Join me as I recount my fun adventures last month at Casual Connect Asia 2017 in Singapore!
Last year, when I had the opportunity to attend the Casual Connect Europe event in Amsterdam, I had to get all worried about the tons of stuff that I need to bring... mainly because 1. It's still technically winter there back then and 2. Being someone who is born and bred in a tropical climate, I'm not very sure I can withstand the bitter chill that the fabled winter can inflict on unsuspecting people... like me.
This year though, I was fortunate enough to be sent to the Casual Connect Asia event instead in Singapore where not only the climate but also the culture is very similar to mine. Regardless, being the worry wart that I am, I simply had to get my nerves all bunched up prior to stepping on my flight to the country that's known fondly as the "Red Dot".
Like all the successful Casual Connect events before it, this casual games conference is comprised of a similar duration of 3 days and nights of productive networking between the professionals in the gaming industry, including game developers, publishers, marketers, advertisers, graphic artists, music producers and more.
In some way, the event is like the primordial soup of life. Various players in the gaming industry are like the elements of life which have managed to come together in this brewing pot of an event and, as a result, interesting connections, partnerships and collaborations - just like the very first living organism - were born. This might not have been if these elements have not had the perfect conditions to connect in or the chance to meet up in the first place.
This bringing of people and companies have always helped any industry to advance, especially for industries that rely heavily on interconnectivity such as the gaming and technology-related industries.
Now, as before, I had all my appointments set in advance thanks to the incredibly helpful Pitch and Match system, so I generally had an idea of how packed my schedule will be, but as good as plans can be prepared, things often turn out quite differently in the end. I've lost count the number of times I had a meeting rescheduled or that I've been stood up (yes, yes... if you find that funny, you may laugh. No offense taken here). Honestly, it would have been nice to have a real-time chatting/ messaging option so we could easily contact the person on the other side. It's quite surprising to find that not everyone put their contact info in their Pitch and Match profiles.
That said, sometimes, these little "disasters" turned out to be blessings in disguise. In fact, I'd venture out to say that one of the best parts about this year's Casual Connect event is the different types of interesting people I was able to "connect casually" (see what I did there? *winks*) by lucky happenstance.
Through a failed meeting where I was supposed to meet with a guy called Jasper, I met a soft-spoken, elderly gentleman named David instead, who eventually became my lunch mate, as we talked about the event, his work and the amazing tourist sites in Singapore – apparently, he’s a huge fan of Star Wars and I’ve just been to a magnificent Star Wars-themed light show at Gardens by the Bay! Little did I know that he was one of the speakers at the event and is the CEO of a global game publishing company.
I’ve even met with my fellow countrymen as well, and boy - was I surprised! I had no idea that the government in my country is trying to advance the previously non-existent gaming industry and that several indie game companies were already given the chance to produce their very first indie games, which were actually some of the finalists, like Caveguys and Rhythm Doctor, in the running to win the Indie Prize Award. It’s just amazing what you can find out about your own country even as you are abroad!
Through meetings, I’ve also had the honor to interview indie developers, Francis Courchinoux from ICA Games (UAYEB) and ZhiWei Tan from DreamTree Games (Uri: The Sprout of Lotus Creek); to not only learn more about their games but also to find out the struggles that indie developers have to face as they try to create their game and let the world be aware of their games’ existence.
It can be sometimes heartbreaking to listen to indie developers like Juan from Posibillian Tech when he talked about the difficulty of being one of the first indie games company from his home country of Bulgaria; the pressure he faced as he tried to secure additional funds to complete and market his Pokemon Go/MOBA-like augmented reality (AR) game, Fhacktions. In a world where big-budgeted triple-A companies can easily out-market an indie game, these indie developers will need all the exposure they can get from us, the media, as well as all the love and support from their community of players.
In whatever little free time I have left, I made it my mission to check out as many indie games as I could at the indie Prize section where the 100 Indie Prize finalists were set up. I’ve seen amazingly innovative word games, like Mighty Droid Alpha and Word Adventure; adorable anime-themed RPG/simulation games like Valthirian Arc: Red Covenant; an epic first-person parkour adventure, Downward; unique 3D arcade-like games such as GLOBE – In a State of War; fun and mind-boggling casual games, like what later turned out to be the winner of the Indie Prize Award, Dragon Up: Match 2 Hatch; and many more.
There are even VR games that I’ve tried, namely the oddly-calming yet fun, rock-stacking VR puzzle game, Rockland VR; and a one-of-a-kind, sound/visuals-based game, Stifled, that eventually took home both “Most Innovative Game” and “Best Game Design” awards. The only regret I have is that I wasn’t able to cover more games than I would have liked due to the time constrains. It would have been awesome if I could introduce more of the brilliant games that I’ve seen at the event to you all!
Aside from networking, Casual Connect Asia also provides plenty of insightful lectures. I hardly had time to sit down and just enjoy a lecture, but on the very last day of the event, I’ve managed to take some time out to attend Cvetan Rusimov’s, the COO of the hugely popular MMO strategy game, Imperia Online, talk on “Why Asian Games Can’t Copy Their Own Success Overseas and How to Fix It”. We’ve chatted a day before his lecture in which he introduced me to the range of games that Imperia Online is currently promoting, and upcoming games that they are working on.
Although I had to give the party on the first day a pass (mainly due to being dog-bone tired), I’ve managed to pull enough energy together to attend the party held at S.E.A. Aquarium on the second day. Organized by MyTona, the company behind successful hidden object games like Seekers Notes and The Secret Society: Hidden Mystery, the party started off at full swing with an endless flow of alcohol and coke (not the drug).
With a huge aquarium filled with beautiful sea creatures set as the background of the party, people mainly talked about non-work stuff, drink, and have fun playing some of the games the hosts from MyTona have organized, including one where the participants have to hold their breath for as long as they can and the other where players have to drag out the word “MyTona” with a single breath.
The only qualm I had – and I’m not the only one - is that there isn’t anything filling (mixed nuts aren’t very filling, unfortunately) to eat at the party. It’s luck (thanks to a very insistently-growling stomach) and some foresight on my part to have gotten my dinner prior to heading over to the party, but I’m sure many of the people there would have lunged at any food aside from nuts at that point.
Of course, I have not gotten the chance to gush about the level of organization that went into the event itself. For instance, the venue - the Resort World Convention Center on Sentosa Island - is so incredibly HUGE and if there were no signs directing me to the actual hall, I would have probably been lost on my very first day there. The food provided there are just delicious, and the drinks – tea or coffee – are literally life-saving. I dare say from the buzzing activity that I’ve seen there, without these energy-infusing drinks, many of the attendees would have collapsed right then and there when evening came around... no joke!
The whole event concluded - at least for me since I had to catch an early flight back - with the highly anticipated Indie Prize Award ceremony, where to my pleasant surprise, a number of the games I've managed to try, such as Mushroom Wars 2, have snagged awards.
Maybe it’s because I have had at least some experience with Casual Connect events before or maybe it’s because of the many friendly people that I’ve met, I felt like this trip has been more fruitful than before. That said, you, our readers, can definitely expect a ton of game reviews of some of the most amazing games I had the chance to play at the event. So, be sure to stay tuned!
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