Capital Gaming Expo: a small but mighty conference

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Capital Gaming Expo. The Capital Gaming Expo, or CGX, is Ottawa’s premier gaming convention. CGX brings together game developers from all across Canada to show-off their latest games as well as give them the chance to interact with their fans. CGX offers gamers a wide-variety of things to do from first-looks at upcoming games, the chance to go head-to-head with fellow gamers in Mario Kart, or even dive into the world of virtual reality. CGX tries to give something for everyone.

While this isn’t the first CGX, this is the first under the new management of Jillian Mood and Partners, an Ottawa-based human resources,  public relations, and consulting firm specializing in video games. Jillian Mood and Partners have taken what worked about the existing CGX and expanded it. Initially, CGX was just for video game consumers but now its reach had broadened to include video game developers. Now the conference has two distinct operations, going on simultaneously.

The show floor is very much in the view of a PAX or a Comic-con. Exhibitors are set up throughout the room, creating alleys of video game goodness. When you first walk in, you are faced right away with the Smash Bros./Street Fighter/whatever else they could think of set-up, which begs for you to grab a friend and sit down for a few matches. I had to force myself to walk away from the Breath of the Wild setup just so I could see the rest of the floor. As you walk through, you invited into the demo booths of the various developers. Some titles on display included Bendy and the Ink Machine and Pizza Titan Ultra. Included on the show floor were tabletop setups for Magic the Gathering and others. But what caught my eye was the VR setup near the back of the show floor. While I myself didn’t get a chance to step into the virtual world, simply watching others flail their arms around to shoot down alien ships, or dismantle a ticking bomb was enjoyable.

The second half of the CGX operation is the speaker conferences. Separated into a different area of the venue, the speaker conference is meant to be a chance for professional and non-professional developers to come together to hear from industry experts. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in on the talk by Mike Mood, co-founder of Meatly Games. He spoke on how to get into game development knowing nothing at all. Mood spoke about his journey into game development and his struggles at learning the trade without any formal schooling to a packed room. The talk was engaging and offered what I imagine to be quite uncommon advice on getting into any career in game development. The speaker conferences are run across two rooms over the course of the two-day conference. They are meant to be a chance for professionals to connect with each other and give non-professionals the chance to get their foot in the door.

Overall, CGX is a small but mighty conference. While there aren’t a huge number of exhibitors on the floor, the ones who are there exude a warmth and deep-passion for their games. They’re all beyond friendly and excited that you’ve shown interest in their game. No lines were overly long and the room flowed easily, so you could see everything without issue. The conference side is heavily developer-focused, but the insight was appreciated even by someone who’s not a developer or has an intention of becoming one. I have to say, although the event as a whole was a tad smaller then I would have expected, the attitude and atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone, from the attendees to the exhibitors to the volunteer staff, was there because they love video games. The culture of CGX is a fantastic one and one I hope only grows as the conference gets bigger and better in the future.

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