A Look Back at GameLoop Philly 2011

From contributing writer Darius Kazemi.

GameLoop Philly, the first offshoot of game development “unconference” GameLoop, was held in Philadelphia on May 21. GameLoop was founded here in Boston in 2008 by Boston Indies founder Scott Macmillan and myself. We were super excited when a crew of GameLoop attendees from Philly approached us last year to ask if they could run one in their home town. Of course our answer was an emphatic yes — for my part, I wanted to attend a GameLoop for once, rather than host it.

Photo courtesy of GameLoop Philly

GLP opened with a bit of a surprise to me: a new way of organizing sessions. Instead of the chaotic rush to put sessions the board, sessions were pitched by attendees, written on the wall, and then attendees were given stickers to place next to sessions they liked. I was humbled: this method was far superior to what we’d been using in Boston the last two years, and we’re going to be using it at the original GameLoop this coming weekend.

Photo courtesy of GameLoop Philly

The session topics ended up being a diverse mix, including sessions on misconceptions in programming languages, story development, procedural narrative, prototype development, 2D in unity, game difficulty tuning, and producer perception at game studios, among a total of 20 sessions across 5 time slots in 4 rooms.

Photo courtesy of GameLoop Philly

The first session I attended was “Misconceptions on Programming Languages,” by Tim Ambrogi of Final Form Games (Jamestown). This presentation was a traditional lecture format, complete with slides (unusual for a GameLoop) but went over extremely well. Tim spoke of prejudices that programmers hold against languages that are not their “native” language, using his own favorite language, Lua, as a case study. Things really got going when he asked programmers in the room to talk about misconceptions people have about some of their favorite languages.

After that, I attended “The State of Games in Philly.” I’ve been hosting a similar, Boston-centric session at GameLoop for the last three years, so I wanted to catch this one and see what the Philly scene is all about. One thing that struck me is that while the game development community in Philadelphia is growing, it’s not quite big enough to sustain multiple large, regular events. As a result, game developers tend to participate more often in general software industry events. It’s food for thought, as there are enough game dev events in Boston that one could never leave their comfortable cocoon yet still be busy attending events all the time.

Lunch was an eat-out affair, and fortunately GLP was situated in the middle of the Arts district, near Center City. There were tons of great restaurants to choose from. As noted on the GameLoop Philly Twitter account, much as it pains me to admit, they’ve got us beat on food.

After lunch I sat in on an Android platform session, which ended up being a “how do I begin?” type session, and then quickly moved to “how do I make money?” One memorable comment was that you’d make more money consulting as an Android developer for other companies than you would creating your own apps. Not sure if I buy that, but it got me thinking.

At 3:30 I caught Tim Ambrogi’s talk on prototypes, which was a deep dive into the prototypes used to prove concepts for Jamestown. And at the end of the day, I led a roundtable on HTML5 game development, of which I can remember nothing as I was very, very tired.

All in all, GameLoop Philly was a huge success, bringing 80 game developers from as far as DC and Boston together to eat cheese steaks and talk about development. It was a fantastic time, and I cannot wait for next year’s — I highly recommend attending events over hosting them!


 Darius Kazemi lives in Cambridge, MA and he’s glad you’re here. Darius develops HTML5 games and game technology at Bocoup.

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