Most folk’s idea of a great night out probably doesn’t involve a mass of tangled cables, rows of illuminated screens, and the rowdy cheers of rivalry - unless you’re into some extremely specific competitive bondage - but here I am at Drygate Brewery surrounded by those very things.
For a city with such a large student population, and plenty of heritage in games design, and games journalism, there aren’t too many events that cater to the world’s fastest growing hobby. I’m no stranger to LAN parties and gaming events like London’s many indie gaming events, but even so, 120 people playing a variety of games, ranging from 8 Player Towerfall, Street Fighter, Nidhogg, Mario Kart 8, and even local games developed by students at Caledonian University was a unique sight to see.
There were people from all walks of life attending, playing games and drinking craft beers, like student Thomas who described the event as “a good chance to be sociable, but still being able to play games,” before explaining that he was most excited about the chance to play difficult to procure games, on aging or hard to maintain systems.
Young couple Kayleigh and Chris explained they relished the chance to play games with different people, without having to worry about the logistics: “it’s great to play locally, with hard to find games, it’s a great niche that was waiting to be filled.”
Other ex-Glasgow students, and plenty of current students were in attendance too. Games exist as a great leveller, and it was easy to see from a glance how well people took to playing with total strangers over a variety of different games. People were even content to watch people play single player games, and cheering them on to shave seconds off of time trials breach dizzying score thresholds.
Even local gaming personalities BitSocket were in attendance, in both a professional capacity (that held a live show to open the night) and as gamers themselves. When quizzed on why they thought it took so long for someone to start this kind of event, they said “Everyone loves a house party, but no one wants to host one. Thankfully, Simon [Marshall] and his pals were dedicated to getting it working.”
There students from Caledonian University were also showcasing games that they had created on their development course, getting to test them in the real world and accrue feedback on how their games play. For a country with such a storied history in Games Design thanks to DMA/Rockstar, it’s encouraging to see a space for new talent to test their creations in a social environment.
Overall the vibe was incredibly positive. Drygate having a great menu and decent drinks on offer certainly helped lubricate things, but there was also no lack of things to do. People were happy to play total strangers on pro games like Street Fighter, but even the savants were still genial in victory.
The core of the evening ends up being a spate of tournaments run over various games. This night’s titles were 10 Player Bomberman (an absolute logistical nightmare to set up without the crowdsourcing of materials that GlesGames specialises in) 8 Player Modded Towerfall - a high speed twitchy retro brawler with a heavy focus on archery shenanigans, and Overcooked - a team based chaotic cooking game. It’s a decent way to cap off what initially starts as a living room social writ large, and gives the event some kind of focus.
Despite the image that gaming gives off, as a solitary activity, or a performance played out between disparate individuals over the vastness of the internet, GlesGames manages to rekindle the nostalgia of heady summer holidays playing Mario Kart with aplomb, and it’s great to see a local endeavour succeed so heartily.
Over the course of the evening I also had a chance to fire some questions at Simon Marshall, organiser of the GlesGames event and project, asking him about his perception of the local Glasgow scene, and his feelings on his pet project:
What made you decide to start GlesGames in the first place? Was it a lack of similar events in Glasgow or a different desire?
GlesGames was created as a means for a group of people, who chatted on a daily basis on Twitter, to get together and enjoy the one thing we all had in common, which was games. From there, word has spread and from our first event where we had just over 30 people in a small pub in Shawlands, to having around 120 people in the Drygate Brewery in just over a year.
While there are various gaming events in Glasgow for specific audiences, there isn't anything like GlesGames. The community which has been built around the event is phenomenal and it's an amazing thing to be a part of. Local multiplayer is something which had seemed to disappear for a few years.
As the event has grown through various iterations and venues what challenges have you faced?
One of the biggest challenges we've faced is when we first had to move to a larger venue in Glasgow city centre. Prior to that, we were transporting a few TVs and gaming machines to a small pub. Then, when we moved to the city centre, we were hiring vans, more televisions and having to be more considerate with the event than we had done before.
Do you think in future you'll attract smaller titles in the way that events like Wild Rumpus in London do, or is geography an issue - due to devs frequently being London based?
It would be great to feature more developers at GlesGames and it's something that we've looked to do since the third event. Our first time of featuring a developer was at GlesGames: 3rd Strike when Monstrum from Team Junkfish Studios was playable on the Oculus Rift. Not only were some people getting the experience of VR for the first time, but they were also getting the chance to try this terrifying title.
In addition to that, we've featured Advance from Catbell Games, Fragmental from Ruffian Games, Gyrodisc Super League from Valiant Interactive and, at GlesGames IX, we'll have games which have been created by the students of Glasgow Caledonian University. A lot of games are developed in the UK outside of Scotland, but the Scottish gaming scene is booming at the minute. It's wonderful.
Is there a particular aspect of GlesGames you're proud of?
I wouldn't say there's one thing in particular. I am just hugely proud of the whole event coming so far. The way in which the gaming community, from all over the UK and Ireland, have reacted is wonderful and it still blows my mind. We regularly have people traveling from various parts of England, Ireland, Wales and all over Scotland to come to GlesGames.
The gaming side of things is a huge part of what makes GlesGames so enjoyable, but it wouldn't be the same without the people who attend. Everyone is so friendly and they make these events even more special. It's something I love being a part of and I can't thank anyone who has ever attended an event enough.
Do you feel this is very much a peep snap project or will it eventually become a fully realised full time commitment?
I'm really happy with where GlesGames is at the moment. While I would love to be able to do this as a full-time job, one of the things which makes it so special is that it's bi-monthly. I want it to be an event where they're not too common that they're taken for granted. Not only is it a get-together for gaming fans to play together, but it's a chance for online friends to meet up and speak to each other about their lives which they only have a brief insight to on social media.
Lastly, what's your favourite game to play at GlesGames, and what's your favourite game to watch?
While I don't normally get the chance to play the games at the event, I would say Mario Kart 8. Colourful, fun and competitive. It's an ideal title.
My favourite game to watch would have to be Nidhogg. We have ran a few tournaments of it and the matches are always hugely gripping. The way in which one player can be so close to winning and then suddenly be on the back foot is tremendous. It's as great to watch as it is to play.