Gaming Editor James Law took a walk on the wild side at this year’s Feral Vector game design convention in Yorkshire
Feral Vector is more than a games convention. Set in the outrageously picturesque West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, Feral Vector is a celebration of ‘making games and gamelike things’. It’s an escape. A way that those passionate about independent gaming and alternative ways of discussing the medium can share their ideas and do as much or as little as they want.
The festival is organised by Feral Sett, a team of 11 brilliant individuals directed by David Hayward, and is as far removed from any convention I’ve ever been to before. On entry, I was greeted with a warm smile and a wristband, and told that in the church hall there would be talks and workshops, as well as local co-operative gaming, whilst in the other room a few games were set up by attending developers. I was only able to attend on the final day, so you’d think the attendees would be exhausted, winding down, ready to get back into their favourite scary city and busy lives. The whole time I was there, though, the events were in full swing. At the start of the day, I listened to some fabulous talks, discussing things from personal journeys to gamelan music. One that particularly stood out was developer Hana Lee’s hilarious dissection of translation from English to Japanese in games, a practice that if done incorrectly results in the most ridiculously literal translation attempts when rendering English idioms into other languages. The talk was supplemented with some super cute illustrations of the misunderstandings, and had everyone chuckling away.
The diversity and range of topics that Feral Vector covered was brilliant. It’s hard to talk about it without gushing, but I’ll try. The festival does everything it can to include as many people as possible. Feral vector does things like emphasising correct pronoun use and providing a ‘chill out space’ where people can get away from others and use the provided relaxing games, ear defenders, and fidget spinners. These aren’t hard ways to make a convention more welcoming, yet I don’t see it nearly enough in other areas of the games industry.
Along with video gaming, a number of other gamelike experiences were present. Continuous role-plays could be enjoyed, such as ‘Dust Shepherds of Saturn’ in which players could follow the rules of the planet, outlined on a poster, and create their own collaborative dust formations. It was pretty cool. About as far from a ‘hardcore’ game as you can get. Exactly my style.
The highlight of my day at Feral Vector though, without question, was Xalavier Nelson Jr’s collaborative storytelling experience, entitled ‘Jeff Goldblum Is Concerned About Your Academic Progress And So You Must Tend To His Menagerie Of Gentle Mutant Abominations’.
About as ridiculous as it sounds, he had us out in the beautiful Nutclough Woods, acting like fools in order to complete our continuously unfolding mission. Players rotated in and out, with the story adapting for the wild variety of special abilities that ranged from having fists that can turn into birds to being a chartered accountant. Everyone got involved. It was great. A dog ran up to us, sat in the shallow, rocky stream we were playing next to, and had a listen. It was honestly the most peaceful experience imaginable. Not something you’d expect from a games event.
Feral Vector is an event I wish I could’ve been at for longer. I’ll be back next year. Hope to see you there.