George Hopkins attends the PC Gamer Weekend Event and tells us all about his impressions and experiences at the popular event
Being a gamer in the UK has traditionally been a little frustrating. The USA has almost always been filled to the brim with conferences, and our European neighours have similarly been spoilt with Gamescom and Paris Games Week. Back across the channel we’ve been forced to travel beyond our borders for such Expos, however the last few years have thankfully yielded many new exciting events. One of these is the PC Gamer Weekender, an annual event which seeks to celebrate all that’s good about the platform by bringing together passionate fans and developers with exciting upcoming titles. 2018 was my first time at the conference, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.
As soon as I glanced at the schedule, I knew I was in for a busy weekend – trying to organise my time provided more of a challenge than any demo at the showcase.
Competing for my attention were the impressive number of talks which allowed developers to pitch new games to an attentive audience or provide developmental stories for those which are already out. Highlights included a demonstration by Biomutant developer Stefan Ljungqvist, and an outline of the upcoming Total War Saga: Britannica. My personal favourite, however, was a discussion hosted by Laurent Grumiaux who argued that the creativity of developers is often suppressed in the industry because of its ever-increasing commercialisation. More talks about trends in the industry would have been welcome, akin to those seen at GDC.
Aside from these game-focused presentations, a number of Q&A sessions were held by professionals who offered advice to those seeking to get into the industry. Due to a severe lack of talent, I harbour no such ambitions, so instead chose to attend the consumer focused PC Workshops. Different classes were pitched at different levels of expertise, allowing anyone to take something useful from their time there. As a relative novice, the beginner level session I attended certainly gave me a basic understanding of the fundamental steps of constructing a gaming PC.
Of course the biggest draw of any gaming event is the possibility of playing new and exciting upcoming titles. Among those at the event, I particularly enjoyed Biomutant, Total War Warhammer 2, and Guns of Icarus-Alliance. In fact there was a wide array of different games, this diversity coming in the form of the range of genres available and in the size of the budgets and teams who worked on them. It must be said that there were no “AAA” releases being shown which may put off many from attending in the future. Nonetheless, there were many significant titles available to play, including Warhammer:Vermitude 2 and the recently released Kingdom Come Deliverance. An additional benefit of this absense was that unlike many other gaming expos there was no clear demarcation between blockbusters and the Indie titles on shoe. Far from being assigned their own zone or corner, games like Catquest and Beyond Type 1:2150 sat proudly alongside games whose budgets and resources clearly exceeded their own. This generated a refreshing sense of equality in an industry which all too often separated into two tiers.
The close proximity of these games is admittedly probably due to the relatively small size of the room at the Olympia. This was very handy for the lazily inclined, such as myself, who never had too far to walk between stations. Unfortunately, however, it did mean that it was a little hard to hear some of the speakers at times because the PA systems from the different stages did tend to compete with one another.
This small problem aside, I still found the intimacy of the event to be beneficial as it lessened the time constraints ordinarily placed on developers and consumers. Anyone who has ever attended any kind of consumer /industry fair will be aware that queues can thwart even the most deicated fan’s efforts. Waiting times at PC Gamer were generally fairly minimal and if one game was particularly popular, it was usually easily accessible towards the end of each day. When you did get a chance to sit down with a game, developers also did not have to focus on queue organisation so had time to give gameplay tips and answer questions about their projects.
Aside from these shiny new games, there were several classics available to play. These ranged from single player games like Half-Life and Theme Park,to multiplayer titles like Battlefield 1942 and Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2.The latter faithfully eschewed WiFi in favour of a LAN setup, which gave each session a sense of authenticity and brought back everyone involved, even those like myself who were not even there, to the era which really established all that’s good about the platform.
Moving from the past to the present, there was also a stage dedicated to Esports. Of course this is a huge part of PC Gaming so its presence was clearly warranted. Unfortunately, however, the excessive size of the stage provided an untimely reminder of the importance of corporate sponsorship to these events. Nevertheless, it would be overly harsh to criticise the event for this, particularly considering the fact that compared to its competitors this sponsorship was relatively unobtrusive.
So, should you go to PC Gamer Weekender in the years to come? Well, that depends entirely on what you’re after. If you want to play upcoming AAA titles, then this event is definitely not for you. If, however, you enjoy a broader range of games and relish the opportunity to discuss them with their developers, then it is well worth attending. Bringing passionate people from both sides of the industry together to talk about their favourite pastime can only be a good thing, and I for one hope PC Gamer continues to do this for as long as possible.