An Interview With Playtopia MGA 2019’s Programme Director
Playtopia MGA 2019
Taking cues from international alternative games festivals, Playtopia MGA 2019 marks South Africa’s debut homegrown celebration of games and interactive art in Cape Town.
Playtopia and Make Game Africa (MGA) have joined forces to make one ecstatic 3-day event where attendees can revel in local and international indie games, eye-melting interactive and digital art and a killer music line-up! There will be two conferencing streams available to delegates this year, the MGA Business To Business Conference and the Playtopia Talks aimed at delegates interested in the creative side of game development.
I caught up with Ben Rausch, Programme Director, to find out more about the event and what they have planned:
Playtopia MGA 2019 looks like it’s going to be bigger and better than previous years. What’s new at this year’s event?
There are so many new things to look forward to! We’ve commissioned an incredible collection of artists to create immersive experiences; all of them will be completely new, never before seen experiences.
There’ll be close to 60 games on show over the festival. Aside from a few favourites of Playtopia 2018 (like Guitar Wizards and sticky Cats), this will be the first time any of these games have been exhibited in South Africa!
Exciting! Tell me about the partnership between Playtopia and MGA?
Last year Playtopia and Make Games Africa were two separate events, happening one after the other. Both events were amazing, but being separated, it seemed like we missed a great opportunity to bring together different people interested in game development, interactive art and playful experiences. We decided to join forces for 2019, combining the best of both Playtopia and Make Games Africa into one monster event!
So, what is your role in the organisation of Playtopia MGA this year?
Playtopia MGA is put on by a very small, very passionate team, and we all take on a lot of different responsibilities to make this fest into something exceptional.
As Playtopia’s Programme Director, my primary responsibility is to curate the main games exhibition and the Playtopia conference lineup. At it’s best, this means I get to spend a bunch of time playing games or researching interesting people making them.
In my capacity as a Superfriend, I oversee the Super Friendship Arcade’s exhibition “Punk Game Party”. This also involves curatorship, but it’s more about uniting the superfriends and giving them a platform to do what they do best; building a bunch of crazy controllers and new games!
With my creative studio Cool Your Jets, we make all the animated content for the festival, including things like our sweet trailer for the festival!
Watch the trailer:
And tell me about the venue for Playtopia in Cape Town; what can attendees expect?
The festival is hosted at The Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, the same venue we used for Playtopia last year. It’s an ideal space for us, offering really amazing open spaces for larger exhibitions, as well as a series of strange, smaller rooms, which are absolutely perfect for immersive art installations. The Castle is an ideal location for us to scatter surprises and secret experiences, encouraging guests to explore the venue and play with what they find!
Specifically for gamers, what will be on offer for them that’s never been seen in SA before?
People will be getting a sneak peek of some of the most anticipated indie games for 2020 and beyond! This list includes titles like the gorgeous action-RPG Tunic, gory Viking rampager Bloodroots, reverse horror game Carrion (where you get to be the monster!) and the wildly creative Chicory, which I’m pretty sure is the first game that’s ever allowed players to be a dog with a magic paintbrush!
There’ll also be an excellent collection of brand new South African games on show! Local indie darlings Free Lives will show off their surreal shopping game Eat The Rich, as well as a brand new multiplayer party game! Cape Town illustrator Jean De Wet and indie dev Richard Pieterse will unveil the latest version of their illustrated music game Haunted Garage! Super Friendship Arcade will be sharing a bunch of brand new punk games and custom controllers made by its members. My own game band Team Lazerbeam will be premiering our first multiplayer creation – an absurd food assembly game called Burger Hands!
Another huge first will be the international debut of “Le jardin des délices”, a virtual, outdoor art gallery, created by Spanish games wonder Marina Díez. Inside this 8-bit art gallery, Marina will be sharing a selection of 15 games, made by different devs from around the world, all using the Bitsy engine! As if this virtual gallery weren’t awesome enough, Le Jardin will all be running in a tiny custom-built console, created by the South African game-dev power-couple Nothing Exploded!
Which of the speakers’ talks or workshops would you advise attendees definitely don’t miss?
We’ve put together a really fantastic lineup of speakers, representing a diverse mix of creative people working in very different realms of games and playful media. There’s really something for everyone, and I expect each delegate will have their own list of must-see talks.
I’m so stoked about all the speakers that we’ve lined up for the Playtopia conference! Some of the folks that I’m most excited for are:
Kamina Vincent, the Melbourne game dev who worked on the exceptional, Florence, which was one of my personal favourite games of last year.
Nicole He: American artist who combines tech with mountains of playfulness and creativity.
Bahiya Khan: South African game developer behind the multi-award winning After HOURS, who is a highlight of any speaking lineup she appears on.
Sound amazing! So, what are the exhibitions all about? And are there any exhibitors on the programme that stands out for you?
There’ll be three main exhibition spaces:
First, we have The Playopia Immersive Arts Exhibition, which is a mix of interactive works, crafted by a hand-picked selection of installation artists, animators, programmers, writers, inventors, sound artists, game developers and tech-hackers.
Second, The Playtopia Exhibition will be a curated selection, representing some of the greatest artistic achievements in games today.
Finally, there’s Super Friendship Arcade’s “Punk Game Party”, a collection of custom controllers and DIY games, designed to bring people together, and celebrate the magic of community, creative play.
Lastly, why should everyone attend this year’s Playtopia and not just gaming enthusiasts?
If you’ve ever felt like games are not for you, then you’re 100% the kind of person that this festival has been put on for.
Our agenda with Playtopia is to grow a more diverse community of people playing and making games. We want to paint games in a light that shows that they’re there for everyone and tear down preconceived ideas about the kind of people that play and makes games.
A celebration of the diversity of games, the festival will share a collection of easily accessible experiences. Many of them will run on welcoming, custom-built controllers, so you can hop straight into the fun, without needing to know your way around a 20 button gamepad!
Playtopia MGA 2019 details
Date: 5 December 2019 – 7 December 2019
Times: Thursday 10:00 – 00:00 / Friday 10:00 – 01:00 / Sunday 10:00 – 01:00
Venue: Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town
Tickets: R180 – R5000 available on Quicket
This event is a strictly 18+
MGA tickets and Playtopia Talks tickets will be priced differently, and whilst an MGA ticket gives you complete all-access, a Playtopia Talks ticket will not give you access to the MGA talks.