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Detail of a piece by Krista Schmidt.

Free event showcases the best in video game design & art

By Greg Guevara on April 21, 2016

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“Gaming” probably isn’t the word that comes into mind when someone thinks of Ottawa. While the city may seem to only conjure up images of snow and government workers, anyone who’s played pinball at House of TARG or boad games at The Loft has experienced the lesser-known gamer population. Still, you may be surprised to learn that Ottawa is home to its own annual International Game Conference. Next week, it will celebrate its fifth year of drawing in Ottawa gamers from around the city—and international attention from around the globe.

This year, OIGC is featuring its first absolutely free Game & Art Expo, on Sunday April 24th from 9AM to 3PM in Lansdowne Park’s Aberdeen Pavillion. As the name implies, the event will showcase Ottawa artists’ talents, whether those talents be in the realm of digital art or game design. Beautiful digital art prints will be displayed, and there will be sneak peaks of yet-unreleased games. Tired of the playing same genre over and over again? Games of this nature are the best way to find ideas that have never before been tested.

Expo event coordinator Jared Thompson explains, “The vision for the expo is to cover the expansive reach of games and art culture.” And an expansive reach it is: Artists from across Canada will be at the expo, showcasing their digital artwork and innovative new game ideas. This includes everyone from tech giants who have worked on AAA games to indie developers just beginning to release their first projects.

Having played through a few of these, Thompson brings attention to Carleton University’s indie start-up group, the Sweetheart Squad. Their game, Party, Darling? is a fascinating idea—a narrative, procedurally generated murder mystery that looks and plays like an acid trip. “After seeing the progress they made at the senior project fair, I was very impressed and played the game from beginning to end.” Party Darling? is just one of the many new games that will be showcased at the expo this year.

Ottawa may not seem like the ideal location for a game convention but it is well positioned for success. Being located between Montreal and Toronto means it’s wedged between the headquarters of industry goliaths Warner Bros. and Ubisoft. That, says Thompson, and its “excellence in art and design education helped build the right environment for gaming entrepreneurs to build dream teams.”

These are teams like Magmic, based out of the ByWard Market, which have been building mobile games since 2002; and Snowed in Studios, which have helped build famous games like Deux Ex: Human Revolution and Warhammer 40000: Eternal Crusade.

On the future of the expo, Thompson says “we will surely expand to include all forms of games and art”—including non-digital art and other forms of interactive media. That being said, if you want to feast your eyes on digital masterpieces while playing the world’s next smash gaming hit, you’ll want to give Ottawa’s first annual Game & Art Expo a visit.

The Game & Art Expo is this Sunday April 24th, from 9AM to 3PM. For more details see the OIGC website.