14 Apr 2015
Conventions: A Celebration of Games and Life
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the gaming industry is the Gamescom trade fair, because it takes place in my hometown of Cologne, Germany. It is Europe’s largest gaming event for interactive games and entertainment with more than 335,000 visitors, 6,000 journalists and 700 exhibitors from 88 countries around the world. Gamescom has been held annually in August for five days since 2009.
Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, with a little over one million inhabitants. We are very proud of our own brewed beer, called Kölsch, which comes in several brands. To me, they all taste pretty much the same, a bit less bitter than other German beer. People from Cologne are pretty open-minded and like to party, especially during Carnival. In Cologne, Carnival traditions are very strongly developed, since it first was used to mock French and Prussian occupants. During Carnival, the whole city is partying. It’s hard to find somebody who is not wearing a costume and who isn’t drunk.
Since people from Cologne are always looking for a good time, Gamescom even has its own festival. They are artists from various types of genres playing on several stages located all over the city. Last year I went with my friends and some of my siblings to a free concert from a popular Cologne party crew. But to be honest, it wasn’t really good. In previous years, they used to be more underground, but I guess they just want to make more money now, so they went commercial. They even got sponsored by a big German auto brand.
During my studies in 2010 I worked at the Gamescom for one week as a waitress. I didn’t have much time to go exploring much during my lunch break, but just walking through the exhibition halls and seeing people from all over the world sharing the same interest in games made me really excited. There is always a very energetic and friendly atmosphere at trade fairs. It’s a place where everything seems possible.
In 2011 Gamescom became more known in the public eye after a report by German TV station RTL stereotypically portrayed fair visitors as scruffy, sociopathic and smelly. Among other things the visitors were called freaks who don’t date. RTL triggered the biggest complaint wave since its existence. Gamers felt insulted and mocked, since in actuality, Gamescom is attended by all sorts of people. A few days later, the producer publicly apologized via Facebook.
But let’s get back to the topic at hand. At Gamescom, a lot of new games can be directly tested on the spot. The exhibition halls were all well-equipped, big posters, screens and live entertainment everywhere. The downside is this trade fair is packed. There were numerous frustrated people queuing up for hours to try out new games. Often, there is not much to do but take a stroll. It might be a better experience for specialist visitors, game publishers, developers and dealers, who have one day for themselves at the trade fair without regular visitors. Nevertheless it’s really something to remember.