Roll out the red carpet, because in July, VideoBrains went to the movies. Okay, we didn’t actually go there, and there was no red carpet, but we did have one fantastic event based all around that theme.

First up, we had Helen Gould with a perhaps controversial opinion: Warcraft, the recent film, was actually pretty great. Coming from the perspective of someone who doesn’t play any of the Warcraft games, Helen defended the film valiantly!

In July, we had to say goodbye to Rob Morgan as our resident speaker, as he gave his final talk in the series on the narrative utility belt of games: An Awfully Big Adventure. Give his talk the respect it deserves by catching up on the rest of the talks in this series in our handy playlist!

There’s an intense and deep lore behind Pop-up Pirate, and through multiple mediums Grant Howitt showed us the complex past of it, and how the dedicated fans pieced together the story like a better version of Dark Souls. There’s a lot going on in Pop-up Pirate.

Martin Hollis, designer behind Goldeneye and other games, took on a challenge at VideoBrains July: take 5 films from the audience and design entirely new, unique games around them. Of course, the audience gave some interesting and challenging films to really test his skill.

Finally, Hannah Dwan rounded off the evening telling us all about Hannibal: not one of the books, or one of the films, but a game from the early 2000s. You probably haven’t heard of it, because it was never released. What happened to Hannibal: The Game?

That’s all for VideoBrains July! Well, almost. We also sold the first edition of the VideoBrains zine that evening! If you’d like to buy your own copy, you can find out how to do so here.

VideoBrains August: Gang Beasts is just around the corner – featuring our next resident speaker Alice Bell, 5 other brilliant speakers, and the second issue of the VideoBrains zine! Find out more on eventbrite.

We’ll be back.

Buy our zines! Be the best!
Put our de-sign to the test
Pay us £5 for this zine, cherie
And we’ll provide the rest.

My temptation to write the entirety of this post to the tune of Be Our Guest is strong, because I don’t even know what I’m doing with VideoBrains anymore. Rad bullshit, mostly. Still, if that’s your jam, we’ve got something new for you. Our zines.

VideoBrains: Zine Edition 1

Why make a zine?

Honestly, I just thought it’d be cool to have something that people who can’t attend VideoBrains can enjoy, but also something that people who can’t talk at VideoBrains can contribute to.

How can I buy one?

Simple really, If you live in the UK click this paypal link, pay what you think the zine is worth (over the minimum £5 for print and postage) and leave your address in the comments. I send them out every Saturday.

If you live abroad you’ve got two options: You can pay us £2 for the PDF and print it yourself, or we can work something out on postage.

I’ve got questions or want to put myself forward to be in the zine

Friend, just email me at Jake@VideoBrains.co.uk. I’ll usually get back to you within a few days. Maybe less. Sometimes much more. You can scream at me on Twitter if I don’t get back to you, it’s the only way I’ll learn.

Our most recent all-day event, and the first of 2016, VideoBrains June was a fantastic event, not only because we had a host of wonderful talks, but also because we got to celebrate Jake Tucker’s birthday! It was a longer, more packed, and cake-filled VideoBrains. But enough of that: there’s a whopping 10 talks to show to you!

In order to go get herself a tattoo straight after (and then return to VideoBrains, because bruised skin won’t stop her), Alice Bell started off VideoBrains June, with Dark Souls Is Bad And You Should Feel Bad. Don’t @ her.

Giving his penultimate talk as resident speaker (aww), Rob Morgan showed of episode 5 of his Narrative Utility Belt, this month focusing on diegesis, the antonym of his second talk in this series! We also had a big announcement: who will succeed Rob as our resident speaker. Drumroll please!

Alice Bell, VideoBrains veteran, will start a residency at VideoBrains in August, with an as-yet-unannounced theme. Look forward to that!

Games, as of late, have done their best to record and tackle some of the more difficult topics in our modern world. Thomas McMullan asked the question of whether there’s a useful intersection between games and documentary, and how they can influence one another.

For the first time ever, we had a fully drawn talk at VideoBrains June! Hana Lee discussed How We Become Our Own Characters, and how sometimes it’s easiest to empathise with the characters that don’t have faces, the ones we make ourselves, especially if you belong to a minority games don’t typically represent.

If you’re a fan of Doom and its modding scene, there’s a good chance you’ll have heard of Matt Tropiano. He’s been making maps for Doom for the last twenty years, and has learnt a lot about making a good map and how Doom works in the process. That wasn’t the most important thing, though, instead that was what making mods taught him as a creator.

Gaming communities are incredibly important to many people, as ways to talk with like-minded people in a world where it can be hard to do so for a number of reasons. Natalie Clayton showed why it was doubly important for her – and many other trans people – to be a part of a community in World of Warcraft.

Tom Hatfield likes barbies. Not the Barbie Girl, living in a Barbie world kind, but the grimdark space barbie kind. He loves Warhammer 40K, the game all about little figurines killing each other on the whims of omnipotent dice-wielding gods. And he’s proud of it.

Sometimes it feels like you should keep your creative projects – your babies that need to be protected and cared for – private until they’re perfect, ready for the world to see. Olivia Wood argued that, no, they shouldn’t, and it’s often good to show someone your project, even if you know it’s not done.

Are you bad at games? Meg Jayanth knows the feeling of being bad at games. But the thing is: that’s perfectly okay, and sometimes it’s really a good thing. Lots of us are bad at games, and that really, really, doesn’t matter. (See also: Alice’s talk from the start of VideoBrains June!)

Cassandra Khaw is smart in a lot of areas, and one of those is the speculative fiction community. While it’s certainly not a perfect area, there’s lots that games and gaming can learn from it, from how small groups of fans are worthwhile to how you should never discredit a game for being in a certain genre.

That wraps up the VideoBrains June Epilogue! There’s a lot to watch and hopefully it should tide you over until VideoBrains July: The Movies on July 26th. Hopefully we’ll see some of you there!

Ever just not finished a project, or perhaps you’ve got something on the go right now, or maybe it’s still swirling around your head as a wonderful idea? That was the theme of VideoBrains May: Prototype, all those unfinished or unreleased little works we haven’t finished yet or just haven’t got around to making perfect. Well, and there was a talk on folklore and the genitals of yokai. Average VideoBrains really.

Siobhan Gibson was our first speaker, and spoke how just how she started making games, from the most basic proofs of concept to where she is nowadays. One of the reasons she gave it a shot was just to see if Twine really was as easy as people said it was: it is.

There was also some homework given! Siobhan wanted people to just make something simple using Flickgame, and Alex Facey did exactly that! He made a short Twin Peaks game, which you can play right here. If you’re inspired to make something yourself, please send it our way!

This was followed up by Andrew Armstrong, who looked at architecture in games, and how the relationship between the places we live, visit, and grow up in can influence us. It’s a talk that would be right at home alongside our previous resident speaker Hannah Nicklin’s series!

It wasn’t just Rob Morgan’s fourth talk as our resident speaker, but we also celebrated his birthday at VideoBrains May! It might be a little late to wish him a belated happy birthday, but we won’t stop you.

His topic for May was The Pathetic Fallacy, and included supposedly awkward eye contact (which VideoBrains attendees seemed to love). He also had a wonderful jacket this month.

Thryn Henderson brought us back to VideoBrains May’s theme with her talk This World Is ____, a look into unfinished (but not, necessarily, incomplete) games that people showed her. Art is never finished, only abandoned, but sometimes the unfinished works can be just as enjoyable as the ones deemed ‘complete’.

https://twitter.com/seanFsmith/status/735190594176323584

Cloud-based computing, not quite OnLive, but the idea that games can use a cloud-based network of computers to do all the taxing stuff for you in a game. That was the topic of Will Overgard’s talk, which even included a little audience interaction, with a joyously optimistic view of the possibilities in the future of cloud-based computing.

Finally, Alex Davis took to the stage, with a perhaps rather NSFW talk on folklore. Sounds innocent: did you know tanuki have mahoossive scrotums? Or that kappa (not the Twitch emote, please) like to steal your soul from where the sun don’t shine? Didn’t think so.

Certainly a unique array of talks. That’s the joy of VideoBrains, eh?

VideoBrains June has been and gone, but VideoBrains July: The Movies tickets are now available! It features Helen Gould, Alex Hern, Darren Daley, Hannah Dwan, Martin Hollis, and Rob Morgan’s final talk as resident speaker (aww). Don’t worry, though because we’ve announced our next resident speaker: the fantastic, the inimitable, the creator of Chekov’s Penis, Alice Bell! She’ll be joining us as resident speaker in August.

We’d love it if you brought a friend along to VideoBrains, and Endlife Studios have made a great video to show off just how great VideoBrains is. Show us to your friends! With this, we bid you adieu (at least, until the next Epilogue…)

RUNANDTELLTHAT

VideoBrains is a challenge to run, what with organising venues and speakers each month, as well as setting up the website’s updates, social media, YouTube, and so on. As we’re constantly improving things – both behind the scenes and publicly – it gets harder and harder to keep up! That’s why we’re looking for a helping hand going forward with VideoBrains.

This is the job I (Hannah Dwan, in case you didn’t read who wrote this!) used to do in fact, though I’m now the Community Manager for VideoBrains. It’s been great for me: I’ve met new people at every VideoBrains, gotten to know the rest of the absolutely wonderful VideoBrains team, and got experience in the running of events. It’s been incredibly fulfilling, and now the baton – or at least, the parts of it I’m not still clinging onto – could be passed down to you.

Something important to start with: VideoBrains is currently entirely run by volunteers, and, while we’re working on changing that, it will remain a volunteer position for the foreseeable future. We don’t want anyone losing out on paid work they need just for VideoBrains, so please be aware of this!

What would you be doing? Your main responsibilities would be:

  • Managing, updating, and tagging our video database
  • Replying to general query emails and tweets
  • Content uploading/publishing for our website and social media
  • General admin tasks as required

It would be preferable that you live in London, although if you’re somewhere else in the UK we might be able to work something out as long as you’re happy to come into London every so often for events. We can help with travel costs there. Don’t feel like your location means you shouldn’t apply, though: we’d still love to hear from you.

Otherwise, the only requirement is a lot of enthusiasm for VideoBrains. We don’t expect you to have seen every single VideoBrains talk or been to every event, but knowing the sort of attitude we have, both on social media and in-person, is a necessity.

To apply, send a couple of paragraphs about yourself and why you’d be great for this, as well as what your favourite VideoBrains talk is, to jake@videobrains.co.uk. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to send us a message on Twitter or email us at the same address.

It’s that time again, for the final page in the book of VideoBrains April: The Swapper to be read, the Epilogue. This is where you can either relive the event or pretend you were there, complete with videos and some of the best tweets about the event. What more could you want?

We had our resident speaker Rob Morgan open up with this third talk in a series where he puts names to tropes and clichés in games we know but can’t quite describe. One of the focuses was Chekhov’s Sidequest, the item, area, or person you know is coming up later one in the game because of their introduction in act one.

Olivia Wood, editor at Failbetter Games, took to the stage to talk about sex in games. Good sex, bad sex, and a little bit inbetween. At Failbetter Games, every scene aims to be as inclusive as possible, regardless of gender identity, orientation, or genitals. That was a challenge, as was asking her mother about the grammar of a sex scene.

To debunk the relatable everyman (alternate talk title: “Yes, I’m Talking About Representation Again, Fight Me!”, Helen Gould came up to the stage, discussing how so many of the protagonists in the game we love are white men. In fact, not just a lot of them: almost all of them.

Did you know that James Parker really “gets it” with regards to the Call of Duty franchise? At least, that’s what commenter on The Guardian once said. His talk wasn’t entirely about that, though, and instead moved on to talk about the communities that build up around games, and how creators can, should, and shouldn’t talk to their fans.

Are you an action dude? A hulking mass of muscle that survives off chewing cigars and grunting? Are you a brotagonist? Chances are, you’re not. That means it’s hard to relate to the many brotagonists that fill many games. Thryn Henderson walked us through the ways we can relate to these characters, primarily through just punching things.

To finish off VideoBrains April, Sean Cleaver spoke about getting older. Specifically, getting older and losing touch with the gaming he once knew. People grow up, and the way we play games changes. That’s both a good and a bad thing, but I’d say it’s good because if we stayed the same we’d all end up like Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock.

That wraps up VideoBrains April: The Swapper! We’ve got good news though. VideoBrains May: Prototype tickets are now available. We’re trying out a new location this month, so if Stratford is a better location for you, come along!

On top of that, our next all-day extravaganza is going to be in June, and tickets will go on sale on Monday! Our all day events typically sell out pretty fast, so get in quickly.

In case you want to support VideoBrains further and on into the future, we have a Patreon that you should check out.

We’ll be seeing you at VideoBrains May very soon!

It’s that time again where those of you who couldn’t come along to the last VideoBrains, or just want to experience it all over again, get to experience the talks – and some of the best tweets – in all their glory. We had the theme of Uncharted this month – inspiring our speakers to talk about the places they’ve been, both in games and on this big ol’ planet.

We started off with Nicholas Rush, who told the unique stories he has about his time as a tour guide in Chernobyl. Some games have used the structures and areas in the exclusion zone as inspiration, with S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl being one of the most famous examples. It has been used so much that some people who visited actually recognised and could navigate the area. It’s common to recognise places in games set somewhere you live, but seeing the reverse is uncanny.

It has been over 2 decades since a new episode of The Crystal Maze has graced our screens, but that hasn’t stopped a new Escape Game being set up in London set to the theme of the greatest of game shows. Luke Graham has played it, and found some interesting parallels (and differences!) between it, as a game in real life, and the videogames we play.

In his second talk as a resident speaker here at VideoBrains, Rob Morgan continued his series on the narrative utility belt of videogames, where he puts names and hashtags to the moments and devices in games we all recognise. This month focused gaming’s own usage of mimesis, dubbed me-me-mesis by Rob.

Open worlds can be fantastic lands to explore, or they can be a vast expanse of nothing that simply act as a link between points A, B, and C. Emma Boyle spoke about how these open worlds, and her love-hate relationship with them, especially with fast travelling.

There’s a big difference between how we move around spaces in real life and in games, and if you play games enough, you realise how the different rules work in games. Some games, though, don’t work in the way you’d think a game would, Alice Bell argues, and it’s sometimes hard to know how the places in games actually work as the rules between game worlds and real ones can blur together.

To finish off the evening, Thomas McMullan spoke about The Untameable City, and the ways games create metropolises that emulate the impossibly complex systems of the cities we get to play in. He closed out in a poetic fashion, with the wonderful poem The Seven Old Men, by Charles Baudelaire, ending VideoBrains March in a lovely manner!

Fear not, though, as VideoBrains April: The Swapper is just days away! Featuring James Parker, Helen Gould, Thryn Henderson, Sean Cleaver, Olivia Wood, and our resident speaker Rob Morgan, it will be fantastic. Get your tickets now!

In case you’d like to support us a little extra, our Patreon is the place to be, and we appreciate all the support you give us.

We’ll be seeing you at VideoBrains April!

It’s that time again, VideoBrains fans: as the year rolls forward we’re ready to open our metaphorical doors, and welcome the torrents of talk pitches that will carry us through to December. You want themes? Oh, we’ve got themes. We think you’ll love them too.

The themes for the remainder of 2016 are:

July: The Movies – Films, Film Games, Game-y films. Fames. Gilms.

August: Gang Beasts – Friendships, bonds, communities and co-op.

September: Black and White – Morality, binaries, good and evil.

October: Alone In The Dark – Atmosphere, shadows, horror and the spooky stuff. The Dark.

November: Running With Rifles – Guns and the games wot make you use ’em.

December: ChristmasBrains 3 – All Day All Night.

Got that? Good.

Ready, set, pitch.


Okay! Wait, how do I pitch?

To pitch your talk, send us a couple of sentences that give a sense of the topic you’ll be covering and the way you’ll be exploring it. We might ask you a few questions to really get a feel for the talk, so be prepared.

We’re not looking exclusively for games industry professionals either – VideoBrains is all about creating diverse, inclusive conversation from all points of view and backgrounds. If you have something interesting to say, we want to hear it!

Email your pitches to 
Jake@VideoBrains.co.uk with “VideoBrains Pitch [Month]” as the topic.

What then?

We’ll let you know when we’ve received your pitch, and if we think it fits well with any of the themes. If your pitch is accepted we’ll check in with you a month before your scheduled event to make sure you’re still on board (and remind you to start preparing). A week before the event you’ll get another email asking for your presentation and any other resources you’ll need, as well as a bunch of reminders about how the event runs.

But will VideoBrains care about me?

As if we were caring for a baby bird. Although we’re a growing crowdfunded event and can’t pay speakers, we are happy to discuss your travel costs (within the UK). We also record and publish all of your talks online for – your use after the event and ensuring you reach both our online and offline audiences. We run a zero tolerance safer space policy to ensure our speakers and audience are comfortable attending all our events, and are always available to help you with any of your concerns – either email us, tweet at us, or catch us in person at the events.

We look forward to hearing from you.

With the theme of Mount Your Friends, the party game where players create a totem pole of skimpy muscular men, VideoBrains February had talks about sex, in all its glory. Well, some of the games mentioned are certainly not glorious.

Due to the content, you probably don’t want to play these talks out loud in your office. You have been warned!

We started off with Dr. Ashley Brown, and her talk Good Sex, Bad Player. Everyone has their own personal desires with sex, but the best kind is when it’s playful, when it’s two consenting adults just having fun. She’s done research on this, and how adult gamers play together, and spoke about how the relationship between what players want and what games can offer is awkward.

You can’t always get what you want in games. Unless, of course, you’re a AAA protagonist, in which case the world falls at your feet. By using Wario as “the mirror to which we hold up all of humanity”, Benjamin Maltz-Jones looked at how some games let you be a bit of an arse, but still give you exactly what you want, even if you might not deserve it.

Starting his series as resident speaker, Rob Morgan introduced new terms for us to define those moments in games that many of us recognise but can’t quite easily describe, in beautiful hashtag form for you all to use in your day-to-day Twittering. This is just the first of six talks – we’ll have a whole lexicon eventually!

Couples in games are weird. They’re goals or the result of two characters being locked together during a world-shattering event. Established couples, though, are rare, despite being a key part of, well, human relationships. Lucie Prunier looked at some of the good examples of the happy balanced couples that aren’t the Prince who saved the Princess or something similar, but just two people who love each other.

Sex in entertainment isn’t limited to videogames, but has been the subject of many a board game in the past. James Wallis ran through some of the highs and depraved lows of board games that tackled sex. When he says not to Google one of the games – he does mean it. Not a good idea.

This talk has even inspired some VideoBrains-goers to buy one of the games mentioned, The Beast! Alice Bell, who followed James in speaking at this very event, has already got her copy!

To finish the night, Alice took a look at how Sex in Games is Fucked Screwed. Similarly to how some of the board games James Wallis mentioned in his previous talk just don’t quite get it, neither do many, many videogames, or the people that use them as a basis for some interesting results. Oh, and there’s apparently a lot of porn parody puns for videogames.

That’s it for VideoBrains February: Mount Your Friends, if you’d like to watch those videos back-to-back, we’ve set up a lovely playlist for your viewing pleasure! 

If you want to support VideoBrains, please consider telling your friends about us (although, you might not want to show some of these talks to some friends, I imagine) or supporting us on Patreon! VideoBrains March has already been and gone, but we’ll have information about VideoBrains April coming very, very soon.

It’s been far too long, and finally, we’re happy to say, the videos from VideoBrains September and October are out! Without any more of a wait, let’s get right down to it.

VideoBrains September: Spy Party

September was a special month for VideoBrains, it marked the event’s first birthday! A year later, and 15 VideoBrains (VideoBrainses? Jake doesn’t really know himself) on, the event is very much alive and kicking, with a full house too! To celebrate, the kind people at Rocket Jump Events sponsored the bar, even. They’ll be doing more in 2016, so keep an eye out if you’re looking for more games industry-focused events.

There was even a cake for Jake (and the event), too!

This month had the theme of Spy Party, all about murder, stealth, betrayals, and questionable morality. All those things that make up a good Bond movie. Or a bad one. Maybe we should have had a murder mystery going on…

Tom Hatfield started us off, with his talk ‘Deception, Betrayal and Horror in Co-op’, a look at how horror doesn’t have to be about loneliness within darkness. Making example of his time in the mostly unknown System Shock 2 multiplayer as well as in the co-op of Dead Space 3. Despite how you can joke around with friends and feel safe, a few touches can make group horror really work.

Resident speaker Hannah Nicklin took to the stage following Tom, in her fourth talk on the psychogeography of games. This month, she spoke about her time walking across a very wet London with George Buckenham, talking about everything from Brutalism in London housing to the optimal way to get over a very large puddle without getting wet. Set to a background of rain, thunder, and music made by Hannah in Panoramical, which George had a part in making, the talk combined thoughts on process and ideas on community and solidarity. As always, you can read an adapted form of her talk over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun. If you’d like to take a look at what George has made, you can take a look over on his site!

Did you know there was a Thief 4 in the works? Not the 2014 game, either, Joe Martin doesn’t like to talk about that one very much. He’s been digging deep into archives for his talk ‘They Stole Thief 4 From Me’, and doing some detective work in search of elusive information on a fourth Thief game, titled Thief 4 – Dagger of Ways. Moving into a modern world, and to be developed the same team as the predecessors, Ion Storm, he eventually managed to get ahold of a design document, detailing what the team aimed to do. As history will tell you, the game never got made, and if Joe hadn’t managed to find this document, it could have been lost to the ages. If this is what Joe found, what other unknown concepts have been lost in locked or hidden annals of history?

Joe has kindly offered to send anyone interested a copy of the design document, so if you’d like to go through it yourself, send him a tweet at @JoeThreepwood!

Morality in games is a tricky issue, and presents some interesting dilemmas for the player. It becomes even more complex, when you get something really awesome for being a rude person. By rude, I mean murdering characters in your game. Helen Gould, with ‘Hands to yourself, sneak thief: bad morality in RPGs’, discussed her time in Skyrim, facing the challenging questions of “Is this armour worth murdering a lot of people?” and “Oh gosh, I murdered people for a mace with a skull that stares into my soul, why did I do this?” in the world of Tamriel. Also, there was a bit of a debate on the pronunciation of scone, in person and on Twitter.

To finish the evening along the theme of Spy Party, Edward Burton took on a personal gripe with stealth games: the implementation of a score. In games like Mark of the Ninja and Hitman: Absolution, a score can be detrimental to the core ideas of many stealth games. Being able to make your own plans and go through each mission your way is key, and having one set path that will give the most points can be detract from this.

VideoBrains October: Dungeon Keeper

Boss battles can be fantastic climaxes, or dreadfully tedious affairs that sour your experience of a game. Zoë Williamson looked at some of the best and worst, for a multitude of reasons, as well as gave some explanations for why certain boss battles just suck.

The fear of the unknown, of the vast expansive void our world fills, and of the possibily of greater beings than ourselves are what underline much of H.P. Lovecraft’s horror, and lots of games get that wrong. Tom Battey took at look at how Hidetaka Miyazaki – famous for being the director on Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne – does get it right.

It’s sometimes fun to play the villain, to get a bit evil, to cause a bit of chaos, and, as the recent popularity of Deadpool has shown, antiheroes are pretty cool too. But Sean Cleaver took a look at antiheroes, and perhaps they’re not all we think they are in definition.

In her fifth talk on the Psychogeography of Games, Hannah Nicklin spoke of her time with Ed Key (the one-man-band of Twisted Tree Games) in Cumbria, and how it has influenced how he works as a developer. If you want to read up on Ed Key’s work, you can do so on the Twisted Tree Games website. For the text version of this talk, click here for it over on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

With a bit of classical literature , Daniel Nye Griffiths took a look at how games represent death. Or rather, how they take some very different perspectives on death – such as the eponymous ‘protagonist’ from Dante’s Inferno just killing everyone.

Rounding out VideoBrains October was Alice Bell, on why she just hates children in games. To her, there’s a negative correlation between how good a game is and how many children there are. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they’ll just drag you down.

Phew! We’re really happy to get these talks out to you, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed them all! Our next event is in just 1 week, and tickets are running out, so get yours before it’s too late! VideoBrains February: Mount Your Friends features Cara Ellison, Ashley Brown, Alice Bell, James Wallis, Benjamin Maltz-Jones and Rob Morgan, so come on down for talks like “Sex in Games is Fucked” and “Sex in a Box”! What could be better?

If you want to support us even more and just make us love you, you can you support us through our Patreon page too!