VideoBrains updates!

Sure, it’s been a long time since I’ve written one of these, but I’ve got good news so let’s focus on that shall we?

New Resident Speaker: Grant Howitt

Alice is leaving us as resident speaker in February, leaving behind a legacy of talks with the word fuck in them, several hidden penises, and an appreciation for Bioware games that I’m afraid I just can’t share in good conscience.

Taking over the role from March will be Grant Howitt. I made him write us a bio.

Grant Howitt is a games designer who lives and works in London. He’s written a few successful roleplaying games (Goblin Quest, Unbound, the new edition of Paranoia) and some less successful roleplaying games (Drunken Bear Fighter, Doctor Magnethands, Hey Kids: Let’s All Meet The Gin Wizard), as well as running live events, writing story content for Zombies, Run! and spearheading the weirdly under-subscribed Gonzo Tech Journalism movement. In a previous life he was a games journalist and he’s been mildly obsessed with all sorts of games ever since his parents made the mistake of buying him a Mega Drive when he was seven years old.

If that doesn’t excite you, I don’t know what will, except perhaps the details of his residency.

STUPID GAMES, CLEVER MECHANICS or BETTER LIVING THROUGH VIOLENCE

Big stupid games about blowing things up form the cornerstone of our industry. But what can we learn from the mechanics behind them, masked as they are by the cavalcade of explosions and gunfire? Over the next six months, Grant will be pulling a single ingenious mechanic from a AAA action title and examining it in detail each session, seeing what sort of impact it’s had on games as a whole, where we can take it in the future, and why it feels the way it feels.

New information

We’ve been around for a couple of years now, and we’ve finally acquired enough equipment and experimented enough to hit the point where we’re “sustainable”, which is great. Anyway, it’s time to start paying speakers, which means that from this month — February — all speakers will be paid £30.

This has taken us ages to work out, because we previously have paid for speakers travel, but I think the general plan is that we’ll pay £30, and if your travel costs more than £30 then we’ll reimburse that instead.

This is “the start” of paying people in my mind, and we’re looking to eventually increase this to £50 if we increase our audience. That seems a fair price for the half-day it usually takes to put a VideoBrains talk together and is in-line with what several nearby universities pay for lectures.
Luckily, it also happens to be roughly what we can afford. Some rough napkin maths that we worked out and then checked repeatedly to settle on 30 as our initial figure: We sell around 35 tickets per event, with 10 selling for five pounds each and the rest at 7.50 Generally we’ll get somewhere in the margin of £250 a month from the event, but have to pay £100 from this for editing services, which could be increasing shortly as we aim to do more with video. We divided what’s left by 6, and came up with £25, but £30 feels like a better number, so we’ll agree to pay £30 and make up the shortfall from Patreon. In the meantime, what’s coming in via the Patreon will be used to upgrade equipment and let us try out new ideas.

Hell, if the pound gets any weaker we’ll use the Patreon dollars to be a mansion and you guys can all come and stay in it. We can hope, right?

Anyway, that’s us. Tickets are on sale and we’ve got some December videos for you, too.

VideoBrains Needs YOU

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.

Changing of the Guard

So, we’re changing resident speakers in May when Christos reaches the end of his six month tenure as resident speaker. I’d like to give some background on this choice, but first a few words from the man himself.

When Jake approached me late last year and asked me to be the resident speaker at VideoBrains, I couldn’t say no – it was the sort of position I’d treasure, because it allowed me to feel like I was a consistent voice at an event full of a variety of speakers.

Over the course of the last several months, I’ve done resident talks on love, chores, my life, my passions, and the response from the regulars and new attendees has always been nothing short of wonderful. I’ve been moved to near tears multiple times by the loving reception I’ve been given.

I’m also not the only one – the great thing about VideoBrains is how accessible it is for new speakers. I came in with experience, but people who have never given a talk before have stood up and made us laugh, think, and cry. I myself had the proud moment of watching a student I’d encouraged to pitch a talk deliver it to the VideoBrains audience, and that moment was a powerful demonstration of what reaching out to the community’s unheard voices can do.

VideoBrains has grown while I’ve been speaking here, and as we’ve gone from event to event, one thing became clear to Jake and I – the position of resident speaker couldn’t be a permanent thing. So, in May, I will be giving my final talk as resident speaker of VideoBrains, and will return to pitching talks normally.

We’re both looking forward to the new resident speaker’s work – they were carefully discussed, and come with the strong recommendations of both Jake and myself, and I wish them all the best. I’ve seen them talk myself, and I can testify to the power of their work.

So, thank you, VideoBrains. You’ve made me a very happy individual, and I look forward to guilt-tripping Jake into giving me a half-hour slot in May to give my position a full-on finale. If I get given fifteen minutes, please submit many long emails on my behalf on his heartless but responsible timekeeping.

See you at the next one!

-Internet Superstar Christos “Failnaut” Reid 

In all honesty, I thought about whether or not I should or even could replace Christos at the end of his six month run. We get around 500% more pitches now then for the first couple of events and my needs as an organiser have changed – instead of six individual talks, wouldn’t it be better to give six different people a chance to share their views?

The solution was a project that was going to use these six months to create something really interesting, to take risks. It was also important that whatever I choose to do moving forwards, they had to be from an entirely different background to Christos – it feels reductive to  distill him to just a stereotype because I’ve found him to be one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met at times, but the next person couldn’t be a twenty something male games developer because god knows I get enough of those pitches already. 

So, I had a very strong idea of what I wanted, and I started making quiet enquiries, when one name started to pop up again and again, often in reverent tones. I don’t believe in fate, but shortly after announcing I was accepting pitches for the Nottingham VideoBrains, they popped up directly into my inbox. In typical Jake fashion I bluntly explained the situation, and we met up to discuss a project that might work. We’re both equally excited to be bringing this to you guys, so without further drama, I’ll let our incoming resident speaker Hannah Nicklin explain:

Image courtesy of Pippa and Gamecity

Image courtesy of Pippa and Gamecity

“I am totally excited to get the chance to develop a series of talks as part of Video Brains. I’m interested in doing something new and interesting for me, as well as for the VB audience, and have a really exciting starting point in mind: a psychogeography of games. Psychogeography is a really chewy word for how our environments make us feel; how they effect us. I’m interested in how where we come from affects what we make – so what I’m going to do is spend time with great people who make games walking in a place that is where they live, work, or is important to them. We’ll walk, chat, take photos and video, and each month I’ll make a new talk in response to that interview – that might be a piece of spoken word, a performance of some kind, or just a guide to what we talked about, or something I haven’t thought of yet. Each month’s talk will respond entirely to the experience of walking with game designers. I’m really excited about it!”

You can also support the process – which will be around 4 days a month via my Patreon https://www.patreon.com/hannahnicklin where you’ll be able to see all of the interview details and more photos and video and audio and lots of stuff

-Hannah Nicklin

Hannah’s also written a blog about her “appointment” of sorts, which you should glance over here because it’s great stuff. I have taken the liberty of pulling a few sentences on what she’s planning for here, upsetting making the formatting of the quotes a little confusing.

As it’s not just a one off talk, but 6 months as resident speaker, I have the opportunity to try out something a bit inventive. So I’m picking a theme of my own!  Starting in June I’m going to do a monthly series of talks on the psychogeography of games.

If you’ve not come across it before, psychogeography  (which my autocorrect has learnt 3 different spellings of, well done me.) is a really chewy word for how our environments make us feel; how they effect us. I’m interested in how where we come from affects what we make – so what I’m going to do is spend time with great people who make games walking in a place that is where they live, work, or is otherwise important to them.

Each month I’ll make a new performance/talk/thing in response to that experience. Each month’s thing will respond entirely to the experience of walking with game designers.

– Hannah Nicklin

There’s more information on Hannah on our About Us page, but her piece Where Games Break is beautiful and worth your time. Hannah will be talking at VideoBrains starting with our all day event in June, and talks will run through to December so I hope you’ll join me in giving her a warm welcome to the VideoBrains community, and showing your appreciation for Christos as we come to the end of his run (and the 15 minute talk he has planning for May. 15 minutes.)