Two5Six 2014

Posted on May 22, 2014 by

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Another year, another Two5Six. This was only the second one ever but hey, here’s to many more!

For those unfamiliar, Two5Six is a one-day conference hosted by Killscreen- a video game arts and culture company. As opposed to a convention such as PAX, Two5Six has no show floor; no one is showing off their games or selling any products. Instead of people waiting in line to play a bunch of games, there’s a schedule full of talks with speakers from the games industry and other related artistic fields. There are¬†also significantly fewer people in attendance, making it a much more personal, almost conversational, event.

The day was filled with lively panels covering topics that ranged from emotional feedback in games to the power of the human voice.

The first panel, Stories in Sound, featured Johanna Zorn of the Third Coast International Audio Festival and Patrick Balthrop, the lead sound designer on the Bioshock series. From it, we learned that nearly every sound in a production has to be manufactured, whether it’s a video game or a radio show – from otherworldly creatures to something as simple as horses galloping. How do you make the city of Rapture sound as if it is believably coming apart at the seams? By getting your foley equipment, finding an abandoned factory, and just going to town pulling levers and pushing buttons on old machinery, apparently.

JP: In Designing for a Lifetime, focused on Tarn and Zach Adams, the co-creative brothers behind Dwarf Fortress, we got to see a glimpse of a hardy, archaic form of nerdery. In the “indie scene,” where every convention is being torn down and rebuilt from the ground up(it’s a… a match-3 puzzler about why we play games!), these two stuck out like sore thumbs. They weren’t sharply dressed, they probably wouldn’t label themselves makers, they weren’t there to network with the editors of a hip, hacking zine or anything like that. Tarn and Zach Adams were old-fashioned nerds in the best, almost historical, of ways. The way they talked about¬†Dwarf Fortress didn’t feel like they were trying to force quotes out about the game that might gain traction on Twitter and draw people in – they were just explaining what they made and it was clear that their love for this game went beyond just a hobbyist’s enthusiasm(they plan to work on it for the next 30 years at least). They would have gotten along with Gary Gygax very well – both have(or, had) an earthy, quietly energetic creativity that you don’t find in people who are just trying to “break in” to game making.

Compared to last year’s Two5Six, there were a few changes made. The obvious change was the venue, which was definitely an improvement as it felt more “proper” with a real stage. Another change was the addition of gourmet donuts which we were big fans of (seriously though, they were amazing).

There were also a few areas that need improvement for next year, namely the match-ups of speakers for each panel. Thankfully this was rare, but at times it felt like certain panels were just two completely separate interviews happening at the same time as opposed to the rich dialogues they were supposed to be. Some pairings were peanut butter and chocolate, while others, regrettably, felt like peanut butter and… just not chocolate, essentially. Regardless of the occasional mismatching, JP and I are definitely glad we went and look forward to doing it again next year!


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