Commentary

GameStart raises its game to world class

Local video game convention creates a buzz with top-tier content in just its second year

The most encouraging sight at GameStart 2015 was not just the hordes of new-fangled games. It was also the surge of gamers that thronged the show, which gave out a buzz I have rarely seen in local video game events.

I saw hundreds waiting in line to get into the convention hall even before the doors opened.

Once inside, lines started to form at the various booths that game publishers and developers had taken up.

At the double-storey Sony PlayStation booth, gamers queued to try out Star Wars: Battlefront, Guitar Hero Live and demos of the upcoming PlayStation VR (PS VR) virtual reality headsets.

Across the hall at the two-storey Blizzard booth, fans hung around to catch a preview of the latest Starcraft expansion, Legacy Of The Void.

Bandai Namco's castle-themed booth was just that, an enclosed chamber where gamers waited in line to play the upcoming Dark Souls 3 and Just Cause 3.

Just behind them, folks waited over an hour in line to try out the Star Wars: Battle Pod arcade machine.

For its second year, over 17,000 gamers from across the region were present. They each paid $12 a day to immerse themselves in the world of games.

Having attended major video game conventions such as E3 in Los Angeles and Tokyo Game Show in the past, the experience at GameStart 2015 left me with the same excitement and wonder.

Where to go first? I found myself asking such questions excitedly at every turn. If I'm in line for Dark Souls 3, will I miss the swag from Blizzard? Should I skip lunch to wait for the PS VR demos? Can I spare 30 minutes to play Super Shinobi II at the Retro DNA booth filled with classic game consoles?

And why isn't anyone at the Red Bull booth handing out the energy drinks? I was thirsty from all the walking.

Yes, there were a few notable absences, including Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo, but the three-day event filled that gap with a bunch of local developers and start-ups. Witching Hour Studios held an impressive showcase for its upcoming Masquerada: Songs And Shadows, and I managed to get a closer look at a new console card game, Arma Gallant Decks Of Destiny, from the local guys at Rock Nano Global.

On the toy front, I saw a new, unfinished statue of Ken, of Street Fighter fame, from local collectible company Kinetiquettes.

I will admit that when GameStart founder Elicia Lee first mentioned her plan to organise a video game convention to me two years ago, I rolled my eyes. After the disappointments of some big-name ones such as Singapore Game Fest, TGX and Game Convention Asia, I resigned myself to not expecting top-tier content in local shows.

Such content is what makes video game fans fly to Tokyo, Taipei and Los Angeles for those annual video game shows.

Local video gamers should be glad that I am not responsible for GameStart, and that Elicia ignored my scepticism to make her sophomore event even bigger and grander this year.

It will probably take five to 10 years of hard work for GameStart to embed itself into the consciousness of Singaporeans, for us to call it a local success story.

But what GameStart has done in just two years has been remarkable. I would call it world class now and credit should be given to an event that has levelled itself up in such a short time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2015, with the headline 'GameStart raises its game to world class Commentary'. Print Edition | Subscribe