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An alternative games conference

Why London's World of Love offers a refreshing change

London is increasingly home to a bubbling hive of gaming micro-conferences, with each new week seeming to offering a new Twitter hashtag acronym accompanied by a torrent of snappy speaker soundbites.

While always interesting and invaluable for brainstorming and networking, the sometime trouble with these conferences is the regular repetition of the same ideas and arguments. Someone argues free gaming is the future, someone else argues it isn't, someone offers a barrage of social graph statistics which prove they're number one, someone else offers a different clutch of numbers suggesting that in fact they're king of the hill...

It is, as it should be, always about the business of games, but sometimes the 'games' element can get lost amidst the noise of chest-thumping and money-counting.

Last Friday's World of Love was very much the other side of the coin. Centred around indie developers, it's a celebration of a sub-industry: a sphere where everyone's making at least some money but without playing by gaming's traditional rules.

Despite the title, it isn't some dew-eyed art-commune, but instead a good-natured discussion of how ideas and enthusiasm can translate to a decent living. Around 200 people, predominantly developers, turned up to the Mudlark-hosted event, and a fair few more to the post-conference networking drinks.

If a few of those over-familiar concepts - free to play, Facebook, microtransactions, the App Store - came up, they did not do so at the expense of discussing why making videogames is in and of itself a good thing. Craft, collaboration and the strange discipline necessary to work from home on your own projects proved major talking points, with one of the most reiterated themes of the day covering the danger of losing perspective of your project when you're the only arbiter of its quality.

Following an observation by studio Honeyslug that a good cop/bad copy mentality had proved helpful in keeping its upcoming title Hohokum on track, multiple developers agreed upon the importance of someone urging that their colleagues remain realistic - both in terms of how plausible game features were, and to not stray too far from commercialism.

The conference perhaps strayed a little too far into the esoteric at times, presenting an occasionally uneven balance between development realities, technical tips and dreamy creative altruism. Though there was some awareness of the dangers of the latter, with Robert 'Oddbob' Fearon at one point openly worrying he'd come across a little too much like Jane McGonigal.

Nonetheless, with an audience full of many of UK indie development's leading lights and a stage that also saw impassioned explorations into how Facebook and free to play gaming could be reconciled with creative integrity, this second year of World of Love suggests it's well on course to becoming a vital interface between big ideas and big business.

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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