On the morning of May 10, we all gathered for the very first time. Unlike what many had prophesied, this did not bring about the end of the world. No, this Tuesday morning turned out to be quite benevolent. The six of us met at Malmö train station right next to the statue of the knotted gun, which incidentally did no longer exist.
“Good,” said Thomas, “would have been too easy to find if we were able to follow our directions.”
Thomas and Jens are the founders of Frictional Games. They make an interesting and effective pair. Thomas is a force of nature hauling us off to adventure, while Jens is the more reserved type who dryly states that we’re going the wrong way. Together they manage to keep us moving on the right track.
I had already met them both before and along with Marcus and Luis, who I had met on the trip to Seattle, there was only one man left.
Marc turned out to be a cheerful man with subtle gestures. His eyebrows bounced as a silent hello.
“I guess we are all here.”
That innocuous Tuesday might seem arbitrary, but there was a reason for us to meet in Malmö that day. The city hosted the Nordic Game Conference and we were to attend and hopefully receive some love from the press and our fellow game developers.
“This is going to be fun. And the award ceremony is going to be exiting!”
“Right, about that. We were not nominated for anything,” informed Jens.
“Not a single nomination? From the very people who even helped to fund Amnesia.”
“We got a free booth to display our game.”
“Better than nothing?”
“Not really, now we have booth to attend to.”
We were there to attend the conference, to hang out, and get to know each other. We really didn’t have anything new to show, which kind of explains why our booth was grossly understaffed and consisted of one computer running Amnesia with a t-shirt strung up above it.
The conference took a slow and smooth start as we really didn’t have anything to attend except a minor exposé of games including some casual drinking. That is why we first headed off in a completely different direction and ended up visiting the “House of Science and Maritime History”, a museum filled with old machines and oddities. Having filled our heads with interesting factoids, it was about time we burned a few braincells with a bit of reckless driving at the go-cart circuit. Marcus stumped us all with his motor skills, leaving us convinced he must have had a lot of practice. Being from the northern wastes, it only seems reasonable he would have to drive fast to get away from polar bears and Santa.
Wednesday was the day that the conference really got going. Ed Fries, a game making legend from Microsoft, launched the day with a great keynote speech about creativity and constraints. Afterwards we all split up and to attend the lectures we found most interesting, only to meet up by the Street Fighter arcade machine during the breaks, to kick ass, chew pastries, and drink coffee.
During the evening the main gala was held to announce the winners of all the awards. Knowing well we hadn’t been nominated, we chowed down on the delicious food we were served. That’s when we suddenly noticed that they were playing a Amnesia-trailer on the big screen.
“We won... something!”
“Wait, what? Did we?
No, we didn’t, at least I don’t think we did, but we were called on stage to take a bow in a nice lifetime-achievement sort of way.
The next day when all the hoopla had settled, we were greeted, by strangers and friends.
“Congratulations on the award!”
“Thanks, we didn’t get one.”
“Sure you did, you were on the stage and everything. Must have been some kind of award.”
To this day we don’t really know what that was, but it was interesting mixed with a hint of awkward.
Thursday passed with even more lectures and Street Fighting. As a final farewell, all the participants gathered in the large hall to play a game. Not the digital kind, well almost, indirectly if you will. The moderator pulled up two game titles and a statement. Then two people from the audience got to argue which game fitted the statement. The first bout? Amnesia v.s. Bioshock – Which one is more disturbing.
The first thing that ran through my head was; what if I was picked to defend Amnesia, that would be embarrassing. Then it struck me. What if I decided to defend Bioshock! It was not like anyone really recognized me as the writer. That would be hilarious, to talk smack about our own game, what if I won that argument? I was laughing inside already.
Even though I now and then get some clever ideas, I tend to be slow. When I went to raise my hand, it was already too late. Two contestants had begun to argue what was more disturbing already. Pride and shame mixed as they argued their sides, but it turned to a heartwarming experience as the crowd favored Amnesia. Hell yeah, we made a disturbing game.
If you want to slow down, just crash into something.
On Friday there was no conference, it had ended on Thursday. However, there was more to be done. Luis and Marcus, the two people who actually had to fly in to be able to attend, had one more day to spend. Jens and Thomas invited us to come to Helsingborg, where they and Frictional Games officially reside.
Since there was no office to visit, we headed out into the city. To do so in style, we jumped on Segways and rode around. It was tremendous fun and we got to see the surrounding nature in a pleasant way. Some even got to see the dirt road, up close, as they came crashing down. That’s right, no less than Jens, Marcus, and Luis managed to crash their Segways. In increasingly dramatic ways too.
After the death defying speed racing with Segways, we slowed down with some care free sightseeing in the city and a visit to the local tropical zoo.
The evening and the week ended with some fine dining and then some beer at the pub. It is difficult to sum up the experience and let you in on all the details. Let’s just say, a bunch of anonymous internet people came together in real life... and the world didn’t end this weekend, that’s strange, isn’t it?
Marcus in his natural habitat.