In August 2019, we now head into the lead up to Play NYC, a convention for developers, fans and gamers of all ages. Put on by New York City-based community organization Playcrafting, the con heads into its third year with new games, a new venue and more to explore than ever before. So, we sat down to talk with Playcrafting founder and CEO Dan Butchko to see what we can expect from this year’s event.
After last year’s event at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown NYC, we were surprised to find the venue changed yet again, this time to the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. While I was glad we won’t spend this year’s convention running up and down stairs, I had to ask Butchko why the change.
“We basically put out a feedback form for our community of developers after each convention, and so last year the developers on site had a blast, really enjoyed it, but across the board there was a general consensus that the preference was to have the show floor literally be on one large floor,” he said. “Having everything on one floor makes everything a lot more accessible for attendees.” When you have one giant floor, he further explained, you get to design an experience for the attendees, similar to an Ikea walkthrough. By not having to concentrate on where people are going and finding certain places, it lets them lose themselves in the games that are there.
Graffiti Games, one of the cornerstone spotlight pieces of Play NYC, also returns for a third year. The series highlights developers from different backgrounds and gives them the resource of a blank canvas, which they usually take in wildly different directions. Last year’s games focused on immigrant developers, and this year’s are announced to focus on developers from the LGBTQ+ community.
“We all sat down and put our heads together and were thinking about what we could use in here to really make an impact on the show floor while also having what makes New York so special,” Butchko explained. “And it just so happened that we were in the lead up to Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. So we thought what better way to celebrate developers that are in the New York community and from the LGBTQIA+ community?”
Having, self-admittedly, not paid much attention to the Graffiti Games offering last year as I was distracted by dolphins, I was curious where the idea for the focus came from.
“We launched Play NYC in 2017 with the Graffiti Games initiative,” Butchko said. “On one hand, it’s to offer attendees a collection of games that you can only play at Play NYC. And on the other hand it’s an opportunity to amplify the voices of the developers. … The label of Graffiti Games came from the fact that we wanted the games themselves to change the space … and offer something like graffiti on a wall, where you turn a corner and, whether it’s like a different control scheme or it’s a projection on a wall or the space around the game is converted in an interesting way, it offers that urban jungle graffiti vibe where you never know what to expect.”
While the list of most developers or games appearing at Play NYC has been released to the public, I know that everyone likes to play favorites and was curious what Butchko was looking forward to. Of course Graffiti Games was top of the list, followed by the first-ever Play-NYC appearance of Devolver Digital, who are bringing a game called Heave Ho.
“There’s another one called Beat the Bomb which is, they’re really cool, they have their own space, they do these really outside-the-box games and they’re gonna be there with a game that is played via a big projection on the floor,” he said.
As announced earlier in the year, Bose has teamed up with Playcrafting to develop AR games using sound technologies, many of which will be showcased in the Bose ARcade.
“We are also going to have a city block experience with Bose AR,” he said. “It will be an experience that you interact with, walking around the whole block around Play NYC.”
One of the items on the top of my own personal hype list is Games for Change, which Butchko was happy to explain.
“We are welcoming Games for Change for the first time this year to the show floor. Games for Change has been a big partner of Playcrafting for a while now,” he said. “We’re going to have a space called Games for Change Island on the show floor, featuring a lineup of games that have been award winners of theirs as well as some projects from their student challenges in the New York area.”
Among the games featured are Nintendo Labo, Devolver Digital’s Gris and student-developed Prism.
After working on an event three years in a row and seeing the growth that Play NYC has had, I couldn’t resist asking this cliché but important question: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from previous years?
“So much of this is trial and error, making a lot of mistakes. I think the most valuable thing that I’ve learned at Play NYC is really a mirror of the most valuable thing I’ve learned with Playcrafting and that’s to listen to our community and hear what they need, what they want, what they’re looking for out of anything that we do.”
He continued, “We are really focused on making sure that the show itself is a powerful experience for the developers that are on site. I think listening has been the most valuable thing that I have learned.”
For those in the NYC area on August 10 and 11, badges for Play NYC are still available! Not able to attend? No worries, TechRaptor will be covering the whole show floor, so check back for interviews, updates and previews!