This past weekend the Confident Gamers crew ventured on a 4 hour drive to Norfolk, VA to attend the very first PixelFest, and it was awesome.
What is Pixelfest all about
It began with Midnight Status, a local indie game development studio. Jeremy Alessi of the Midnight Status team went to Slover Library to see what it would cost to rent some space for a game jam. A game jam is an event that spans a predetermined amount of days in which artists and programmers team-up to create their own games. The people at Slover loved the idea so much that they permitted the team to reserve the entire library for one weekend at no cost!
Since then, the PixelFest planning had grown to include many more events centered around celebrating the joy and art of gaming: programming boot-camps, a Smash Bros tournament, Minecraft blocks for toddlers, board games, an arcade, and more.
How was the location?
The first thing about PixelFest that caught our attention was the location. Held at the Slover Library, we were immediately intrigued to see how that set up would be. We have attended events previously that were held in public areas and open to the general public as they came through. It is an interesting dynamic as you have a mixed crowd contained of gamers and non-gamers alike. Those that planned to be there are engaged and moving quickly to ensure they can take in everything they wanted to experience. While those that came not knowing what to expect are often visibly mind blown by what they learn and experience regarding the gaming industry. And what better placed to be educated about all that people are accomplishing and developing in the gaming world, than a Library.
The Slover library covers 6 floors total and PixelFest consumed pretty much every corner. Each floor had a different focus and set of features to examine. Everything from old school consoles, table top gaming and the latest VR game demonstrations using an Oculus Rift set up. We even came across a section dedicated to the art of Steampunk and the creation of Steampunk attire and accessories. Each floor was accessible via stairs or several elevators, with each floor staffed with volunteers and PixelFest staff to help direct you to wherever you needed.
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What did we do?
Considering that PixelFest was created when Midnight Status, a Norfolk indie game development studio inquired to the Slover Library regarding renting some space to host just a simple game jam and then expanded to much more you can bet that much of the event was focused educating people on developing. Some of the programs offered throughout the weekend included the original game jam that was planned, a Mario Maker jam, Smash Bros Tournament, classes focused on getting deeper with Unity, Scratch and MineCraft. You could also explore the class arcade area, a MineCraft playroom for the kids, Table Top Games, and a Pokemon Showdown. To put it lightly, you simply couldn’t be bored because there was just so much to do.
How much did it cost?
As I mentioned before the cost to attend the first year of PixelFest was free of charge. But by no means does that translate to the event being cheaply put together. In fact during the event we heard several people express that they were surprised the event was free based on what they experienced. The quality of the service and entertainment that was provided was certainly worthy of being a paid event. Which makes me wonder just how much more could have been given additional funds. Maybe next year we will see just the new limits that the team will take the event to.
What about the organization and the staff?
While we were not fortunate to attend the entire event what we did experience was extremely organized and well put together. The PixelFest team were all very helpful in pointing us where we needed to be and it was clear that there was a lot of thought and planning behind how the entire event was laid out. The locations of the various games, and workshops all worked well with the layout of the library.
We are very happy that we discovered PixelFest and found it well worth the 4 hour drive it took us to get there. Overall everything was well done and we are glad we got to experience the first year while looking forward to what Midnight Status has to bring forward for future years.