News / Ottawa

CGX shows Ottawa is a player in the gaming industry

Last weekend Capital Gaming Expo gave a platform to some of the city's most talented young developers.

Mike Keogh and Jason Nuyens of Breakfall games unveil their new game Pizza Titan Ultra at the Capital Gaming Expo at the Nepean Sportsplex on Saturday, April 1 , 2017.

Marc Shaw / For Metro

Mike Keogh and Jason Nuyens of Breakfall games unveil their new game Pizza Titan Ultra at the Capital Gaming Expo at the Nepean Sportsplex on Saturday, April 1 , 2017.

Ottawa has taken another step towards being recognized as a hub in the Canadian videogame industry.

This past weekend, local indie developers, industry veterans and business owners gathered at the Nepean Sportsplex for the newly rebranded Capital Gaming Expo (CGX) to show what the local industry can do and help would-be developers how to break into the industry.

“I’ve been working in the local game industry for six years, running a lot of events and for a while I had been thinking of creating a conference that brought together developers and gamers that isn’t happening in Canada,” said Jillian Mood, new owner of CGX, which was previously run under Ottawa Geek Market’s umbrella.

“I wanted to bring them together in one place with a spotlight on indies and starting your own studio. So when I was approached and asked if I wanted to buy [CGX] I immediately said yes.”

Over 4,000 attendees were able to try out in-development. Demonstrations provide game-design studios with instant feedback from the game loving public and, for some of the more outlandish ideas, can also serve as a proof of concept.

One title that garnered a steady stream of gamers checking it out was Hyper Helmet’s Speed Splicers. The unique hybrid of co-operative car combat, jet flying and racing was developed by students in Algonquin College’s game development program.

“I think it’s extremely important [to have a local conference], travelling costs to Toronto and Montreal can rack up pretty high but you need to do it as an indie studio to get your name out there,” explained Hyper Helmet’s Kevin Pritchard.

The Canadian video game industry is largely in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, so events like CGX allow developers like Pritchard and the rest of Hyper Helmet to add another trade show to their calendar without too much extra investment.  

“There’s a lot of people in my program who don’t think they’ll stay in Ottawa because it hasn’t been a great scene. So to hear that Ottawa is pushing towards this is amazing because I would love to stay here. I grew up here and to know the game industry scene is growing is great to hear.”

The expo’s rebrand and refocus has allowed newer names like Hyper Helmet to share floor space with Ottawa veterans like Breakfall games, developers of indie hit Starwhal, which was created at a Carleton University game ja. Breakfall was on hand to showcase their new title Pizza Titan.

“I’m really digging the energy here,” said Breakfall Game’s Mike Keogh who was also part of a Sunday panel on game audio. “I love the idea of catering to the developer crowd with conferences and the expo floor showing what’s being made here. Ottawa has a lot of gamers, like any city, but [CGX] lets people know that there is development going on here and it isn’t all about EA and Ubisoft.”

The expo was also a chance to show off Ottawa’s vibrant non-developer gaming communities. There was an artist’s alley featuring work from several members of Ottawa’s Pen’s & Pixels collective, local businesses like gaming cafe Caffeine 1up and eSports bar The Blurry Pixel had booths to attract new patrons, and even a Super Smash Bros. Wii U tournament held by Ottawa Smash to introduce people to the local eSports scene.

“It’s very useful to have competitive events at expos like this because we can provide them a service while introducing new people to what we do on a weekly basis,” said Kyle Gardner, an organiser for Ottawa Smash. “Success at things like CGX means more opportunities to work with more high profile events outside of our regular tournaments. 2017 has been great so far, more venues are hosting events and people are becoming aware of us.”

The gaming industry reaches far beyond making and selling games and there was something at CGX for attendees at all levels of involvement. CGX was another milestone in what’s proving to be a busy year for the region. 2017 will also see the Canadian Video Game Awards come to the city for the first time this November, providing a chance keep up the momentum and put Ottawa’s industry on a national scale.

More on