Southeast Asia’s premier game convention, GameStart 2018, returned for its fifth anniversary with a plethora of diverse gaming content at the Suntec Convention Centre last week (13 and 14 October).
Exhibits included game showcases and previews, tabletop board and card games, esports, indie games, retro games, and cosplay. Fans of competitive esports were treated to a spectacular screening of SEA Major (SEAM) 2018, which hosted several tournaments throughout the weekend. The SEA Mobile Major (SEAMM) 2018 also hosted the first-ever Shadowverse Contenders Cup for the Southeast Asian and Oceanic regions.
Special guests appearances were certainly not lacking as well, as voice actress Elise Zhang, best known to the community as the voice of Mei of the popular multiplayer game, Overwatch, made her way to Singapore specially for this year’s GameStart Convention. WWE Wrestler Kenny Omega was also a part of the roster, with many fans crowding just for a photo with the champion of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s IWGP Heavyweight. Other esteemed guests included Yuya Tokuda, director for Monster Hunter: World; and Kaname Fujioka, executive/art director for Monster Hunter: World, among other names.
A new addition to GameStart this year was the arrival of the GameStart Masterclasses, where famous creatives and personalities from the international game industry conducted masterclasses for budding game designers and developers. Similarly, GameStart Workshops, created in collaboration with No Average Joe, focused on a range of general gaming-related topics, and was held throughout the duration of the convention.
I was no stranger to similar conventions, having attended the Singapore Toy, Gaming and Comic Convention (STGCC) several times. Although the scale of the GameStart Convention pales in comparison with the likes of STGCC, the massive crowds certainly proved that GameStart also has a substantial following of its own.
One of my favourite booths during the convention was the PONOS’ The Battle Cats booth, a tower defense game that features a quirky and over-the-top art style. Certainly not a novel game idea, but one that stood up to the test of time and continues to be entertaining. It also helps that they had a giant cat mascot (the basic cat unit) running around, and it was too adorable to miss.
Another group of exhibits that attracted my attention was the indie game exhibits of the various Singaporean game developers, one of such being SUTD’s Game Lab. Two of the featured games, Stones of Samitari and Portrayed, are developed by students and conceptualized for the showcase in a matter of 2 to 3 months.
Stones of Samitari is a side-scrolling RPG, where you play as a heroine who fights to clear the golems inhabiting the surrounding lands, after a disaster several years ago devastated the village. Portrayed is a stealth adventure game that stars the unnamed protagonist, who has to discover his own identity, and make decisions that determine the outcome of the game. Both games are extremely polished and display a smooth gaming experience. With compelling storylines in a simple, easy-to-play package, both Stones of Samitari and Portrayed can appeal to many casual gamers.
As with every game convention, art is a staple that draws immense crowds, be it cosplayers, artists, or the fans themselves. The GameStart 2018 Convention has brought back the Doujin Market, a community-curated arts and illustration fair that featured more than 43 artists. Over at the GameStart Cosplay Runway, cosplayers arrived in full force to showcase their meticulously crafted costumes and props, bringing your favourite game and anime characters to life. For those who wished to try their hand at drawing, Wacom exhibited their latest graphics tablets for anyone to test its interfaces.
In the realm of esports, local professional esports organisation Resurgence (RSG) was there to let esports hopefuls to try out for a spot in the team, such as 1v1 Hearthstone matches against several of their pros, with the likes of RSG Sequinox and RSG Raven. Fans of the team also got a chance to get autographed merchandise from the players themselves. While RSG is a relatively new organisation in the Singapore esports scene, the organisation is making waves in being a premier esports academy for up and coming talents.
Among all that, GameStart has various booths selling merchandise, like retro gaming consoles, gaming peripherals, food, and art. Mini competitions were also carried out, where gamers can try their hand to win token prizes, or even play against a pro to bag bigger prizes.
The GameStart 2018 Convention may not be a large-scale event, but is one that welcomes veterans in the scene, and newbies who wish to experience and join a community of gamers. It is spectacularly well put together, with plenty of interests to cater to the various groups of gamers – from hardcore professionals to casual otakus, or even game artists who make the finest drawings and paintings.
If you have missed this year’s GameStart Convention, I highly recommend that you make it a point to go for the next one and experience the energy for yourself.
For more information on GameStart Convention’s past programmes, check out their official website at https://gamestart.asia/.
Photos by Yang Yew of the DANAMIC Team.