Playcrafting is ready for its annual Play NYC event this year, but with the worldwide pandemic in place, the biggest gaming convention at the Big Apple will be going virtual for the festivities. Rather than being an event taking place for the whole weekend, Play NYC will be streamed for the whole week of August 10. As COVID-19 continues to loom over us, the gaming industry is still booming with some amazing titles from small developers that will be showcased at Play NYC. In our conversation with Playcrafting CEO and founder Dan Butchko, it was certainly a challenge for him and his team to bring gamers together for this annual event as it went virtual, but they somehow pulled the impossible.
With Play NYC being remote for attendees, Butchko discussed the decision to go virtual and hoping to bring gamers together during these tough times. With the event being absolutely free, the week-long event will have tons of programs filled with talks, panels, and exhibitors showcasing their games. “With Play NYC, we started it as a way to unite New York and to bring attention to gamers, game developers, the game industry and culture in and around New York,” Butchko said. With the event becoming virtual, it’ll certainly draw not just New Yorkers, but even those outside of the state. “We are bringing a lot of folks from outside of New York and even outside of the United States this year…We are really bringing folks together through games in a way that I think is really special and we are super excited for what’s coming together.”
When it came to making the gaming convention accessible, Playcrafting was willing to take different approaches in order to draw many people from the industry to take part in the event. “For us to have gone through that exercise was really helpful in moving forward. Given everyone being stuck behind their computers and us wanting to make that full week of programming and content as accessible as possible, I’m really happy with the simple way in which we were able to solve for it.” For those attending the event, all they would have to do is go on the website and join the stream once they sign up, according to the Playcrafting founder. For those looking to try out the games from these developers, they can simply head to their site to check them out. “For this year’s show, we will really be pointing outward toward the developer’s sites since those are the places where you can play their games that are hosted by them.”
What is also a huge draw for this year’s event is the big development companies that are also being involved, like Rockstar Games. “For the first time this year, we have Rockstar Games joining us, which has been a goal and a dream of ours since the very beginning. We are really excited about that.” The folks behind games like GTA and Red Dead Redemption will be taking part in some of the talks during Play NYC as sponsors for the event’s Graffiti Games Initiative to help fund developers on their projects. Other than Rockstar, returning guests Epic Games and Avalanche Studios will also be joining the event as well. “We want to show that games can mean a lot of different things to a lot of people and there are so many different kinds of studios and games that appeal to all different kinds of players and folks who actually are interested as fans of games.”
As we face some uncertainties with the global pandemic upon us, Butchko sees this as a good way for people to connect through games using platforms such as Twitch. “As gamers, we’ve been interacting with each other in digital spaces for decades now in person originally but online as the infrastructure has been built out.” The organizer of the event went on to say that games are a way for people to escape and dive right into vast new worlds through gaming. “Games have always been there to act as a source of escapism from the very beginning as a source of comfort. As the medium has evolved, as a place to socialize with people, play with your friends, and meet new friends.” Butchko also added that people have taken gaming into their lives as they are stuck at home during this time. “Ask any person who calls themselves a gamer or a fan of games and you’ll hear so many different stories of people who bought Nintendo Switches in the past three months that had not had a console in years…That stuff is really excited to see people really adopting games that would not have otherwise done so if we weren’t in this very specific situation.”
With the future of gaming, Butchko sees so much growth with indie developers over the past couple of years as the tools to create these games become more accessible. “The barrier for entry to getting in on the ground level is a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. With that, it is allowing more and more people to do everything from dabbling and trying to make games to actually building full businesses and whole portfolios of released games and content through those different tools.” With so many developers taking advantage of programs like Unity and Unreal Engine, the possibilities are endless. “It just creates this awesome hotbed of opportunity for independent developers and smaller studios that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.” Even new technology like VR and AR are becoming a growing trend that Butchko hopes to see when Play NYC begins this month. “On the VR side, we’re starting to see this year with games like Half-Life: Alex, these magnum opuses of gaming narratives and game experiences that are really leveraging the VR platforms and technology…AR is a really exciting area that, given that everybody has a cell phone of their own, AR technology allows you to take what you already have and use every day and augment the world around you.”
For more information on Play NYC, anyone can register for free on the website. The event will take place from August 10th to the 16th.