The last season of the Intel® Level Up Game Demo Contest brought many firsts. It was the first time Valve Software sponsored the contest, offering winners a path to distribution. It was also the first time we had a live awards ceremony. During the Video Games Live concert at E3 last year when we recognized the dedicated developers behind the winning demos, I got to meet Wolf Lang and Dennis Rogic from THREAKS who won the Best Art and Best Sound Categories. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, and I want to share a little bit about why the Level Up Contest means so much to me.
Intel® has run the Level Up Contest since 2006 or 2007, but I only got involved in 2011 to help my friend Joel. When Joel needed to step away from the competition, I got the opportunity to take the lead and began to understand what we’re trying to do with this game demo contest.
Why does Intel® (aka Chipzilla) care about Indie developers? Indies don’t sell the millions of units that a big AAA title might sell. Indies don’t wield the co-marketing power of a major games publisher. Indies don’t have large staffs of artists, programmers, biz dev people, account managers, etc. for the variety of Intel® folks to engage with.
Here is what Indie developers do have – a spirit and drive to do something new and unique. Innovation is the hallmark of what we are looking for in this contest – to see something novel that no one has seen before, and to help those driven developers find success with their demo!
So rewind to last year. I tabulated the scores, and we started to notify the winners. My buddy Pete, who is always thinking outside the box (much like our indie developer friends), pitched an idea that we should do some kind of award (previously, announcing the winners was kind of the “end” of the contest). So he made some calls, pulled some strings internally and externally, and secured a sponsorship for Video Games Live at E3. Some of the winners decided to use their prize money to fly to LA to accept their awards in person. This is the start of my shift from just doing a good job at work, to being inspired to fight and advocate for the winners. Meeting the winning developers, hearing their stories of the work they did to create their entries, and their hopes for where the demos would take them, really inspired me and help me to catch that indie spirit.
Since last summer, when we wrapped up the 2011 season (yes, I get that the 2011 season spilled mostly into 2012) we have worked with the winners to find ways to help promote their demos, provide them support, and most of all, to figure out how we can do the contest again, and improve it with the momentum we had from last year.
Last week, I was at GDC for a quick day trip and got to see Wolf, Dennis and Laurens from THREAKS – seeing how far they’ve come with Beat Buddy in the last nine months - from a pre-alpha we put on Steam, to securing investment funding and a publisher, to now winning a bunch of awards at PAX East, then flying to GDC to build more awareness leading up to their launch this summer. I think they are running on adrenaline (I know I am).
I’m looking forward to answering emails and forum questions over the coming months as you all feverishly work to develop tune and optimize your game demos. It’s the drive and determination that the indie spirit has infused in me that makes this competition so personally important. Good luck to everyone. I can’t wait to see where you’re going.