Where Were The Games At The Tribeca Games Festival?

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The Tribeca Games Festival, the newest branch of the Tribeca Film Festival, didn’t really have a lot of video games, board games or any games for that matter. There were world-class keynote speakers, like Hideo Kojima and Overwatch Senior Game Designer Michael Chu, but barely anything to play. It didn’t feel like a festival for gamers, but instead a corporate event made to sell products. The event was sponsored by Tic Tac, Nutella, Nespresso, AT&T and a cavalcade of other brands dying to get in on that sweet millennial money.  

I attended the Tribeca Games Festival to understand what big, corporate brands think the “gamer” might enjoy. For the last five years, I’ve been fully engrossed in the “esports” scene and have seen what an influx of money and advertisers can do. Sometimes sponsorships can be good, like Geico’s ONOG Hearthstone Major, which allows players at PAX to stack up against some of the best pros in the world. Others times, you get a condescending attempt to try and “be hip with the youth” and make Angry Birds: The Movie.

On the opening night of Tribeca Games, there were booths set up with Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, What Remains Of Edith Finch and a few other previously released titles. Between the rows of tables with boxes of orange Tic Tacs (the worst flavor), you could step into a neon-glowing booth and play a game at the “gaming festival.” Day Two had a Virtual Reality lounge that I wasn’t allowed to go in because I didn’t book a spot weeks in advance. I can’t tell you what was inside, but I know it was old and playable on my own Oculus.

Fun.
This was one of the games, flashy ain't it? Photo: Tribece Games Festival

A spokesperson for the Tribeca Games Festival did tell me in an email that the reason there were so few games to play was because “they were limited for space” and “the Tribeca team wanted to focus on the stories from the creators.”  

Out of the few games to play at the event, everything was already available on my consoles back home. The people manning the booth knew very little about the games they were demoing, so if you did have a question you’d have better luck hitting up the developers on Twitter. When I go to a PAX event, I expect to see new indie games I’ve never even heard of before, shown off by the hands that crafted them. The Tribeca Games Festival isn’t trying to be PAX, but it would have been nice for the event organizers to invite local developers to showcase their products.

Games didn’t feel like the focus of the Tribeca Games Festival, sponsored content did. No matter where you turned, you’d see someone or something promoting a brand. You could get a limited edition MailChimp Vinyl, grab a Nutella crepe or hang out in the lounge upstairs with a pamphlet about Lincoln cars on every table. Drink one of Bai’s newest zero-calorie energy drinks that tasted like someone steeped a Diet Coke in cranberry juice. What I can only describe as an army of PR people walked around the building, standing in pairs near every staircase and making sure everything was going to their liking.

A Tribeca Games Festival is a good idea. I hope future years have a much larger emphasis on the “games” and be less about shoving sponsors down attendees’ throats. I know the TGF doesn’t want to replace IndieCade East, an indie-focused convention that runs at New York’s Museum of the Moving image, but it can do so much more than just try to influence the influencers.

Editor's Note: A previous version of the story reported that IndieCade East was not taking place this year; however, the event is ongoing but no dates have been announced. iDigitalTimes regrets the error.

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