"Something happening here": Game conference founder

The Ottawa International Game Conference is a way to “send a message” to the gaming industry, its founder told OBJ recently.

“There is something happening here,” said John Criswick, alluding what he called “a big upshift” in the number of A-level gaming brands working with Ottawa companies.

He points to Magmic, the company of which he is CEO, as an example. He said Magmic has been working with Mattel for a while, “but we’re now getting higher-tier in terms of brand titles from Mattel,” adding they have been working on a version of giant American toy and game manufacturer’s Apples to Apples game.

“Mattel actually refers to Ottawa as Mattel North,” he said, noting the California-based company also has a working relationship with Ottawa’s Fuel Industries.

Mr. Criswick said Magmic has also recently signed a publishing deal and pointed at Gigataur as another example of an Ottawa firm playing in the big leagues with its new Star Wars game.

Ottawa now ranks behind only Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver in terms of game development in Canada. Mr. Criswick said that certainly wasn’t the case before the conference, which continues through Tuesday at the National Arts Centre, started four years ago.

“I remember people saying, ‘Really, there’s a game industry in Ottawa?’ A lot of naysayers out there,” he said.

Mr. Criswick said the conference has done a lot to help grow the industry in the capital since it began, adding it is one of the reasons Ottawa was named host of the Canadian Video Game Awards in 2017.

“They wouldn’t do that if there wasn’t an industry happening here,” he said.

Capturing and retaining talent is an issue throughout the tech sector, and the gaming industry is no different, said Mr. Criswick.

Part of spreading the word about the Ottawa market is an attempt to recruit talent from outside the city and also to make sure the new talent emerging from its post-secondary institutions stays here instead of heading down the road to Montreal or Toronto.

Mr. Criswick said he expects total attendance for the conference to be between 400 and 500, with registration available online until 9 a.m. Tuesday. Single-day rates are also available.