The Finnsider

What happens in Helsinki: Why you'll have more luck pinning down Peter Vesterbacka at an afterparty than a conference

What happens in Helsinki: Why you'll have more luck pinning down Peter Vesterbacka at an afterparty than a conference

With fortuitous timing for your very own Finnsider, the Pocket Gamer bandwagon rolled into Helsinki last month. Some time later and after a horribly grey and wet midsummer break, it's time to reflect.

So what exactly was PG Connects? Well it was a conference, quite like you see on the movies but with slightly fewer American accents in this case.

People selling their service from the sidelines, a concentration of industry people who are either giving talks, taking part in panel discussions or simply supping coffee and grinning having scored a day or two off work. Busy bee workers and zipping around looking worried, busy bee volunteers zipping around and looking pleased.

But the talks, the talks are the thing. Here you'll find real insights into and around an ever changing industry. Pieces of advice or knowledge that you can absorb and adopt, that make clear particular aspects of mobile gaming and that can even prove relevant across industries.

However - good luck telling the great talks apart from the (from a personal perspective) somewhat less interesting ones, for there is no form guide at this race.

Talks and walks

For each fifteen minute talk that prises your eyes open a little wider as you nod with new found realisation, there is another where a person plods through slides playing out a concept you're already more than familiar with, leading you to question whether reality exists outside of this darkened room.

As in any conference, if you can tell apart the gold from the guff quickly and are happy to flit from room to room, you'll be glad you came.

Mark Sorrell on stage, talking about how to trick people. Maybe.

With luck, the best talks are available for you to watch, re-watch and scribble notes down from. Mark Sorrell's talk about how behavioural economics works regardless as to whether you're paying attention or not was particularly interesting.

If a talk is enjoyable, people laugh at the right moments. If it's valuable, they whip phones out and photograph slides.

Good tells: If a talk is enjoyable, people laugh at the right moments. If it's valuable, they whip phones out and photograph slides.

For indie devs pitching their own work there's also value - check out Rovio's Matthew Wilson revealing that most Rovio Stars games are picked up at conferences. For anyone looking to break into mobile gaming - a plethora of contacts gathered together in one place offers opportunities that need no explaining.

Party politics

During the in-between bits, ex-colleagues hang out, acquaintances are made and re-refreshed, people glance at your big hanging conference tag to determine whether you're worth talking to. This goes on for two days. The people selling from the sidelines are almost dead at this point, poor things.

But all this seems to be a polite starter for the real event, which happens during the evening drinking.

Here, the main topic of conversation amongst those not from Helsinki is how crazy it is that it's always light and that even though it's midnight it seems like it's only half six. It's also the place where half of the Helsinki game industry are milling around casually.

A sign of a good night: A crumpled up Pocket Gamer dollar

Where else would you get the opportunity to bend the ear of game dev vets so freely?

Where else can you can stand watching the football with the guy in charge of Trials and tell Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka what you think of the Angry Birds Transformers crossover? (That's you're “looking forward to it”, obviously).

The after conference party is the place where you are also afforded the luxury of being honest about who was great and who should have got more of a grilling on stage. Where traditional Finnish quietness is forgotten after the third beer. It's the only place you'll probably hear unabridged stories about events and development and success and tragedies. Just try not to forget them all before the next morning.

See you next year then.

The Finnsider is our regular look at the ever-dynamic and increasingly successful mobile development scene in Finland, hosted by former Londoner – and now a Helsinkiläinen - Steve El-Sharawy, Digital Engagement Manager at EzyInsights.

The Finnsider

An Englishman at home in Finland, Steve has spent the last decade working with data for online gaming, TV and social media. If you don’t have a question, don’t expect to get an answer.

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