More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft
More initiatives of the Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft

Games Lift: Playtests & Pizza

The Games Lift Incubator has evolved. We have plans for an entire year. That's why we've met with teams, mentors, and alumni months after the end of the workshop schedule.

The teams of the Games Lift Incubator 2023 have had three intensive months full of workshops and deadlines. But that was last year. Everyone's had a little time to cool down since then. In mid-February, everyone got back together for a meeting in the innovation hub SPACE in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt. The program included a playtesting session, one-on-one meetings with mentors – and pizza for all.

Invited to the playtest were not only the most recent Games Lift participants, but alumni, too. The fact that many came was a nice confirmation to the Gamecity Hamburg team; for them, it is important to build a sustainable network, to share knowledge and to create a climate of mutual learning.

Playable Progression

At the start, everyone gathered around screens to sample the state of each playable project. The Teams were eager to demonstrate their progress. And it was quickly evident that even after the end of the intensive workshop phase, progress is rapid. Bagpack Games was able to implement feedback in their build of "We the Valarii" that they had received only weeks before. Nenad Slavujevic demonstrated changes in the art style and gameplay of his project "Chaos Royale", making it more suitable for several platforms.

Marcus Koepke earned special recognition: A trailer for his project "Journey Beyond the Edge of the World" has been picked up by IGN. Its mix of eerie electro vibes and high seas romanticism is showing a universal appeal.

Mentors at the event were impressed, too. Daniel Marx, Managing Director, and Game Director at Osmotic Studios, saw new confidence: "Teams know much more clearly what they want to achieve and how to get there."

Mentors, Alumni and the teams at the Games Lift Playtest Session

Justified confidence

Marx's studio is known for narrative indie games with new ideas. Steffen Rühl is known for his experience and overview. He is on board as a mentor, but also leads pitch training, a central part of the incubator. To him, the Games Lift Incubator has evolved from a single event to a "complete offering" with a "lively community". He is especially pleased with "the progress of games and teams from previous years".

Rühl started his career 35 years ago and has been active in the video game industry for 25 years. As a consultant and coach, he regularly conveys that product development isn't enough; business administration, marketing and studio management all play essential roles. With many teams in the incubator, he experiences a learning process: At first, the challenging new areas seem "frightening" to them. But then, "the Gamecity team, mentors and events" can lead them by the hand. Rühl wants to pass on his confidence: "It's going to be tough, but it's doable." For all his realism, he still understands that "creative work" is the unique part that ultimately "sparks excitement" in the audience.

Björn Bergstein also sees constant progress. As CEO of his own start-ups with experience in the games industry, he has walked the walk. To him, the incubator is proof that "funding programs should be agile and iterative". Bergstein takes a sober look at the difficult situation in which not only the games industry finds itself: He advises every team to "plan more time for acquisition and build up a 'bread and butter business' if necessary" – i.e. freelance or commissioned work.

Mentors like Bergstein and Rühl have been with the Games Lift Incubator since year one and know from experience how success in the industry is possible. They provide reality checks crucial to any team serious about surviving beyond the first project.

With the play sessions and pizza all done, it's back to work. After in-depth one-on-one discussions with mentors, some of the teams are eyeing their next goal: Demoing their games at Hamburg Games Conference, from March 5 to 6. Come by and grab a piece!


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