The tension in the room is utterly palpable. Around me, a collection of twenty-something independent game developers fidget excitedly in their seats. Some of them have their phones perfectly poised in their hands, waiting for the event to start so that they can immediately take notes. Others have gone the classic route of notepads and clipboards, waiting with their pens ready to start scribbling at a second’s notice. And it’s not hard to see why these guys are so eager; These young programmers are about to get the opportunity of a lifetime. The president of Sony International Entertainment is visiting them in a few scant moments to give them an exclusive opportunity to chat with him about their future prospects.
It’s like a group of Taylor Swift fans being told that she has heard some of their songs and wants to discuss having them guest star on her newest album. For a lot of these developers, this opportunity is something that they’ve worked towards for years. Shuhei Yoshida, SIE president and notorious indie game fan, is appearing to discuss their projects with them. The games they’ve poured heart and soul into for mind-numbing hours in order to be able to showcase them at Gamers’ Day. And Yoshida-san definitely appreciated their work, if his reactions to the games he tried were any indication. A few lucky devs were even awarded by personalized tweets from Yoshida himself, praising them for their hard work and dedication. And now he wants to sit down with them all, to take their questions and offer his sage advice, and a single look around the room is enough to tell me how excited the devs are at the prospect.
Indie game devs are truly some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known; they spend hours poring lovingly over details that might not even be noticeable to anyone but them. Most of them work alone, or in pairs, creating beautiful games with both entertainment value and emotional impact without the benefits of having a whole studio backing up the project. The workload is, for the most part, shouldered completely alone, and hours upon hours of work go into creating even a few minutes of content. So it’s no surprise that when their work is noticed by someone so prestigious and well-respected in the industry, people will take notice.
Yoshida-san himself is a quiet, polite man, who enters the room quietly and unobtrusively to stand at the front of the room, regarding the developers with a fond, twinkling eye. You can tell that he loves being here, loves what he’s doing; imparting his wisdom to the next generation of game-makers with a certain kind of pride. He tells them how much he enjoyed playing their games the other day, and his whole audience beams with delight. He takes questions from every dev in the room; questions about the process of making games, and what advice he can offer for prospective developers. The devs nod as they fervently take notes.
The meeting comes on the heels of his announcement the night before; Yoshida announced at the opening celebration that Sony would be hosting a contest for indie game developer, the prize of which was an internship with Sony itself. The contest is the first of its kind, and it’s no wonder the devs are more eager than ever to benefit from his advice. Many of them are already contemplating what to put together for their entries, and how to cram the finishing touches into the time they have left. I wouldn’t be surprised if every last one of them was going to apply. In fact, I would be surprised if they didn’t.
Ever gracious, Yoshida finished off by thanking the devs for their attendance, and consented to spend at least another half hour in the meet-up room signing autographs and posing for photos. The excitement still lingered even after he had left for the day. For the rest of the evening, every one of the attendees I passed still had traces of a smile on their face. I guess meeting your heroes does that to you.