Feral Vector Was a Delight
Ask me about Irn Bru
Games conventions are funny things. Thousands of people all packed into a big warehouse-like building, crowded around demos of games they’ll play and forget. Don’t get me wrong, they can be brilliant, and I’ve had some of the best times of my journalistic journey at these massive events, but sometimes, you want something a little calmer. I talked about this after Feral Vector last year, and this time I had the opportunity to stay at the event for its entirety. I came away from the idyllic Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge pleasantly surprised and rejuvenated.
After the gruelling hill climb required to get to the Birchcliffe Centre, the startmenu team unwound the only way we knew how: the seemingly unlimited tea supply provided by event organisers Feral Sett. What followed was a wonderful weekend of recuperation, both from the steep slopes of Hebden and the various stresses life had placed on our shoulders.
It’s impossible to run through each and every part of the event, we’d be here all day. Instead, I’m going to do a short run-through of some of my favourite moments, small and large.
When I first entered the convention, an event was already being set up. I was beckoned over to a zine making workshop run by Munaza Kulsoom, without having a clue what was in store. I’d never made a zine, and have never prided myself on my abilities in the visual arts. It soon became clear that I was far from alone. We walked through the correct way to cut and fold a sheet of A4 so it resembles a small magazine volume, and went to work with a pair of scissors, a pen, and a whole lot of pieces of paper to cut out. I drew inspiration from my hellscape of a brain, at that point scrambled by final exam season, as well as my often frantic way of thinking. Others made their zines on Tarot or ‘how to escape a kidnapping’. It was a surprisingly cathartic experience for me, as I was sceptical as to how easily I’d take to zine making. It’s absolutely something I’ll do again, and was a brilliant way to meet some new and lovely people, all talking about our various inspirations and stylistic choices for our zines.
Tom Selleck-s go on an adventure
For me, Feral Vector comes hand-in-hand with silly LARPs (live-action role-playing games). Can you think of a convention that allows for a courtroom of ghostly beings to convene and condemn each other to a thousand years in ghost jail? I can’t, and I’m so glad Feral Vector brings with it such oddities. The epitome of the absurdity comes from Xalavier Nelson Jr’s events. Coming all the way from Texas to Hebden Bridge, the same structure was used as his Jeff Goldblum-inspired game last year, but this time, attendees were treated to three unique experiences. With a rotating cast of players each with unique abilities thought up on the spot, Nelson is forced to adapt the story to the actions of the players, and does so seamlessly. Hitting curveballs, like one character creating an infinite amount of sweat from their Irn Bru-given powers and drowning the entire world and everyone in it, out of the park, and building on jokes built up throughout the game, Feral Vector’s LARPs are something to behold, and a fantastic highlight that I look forward to seeing again.
Talk nerdy to me
Of course, as a convention, Feral Vector brings in people from across the gaming industry to talk about interesting aspects to the world of games or their own experiences. We had a touching anecdotal insight into the impact of dyspraxia on game creation delivered by Ben Wilson. A talk on how escape rooms can be used to educate was given by Liz Cable. One talk I’d most love to spotlight is Game Workers Unite. The Secretary and Vice-Secretary for the UK branch, Karn Bianco and Beck Lavender, took to the stage to break down the benefits of unionisation for those in the games industry. In light of the numerous recent reports of game workers being mistreated and overworked in the games industry, this initiative is more important than ever. You can find more information on their website, and if you’re in the games industry I highly recommend you get in touch. Their talk was enlightening and necessary, and there are global affiliates looking to unionise.
Fight fight fight
Are games art? That question is what I can thank for getting me to close Twitter and do something productive with my day. The Feral Vector organisers decided to put the debate to bed once and for all, and decide the true champion. Videogames and Art were pitted against each other in a wrestling ring, made to battle it out for glory as the most valid medium. Things took a dark turn when Business showed up and started beating up videogames in the most on-the-nose metaphor I’ve ever seen, but was rescued by Video Games (With A Space), and the tag team match was won. I’ve dabbled in sports entertainment in the past, enjoying the spectacle but never truly understanding the investment people can place in it. The live performance was nothing short of brilliant, showcasing extraordinary skill in both the acrobatic aspect as well as the comedy/performance regard. I fear repeating myself, but Feral Vector is the only convention willing to do something as frankly ridiculous as a ‘gaming vs art’ wrestling match. It didn’t disappoint.
Take time off
My final point of praise for Feral Vector is the opportunity afforded to you to simply do nothing. You don’t have to go to the LARPs. You can skip out on the talks. Fancy a hike through the Calder Valley’s stunning countryside? That’s a completely valid and delightful way to enjoy Feral Vector. There’s no expectation to go there and do everything and be everywhere. You might not want a big wrestling extravaganza. At times, I felt tired. Burnt out. There’s no better place to unwind than Feral Vector and the surrounding area. My time at the convention this year can best be summed up by the final night, falling asleep next to a campfire whilst a bizarre battle raged over which of the two fires made was the stronger.
It’s a melancholy time, leaving Hebden Bridge. A valuable opportunity to learn new things, meet new friends and reconnect with old ones is over. But I’m glad I got that chance, and look forward to doing it all again next year.