BIG Festival just wrapped up in São Paulo, Brazil, and Mark Venturelli used the platform to bring to attention the diverse game scene in Latin America.
For the many people in the western game scene, there is often little thought to the many vibrant developers currently working in South America. BIG Festival (Best International Games Festival) has been around since 2012 and is the most important games festival and business forum in Latin America. It is a showcase of the best and brightest of game development from all over Latin America. With games like Relic Hunters and Chroma Squad under his studio belt, Mark Venturelli is a known entity in indie development, and he has plenty to say about how the world sees Brazil’s game scene.
Titling his talk ‘Future of Video Games’, Venturelli drew a fair crowd for his pre-recorded session. Only there was a catch—while everyone walked in expecting to hear from an acclaimed Brazilian developer about game design, it quickly turned into something much different.
“I fooled you. The name of my lecture is not ‘Future of Video Games’. I had to change it, or you wouldn’t approve. The name is ‘Why NFT is a Nightmare’. The crowded room erupts.” reported Rique Sampaio via Twitter, in a now viral series of tweets.
While it sounded on the surface like some developer going rogue against the establishment, it was something much more nuanced. As Venturelli explains: “The intent with my talk is to aim the outrage at ‘blockchain gaming’ in general, not at the festival”
The core of his talk is very much to help the world see the vibrant culture of Brazil and Latin America.“It wasn’t really a joke, but it’s more complex than what comes across in a tweet.” He goes on to say, “mainly on international guests thinking that Brazil’s scene is now mostly blockchain, which is not nearly the truth. In fact, I think that they are irrelevant. They need to spend big bucks in sponsorships to try and buy artificial relevance, but right now they are an almost insignificant part of our industry.”
While the intentions were genuine, the world of Twitter and machine translation led to many people thinking there was a conspiracy to muffle anti-blockchain voices. But as Venturelli explains when asked about the reaction from BIG, “I think they were at first, because they only saw the viral reaction to it. But now I think they understand that it wasn’t my intention. In fact, I’m trying to convince them to post my talk themselves on their official channels”
In answer to a question of censorship, BIG Festival Director, Gustavo Steinberg, outlined, “There were no restrictions. BIG Festival is and has always been a democratic space for free speech, and we are proud to be the place where difficult conversations in the gaming industry can be held. The NFT subject can be polemic for many people and we, at BIG Festival, believe that this is even more reason for it to be discussed, so the industry can have a comprehensive view of the market and its trends. During our four days of lectures, we held many sessions about NFT, Blockchain and cryptocurrencies that had different voices – both pro and against it.”
But mistranslation and angry people can be a bad combination, especially when the blockchain is involved.
What was a case of a dev trying to have a bit of a serious talk about blockchain and Latin America, quickly turned into a story of a dev speaking out against an oppressive system. What seemed shady at first, seems to boil down to a question of logistics and how things were planned. As Steinberg states, “During BIG Festival 2022, all the lectures that were streamed took place in Auditorium 1. Since the talk in question was scheduled to take place in Auditorium 2 from the start, it was not on the schedule to be a streamed talk.“
But the fear of these big players pushing their weight is real. No one wants to see Brazil lose its creative voice and be nothing more than a haven for blockchain. Mark Venturelli said it best when he explained, “Blockchain gaming is not relevant to our industry, at least not yet. But if indies and the entertainment and education focused companies that make up the majority of our industry let them, they will take up the space gladly”
Tensions are still hot in game design, especially in new and emerging markets. It is easy to feel pushed out and silenced, especially when a perception is far from reality. If this year’s BIG Festival is anything to go on, there is a wealth of talent eager to make a mark on gaming, and that drive is only growing every year. With developers like Mark Venturelli and festivals like BIG working to promote this immense talent driven to create, the future is bright for the Brazilian industry.