DARK SLOPE SECURES $1.7M CAD IN TRIPLE INVESTMENT FROM XSOLLA, CANADA MEDIA FUND AND ONTARIO CREATES TO DEVELOP A BLOCKBUSTER VR BRAWLER GAME

DARK SLOPE SECURES $1.7M CAD IN TRIPLE INVESTMENT FROM XSOLLA

Leveraging initial seed money from Xsolla’s Funding Club, Dark Slope was awarded additional support from Canada Media Fund (CMF) and Ontario Creates for the production of “Monster Bash Block Party,” the ultimate VR kaiju simulator

18 August 2022 (TORONTO, ON) – Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, announces that it will be developing a new virtual reality game title following financial support through international video game commerce company Xsolla’s Funding Club. The $1.7 million CAD funding will support the development of a Kaiju fantasy fulfilment brawler entitled Monster Bash Block Party, in addition to other unannounced titles. Through initial backing from Xsolla, Dark Slope has today announced additional funding secured from both Canada Media Fund (CMF) and Ontario Creates. 

In Monster Bash Block Party, players find themselves as Kaiju rampaging across immersive cityscapes. As they move throughout the multiple landscapes within the game, players will engage with the city around them, picking up buildings, vehicles and infrastructure to fend off the swathes of humans trying to take them down. Each Kaiju is also outfitted with its own unique strengths and weaknesses, as well as special abilities such as energy beams, stuns and lightning to resist human defences. On top of this, monsters all around the globe can also battle each other, in Monster Bash Block Party’s one-on-one Monster Fight mode.

As an independent developer, Xsolla has committed to support Dark Slope in its production process from concept through to post-launch. The titles have received the support of Xsolla’s Funding Club following a thorough review of the game’s pitch, playtesting, and reviewing their commercial potential predicated on unique gameplay and opportunity within the VR market. The game was then presented to one of the games industry’s largest pool of investors and publishers through the Funding Club. 

Following this success, Dark Slope went on to secure additional support from CMF, a partnership between the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian cable industry, which supports the creation of original content from Canadian creatives including video games titles Dead by Daylight and Outward. Dark Slope was also awarded funds from Ontario Creates, an agency of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport for the province, which catalyses the production of content across a number of sectors, including digital media. Through financial support, programs, services and partnerships, Ontario Creates aims to build the region’s capacity to develop award-winning media. 

Production of Monster Bash Block Party is the latest in a number of major developments for Dark Slope, including the recent launch of an immersive location-based entertainment (LBE) simulator experience with branching narratives based on the Transformers IP. This service project was produced for VRStudios for North American entertainment chain Dave & Buster’s. Dark Slope has developed a series of other exciting VR single player and multiplayer titles including The Ultimate Obstacle Course which will be presented at Xsolla’s booth at Gamescom later this month.

Dan Fill, President of Dark Slope comments, “If you like Rampage, you will love this game!  Monster Bash is a fantastic, satisfying VR experience.  Working with Xsolla the past few months has been amazing. They are a truly great partner with insight and excellent feedback.  We are also extremely grateful for CMF and Ontario Creates for supporting this exciting title. We can’t wait to share it with publishers at Gamescom.”

Lawrence Mien, Director of Partner Experience at Xsolla comments, “Having looked through Dark Slope’s pitch and testing out gameplay potential, we’re excited to see how Monster Bash Block Party turns out! Canada is the world’s third most important hub in game development, and we’re proud to have been able to support independent studios alongside CMF and Ontario Creates in the funding and commercial scalability of their games. ”

Eyal Kleiner, Dark Slope’s Head of Business and Corporate Development, and Stephen Bosco, Dark Slope’s Senior Art Director will be present at the upcoming Gamescom from 24-28 August in Cologne, Germany. For those interested in speaking with Bosco and Kleiner about upcoming projects like Monster Bash Block Party at Gamescom, please contact darkslope@swiperightpr.com to book a meeting. 

About Dark Slope
Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring stories to life in new ways. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://site.darkslope.com/ to learn more. 

About Xsolla
Xsolla is a global video game commerce company with a robust and powerful set of tools and services designed specifically for the video game industry. Since its founding in 2005, Xsolla has helped thousands of game developers and publishers of all sizes fund, market, launch and monetize their games globally and across multiple platforms. As an innovative leader in game commerce, Xsolla’s mission is to solve the inherent complexities of global distribution, marketing, and monetization to help our partners reach more geographies, generate more revenue and create relationships with gamers worldwide. Headquartered and incorporated in Los Angeles, California, with offices in Berlin, Seoul, and cities around the world, Xsolla supports major gaming titles like Valve, Twitch, Roblox, Ubisoft, Epic Games, Take-Two, KRAFTON, Nexters, NetEase, Playstudios, Playrix, miHoYo, and more. 

For additional information and to learn more, please visit xsolla.com

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DARK SLOPE’S LEADERSHIP TEAM TO ATTEND KIDSCREEN THIS MONTH

DARK SLOPE’S LEADERSHIP TEAM TO ATTEND KIDSCREEN THIS MONTH

Dan Fill and Christine Thompson to Represent the Innovative Virtual Production Studio at the Leading Kids’ Entertainment Conference

07 JULY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) –  Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, is thrilled to announce the attendance of key executive members at Kidscreen this year. For the duration of the event, running from Monday, July 18 to Thursday, July 21 in Miami, President of Dark Slope Dan Fill, and Head of Animation Production Christine Thompson will be on-site to speak with potential partners. 

“As Dark Slope continues to grow and diversify, Kids’ animation production remains at the core of what we offer. With Babble Bop returning for its second season, and many more shows in the pipeline we are excited to discuss the cutting edge of virtual production with our friends in the industry,” said Dan Fill, President, Dark Slope. 

Christine Thompson has led production on Babble Bop, recently having been promoted to Head of Animation at the company, overseeing CG-animated series, motion capture projects and asset prep for immersive projects in Unreal Engine.

For partners interested in booking a meeting with Dan Fill or Christine Thompson to discuss potential partnerships, contact Rakhee Sapra at rakhee.sapra@darkslope.com.

Kidscreen Summit is the leading global market and conference for the children’s media industry, bringing together creators, buyers and distributors of children’s programming for meaningful pitching and networking.

Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope Studios leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring world class creative properties to life. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope Studios combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://site.darkslope.com/ to learn more.

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DARK SLOPE PROMOTES CHRISTINE THOMPSON TO HEAD OF ANIMATION PRODUCTION AS THE COMPANY EXPANDS ITS VIRTUAL PRODUCTION SCOPE

Thompson becomes Head of Animation Production at Dark Slope after joining the company in 2018, with over 17 years of experience in animation production. She oversees high profile animated television series and interactive projects.

30 JUNE 2022 (TORONTO, ON) — Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, today announces the promotion of Christine Thompson to Head of Animation Production. After leading production on the hit Peacock childrens’ TV series Babble Bop!, recently renewed for its second season, Christine will continue to play a vital role in the evolution of Dark Slope’s virtual animation production pipeline.

Joining the company in 2018 as a producer, Christine has overseen 3D animation and motion capture animation projects, as well as asset preparation for immersive projects in Unreal Engine. She has worked on multiple projects including Babble Bop! on Peacock, Secret Locations’ Waking Wonderland immersive AR experience, and Nickelodeon’s Ready Set Dance 2 among many others.

Before Dark Slope, her impressive portfolio includes award winning productions such as Total Drama: Pahkitew Island, which won best Kids 2-11 Series at the 2015 Cynopsis Kids !magination Awards, as well as household staples Clifford the Big Red Dog, Nickelodeon’s Bunsen is a Beast, and Fairly Odd Parents.

This appointment comes as Dark Slope continues to expand its digital production portfolio, emerging as a leading producer of kids’ animation in Canada, alongside continued growth in the virtual reality and gaming sectors.

Christine Thompson, Head of Animation Production at Dark Slope comments: “It has been an incredible experience working with such talented people, building the company from the ground level and making our name at the cutting edge of virtual production technology. There is so much potential still to unlock, and we can’t wait to show the world what’s next!”

Dan Fill, President of Dark Slope Studios comments: “As Dark Slope continues to expand and diversify its virtual production portfolio, Christine has been doing incredible work growing and supporting our Animation projects since day one. We’re absolutely  delighted to see her continue to lead and grow the team, as we fulfil our great ambitions for Dark Slope going forward.”

Christine will be in attendance at Kidscreen Summit 2022, from July 18th – 21st alongside the Dark Slope team. Please reach out to darkslope@swiperightpr.com if you would like to book a meeting with anyone at the team.

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About Dark Slope
Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring stories to life in new ways. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://site.darkslope.com/ to learn more. 

Media Contacts
Rakhee Sapra
(905) 334-3516
rakhee.sapra@darkslope.com

DARK SLOPE TO HOST UNREAL ENGINE & FRIENDS MEETUP AT TORONTO HEADQUARTERS

Happening in-person for the first time in two years at Dark Slope’s Toronto office, attendees will hear from Epic Games and Pixomondo on Unreal Engine 5 and virtual production.

27 MAY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) – Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, is hosting the 15th Unreal Engine and Friends Toronto meetup next week on 31 May 2022 from 7:00pm. Taking place in-person for the first time in two years at Dark Slope’s Toronto headquarters, the meetup will see speakers from Epic Games and Pixomondo showcasing the monumental leaps in virtual production being enabled by Unreal Engine 5.

Hosted in Dark Slope’s office located on Sterling Road, the Unreal Engine and Friends meetup will offer opportunities for those in virtual production and gaming professionals in the Toronto area to connect and share their work with industry. Across two hours, attendees will gain insight into the capabilities of virtual production’s applications in entertainment, as well as the trajectory of advancement taking place in game engine software. 

Joe Finlayson, a business development manager from Epic Games, will be sharing a presentation on Unreal Engine 5, focusing on the broader engine updates as well as its applications for media and entertainment. The virtual art department (VAD) team from visual effects company Pixomondo will then share insight into their recent work using virtual production on Discovery, and the subsequent spinoff Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. 

Ben Unsworth of Dark Slope comments, “We’re looking forward to the return of in-person Unreal Engine & Friends meetup, a place for Toronto’s game development and virtual production communities to connect and share learnings. The purpose of the ‘& Friends’ part of our meetup is to include all of the interconnected disciplines and skills that surround an Unreal Engine centric workflow – which is to say – tell your modelling, animating, lighting, writing, level designing, camera operating, technical artist, programming, DevOps, and game design friends that want to hear the latest news surround the creative suite that is UE5.”

Spaces are limited, and those interested in attending the meetup can reserve their spot here. Attendees who are interested in exhibiting their work on a laptop or VR headset at the meetup can reach out to ben.unsworth@lumeto.com to discuss set up requirements.

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About Dark Slope
Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring stories to life in new ways. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://site.darkslope.com/ to learn more. 

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Media Contacts
Rakhee Sapra
(905) 334-3516
rakhee.sapra@darkslope.com

DARK SLOPE APPOINTS MARNIE SUGARMAN AS EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF HYPERREALITY CONTENT

Sugarman joins Dark Slope with over 20 years of experience directing, producing, casting and developing factual entertainment programs, and will be responsible for overseeing the development and production of HyperReality television projects

25 MAY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) – Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, today announces the appointment of Marnie Sugarman as their consulting Executive Producer of HyperReality Content. In this new role, Marnie will oversee development and production of series under Dark Slope’s HyperReality content banner. 

With over 20 years of experience across factual and unscripted entertainment, Sugarman has produced, directed, developed and cast across numerous series including Masterchef Canada, Canada’s Got Talent and Cash Cab Canada. As the consulting Executive Producer she is set to lend her expertise to the Dark Slope team, striking a balance between the technological possibilities of virtual production with the emotional and experiential needs of television audiences.

Dark Slope’s HyperReality Initiative was announced late last year, set to produce immersive, experiential television utilising Dark Slope’s proprietary virtual production pipeline. Capitalising on specialist game design capabilities, visual effects rendered in Unreal Engine, advanced haptic technology and dynamic face, hand, object and camera tracking, HyperReality television will transform what were once considered limitations in factual and live-action content creation. 

Marnie Sugarman, Executive Producer, HyperReality Content at Dark Slope comments, “HyperReality television is such an innovative content offering, and every genre can only be enhanced by the addition of cutting-edge VR components. It’s not often that something truly ‘new’ comes across your desk, and I’m looking forward to spearheading production and helping the Dark Slope team realize the in-real-life aspects of their series.”

Dan Fill, President of Dark Slope Studios comments, “We are excited to have Marnie join us at Dark Slope on our HyperReality television content. Her decades of experience across diverse factual entertainment series will be highly advantageous in the development and production of our concepts, and we cannot wait to see how she brings our projects to life.”

This month, Dark Slope announced a partnership with Insight Productions, the company behind award-winning, highly rated reality series including Battle of The Blades, Wall of Chefs, The Amazing Race Canada, Big Brother Canada, and Canadian Idol. The partnered companies will be hosting a private, hands-on showcase of their HyperReality show concepts  in Hollywood from June 8-10, 2022. In addition, Sugarman and the Dark Slope team will be at Realscreen in Dana Point, California on June 6 and 7, 2022. To book a meeting with Dark Slope to discuss HyperReality, please contact darkslope@swiperightpr.com 

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About Dark Slope
Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring stories to life in new ways. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://site.darkslope.com/ to learn more. 

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Media Contacts
Rakhee Sapra
(905) 334-3516
rakhee.sapra@darkslope.com

DARK SLOPE AND INSIGHT PRODUCTIONS PARTNER TO DEVELOP SLATE OF HYPERREALITY TELEVISION PROJECTS

The partnership sees the two companies collaborate on a dynamic range of unscripted series that employ ground-breaking extended reality and virtual production technologies

17 MAY 2022 (TORONTO, ON) – Dark Slope, the Toronto-based virtual production and metaverse gaming company, and Insight Productions, one of Canada’s most established production companies, today announced a partnership to develop original competition formats for a new era of metaverse entertainment.  Built from the ground up, the projects will utilise cutting-edge virtual production technologies to elevate the reality television genre, producing a diverse range of formats for both children and adults. Production on the first project is set to begin later this year. 

Dark Slope announced their Hyperreality Initiative late last year, which is set to produce a new form of immersive, experiential television and blur the lines between the real world and the digital one. Dark Slope’s specialist game design capabilities, outstanding visual effects rendered in Unreal Engine, advanced haptic feedback, as well as camera, hand, face and object tracking will come together to push the boundaries of what is possible in television, bringing the competitors as close to the metaverse as they can get. 

Insight Productions, a Boat Rocker company, is renowned for its award-winning, highly rated reality series, and original formats including Battle of The Blades, Wall of Chefs, The Amazing Race Canada, Big Brother Canada, Canadian Idol, its most recent format, LOL: Last One Laughing Canada for Prime Video, and the just announced Eurovision Canada.

“Our partnership with Dark Slope affords both companies an incredible opportunity to produce dynamic new formats that will dramatically elevate the genre,” said John Brunton, Chairman, CEO, and Executive Producer for Insight Productions.  

“Our expertise in reality competition programming and desire to continually push the boundaries of storytelling, combined with Dark Slope’s unsurpassed virtual technologies and ability to create boundaryless exploration, will make for incredible viewer experiences,” said Mark Lysakowski, Executive Producer & Senior Vice President, Insight Productions.

Dan Fill, President of Dark Slope Studios comments, “We look forward to sharing what we are creating by combining Insight’s expertise in storytelling and original formats with our technical expertise in virtual production. The age of immersive metaverse television is now within our reach and we are excited to be trailblazers in this genre.”

Dark Slope and Insight Productions will be hosting a private, hands-on showcase of their hyperreality show concepts at Goya Studios in the heart of Hollywood from June 8-10, 2022. To book a meeting or express interest in attending their showcase, please contact rob.esom@darkslope.com 

About Dark Slope
Founded in 2018, Dark Slope pushes the boundaries of multi-sensory entertainment center spectacles, virtual reality experiences, immersive games, and motion capture-driven virtual production for television. From its 8000 square foot studio, Dark Slope leverages its warehouse-scale virtual production stage with proprietary pipeline, tools, workflows and game-engine technology in order to bring world class creative properties to life. Based in Toronto, and with a global workforce, Dark Slope combines advanced technologies with compelling storytelling to reimagine the future of entertainment. Visit https://darkslopestudios.com/ to learn more. 

About Insight Productions Ltd. (A Boat Rocker Company)
Insight Productions is known for its award-winning ratings juggernauts and is Canada’s most established content producer.  An industry leader in the development, financing, and production of hit programming, the company has created some of the most dynamic and top-rated programs including The Amazing Race Canada (the most watched Canadian show on record); ratings hit Big Brother Canada; Stronger Together/Tous Ensemble (the highest viewed non-sporting broadcast in Canadian TV history); The Tragically Hip: A National Celebration, a live concert special on CBC watched by one in three Canadians; and original formats Battle of The Blades and Wall of Chefs. Insight Productions was founded in 1979 and has since created thousands of hours of ground-breaking content. For more information on Insight Productions, please visit www.insighttv.com or on Twitter @insightprod or Facebook at www.facebook.com/InsightProductions

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Media Contacts
Rakhee Sapra
(905) 334-3516
rakhee.sapra@darkslope.com

Gabrielle Free | Free Publicity (for Insight Production Company, Ltd.)
gabfree.publicity@gmail.com
416-220-0201

DARK SLOPE’S APPROACH TO THE METAVERSE

Everybody wants a piece of the metaverse—even if the exact definition of what it is remains a subject of contention. Whether your entry point into 2022’s buzziest technology is through ecommerce, social networking, or gaming, the seismic jump in how virtual technologies are changing these experiences is ushering in an exciting era of discovery for watchers, gamers, and creators.

Here at Dark Slope, we’ve been thinking metaverse since before it was cool. Like most creators, we’ve always daydreamed about making things that leap off the screen, experiences that users can be fully immersed in and interact with in ways they’ve never thought possible. Now, as the VR industry doubles down on trying to make its hardware less expensive and more accessible, we are all working together to bring those dreams to life: whether it’s a VR gaming experience that turns platforming on its head or a virtual production set-up that lets producers realise their vision without leaving the soundstage, the experiences the metaverse is introducing to a mainstream audience has been the foundation of our work for years. 

Our vision for the metaverse is a competitive, collaborative platform that allows creators to craft their own universe and embrace new ways of telling their story. 

We aren’t content to sit and wait while emerging technology catches up with our ideas. Instead, we’re focusing on how metaverse technology can be used to create experiences and tools that are adaptable to the moment and endlessly modifiable. We’re designing games that are made to be modulars, allowing for players to fully embrace the freedom of an immersive 3D space and invent creative ways to play. We’re building games that aren’t just technically impressive and finely crafted, we’re also building for communities of speedrunners and storytellers to explore.

In television, we’re using Hyperreality TV to bring virtual reality and the metaverse to unscripted TV. Leveraging non-scripted formats and in-studio filming with VR-enhanced animation and virtual worlds, we’re providing the stage for boundless exploration. Our virtual production expertise allows creators to leverage the Unreal Game Engine for environmental design, motion capture, and animation. This technology lets productions bypass the limits of location, budget, and timelines to create the immersive worlds their stories need. 

No matter how advanced our technology becomes, no matter how embedded digital experiences become in our daily lives, it will always lag behind what our imaginations are capable of. This is what motivates us to push past the hype surrounding technology like the metaverse, instead we try and create for that space where the tools we use inspire us to create something new. We may never catch up with our imaginations, and may never be able to create all the games we want to play or all the stories we want to tell, but we come to work every day ready to try.

HOW GAMING TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING TELEVISION AND FILM

Television isn’t disappearing, but it is changing. 

Over the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a trend that was already visible across the globe: we’re spending more and more time with our media. But even as the media pie gets bigger and bigger, not everyone is getting an equal slice. Over the past decade we’ve seen new media like podcasts and emergent social platforms like TikTok start to encroach on the audience share typically given over to legacy media like broadcast television and theatrical releases. Gaming is by far the most dominant of these upstarts, having officially out-earned television and box office receipts in terms of revenue as early as 2018. The pandemic sent this dynamic into overdrive, as the number of gamers in the U.S. exploded to 226.6 million (over a 30% increase since 2019), spending a record 11.6 billions dollars in the second quarter of 2020 alone.

But this doesn’t mean television is an industry dinosaur watching the approach of its own personal extinction event. While new forms of entertainment become a larger and larger part of our lives, we’re also seeing that these are less likely to supplant our former viewing habits than to simply change them. The television industry has already adapted to the streaming revolution, and now it’s adapting the gaming one. We’re calling the confluence of the two hyperreality.

Gaming technology like Unreal Engine and Unity are helping radically transform traditional television pipelines. Rather than costly location shooting, custom robotics and time-consuming visual effects builds, these game engines can craft real-time, immersive environments that are more adaptable and more practical than traditional green screening or rotoscoping. 

And virtual reality technology like motion capture and real-time animation allows performers to react to realistically modeled environments, and to choreograph dynamic, physically substantial performances. For reality television, this allows for a more natural response from non-actors, and for production crews, this means more is ready for them on production day, rather than backloading work for the post-production team.

In its simplest terms, hyperreality is when reality becomes indistinguishable from simulation. Real performers fit seamlessly into fantastic environments, and contestants compete across physics-defying courses. It brings the lean, collaborative ethos of game design to full-scale television and film production, and attracts a globally surging community of gamers who have grown up accustomed to immersion, immediacy and interactivity.

  • Dark Slope is currently looking for partners to bring hyperreality productions to life. Are you a from a broadcaster, streamer or commissioner and keen to learn more? Email us at questions@darkslope.com

THE FUTURE OF GAMING: HIGHLIGHTS FROM #GDC2022

Our first post-pandemic GDC was one for the history books.

That’s a wrap on GDC! This past week, game developers, journalists, and fans returned to San Francisco in-person for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to celebrate the biggest developments in the gaming industry, and to discover what kinds of innovations we can look forward to during the coming year. Here are three things we learned at GDC, and a few things we’re excited to experience for ourselves.

Back to Basics
The gaming industry boomed during the pandemic, with more people were stuck and home and looking for ways to connect remotely. Globally, we saw the gaming population soar to almost 3 billion users, with over $220.79 billion spent on gaming in 2020 alone, the industry has reached a level of cultural ubiquity we previously could only have dreamed of. But we know that the circumstances of that growth can’t be replicated, as many of us return (at least tentatively) to something like a normal routine.

GDC’s more intimate setting this year, with a relatively modest 12,000 in-person participants and 5,000 virtual spectators, allowed us to address this uncertainty in a more focused way. While some of the more spectacular press launches and conferences were missing this year, this gave us the opportunity to focus on in-depth discussions and panels that reminded us of why we started building games in the first place.

VR in the Spotlight
Unsurprisingly, virtual and augmented reality gaming was in the hot seat this year. We explored how gaming is already a key pillar in the metaverse, and how companies both inside and outside the industry are taking lessons from gaming in how to build UX for a fully virtual environment. We also saw VR tech becoming more diversified and accessible, with PSVR 2 being showcased this year. We also learned how VR is opening up new opportunities for mental health and therapeutic practitioners

Gaming for Good
The pandemic has offered the gaming industry a chance to look at its social impact. From the ways gaming can bring attention to humanitarian causes around the world to designing games that help fight climate change, the current generation of makers and innovators are focused on exploring narrative and immersive ways to bring these topics to life, and exploring ways the industry can support socially conscious developers and studios.

If you missed GDC this year, you can explore any of the events we mentioned, and literally hundreds more, with on-demand video from the GDC Vault.

MISSION DRIVEN GAMES: THE OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

Dark Slope dispatches from #GDC22

“What keeps you up at night?” was the first question moderator Karla Reyes put to a panel of game developers, entrepreneurs, and social justice advocates at GDC on Monday. The panelists, which included Lual Mayen of Junub Games, Susanna Pollack of Games for Change, Jennifer Estaris of Ustwo Games, and Deborah Mensah-Bonsu of Games for Good, each had different answers: climate change, mental health, the plight of refugees and migrant workers across the globe. But each was excited about the opportunities gamemakers have to bring visibility to these issues, and to empower players to change their world.

Games with a Mission
For some panelists, making games has been a way to heal personal trauma and give back to their community. Junub Games’ first title Salaam draws on Lual Mayen’s experience growing up in a Ugandan refugee camp after fleeing his native South Sudan, not only putting players in the shoes of a refugee themselves, but encouraging them to donate and support humanitarian causes once they’ve finished playing. Mayen is also working to teach children living in refugee camps coding and computer animation, knowing firsthand how difficult it is for displaced persons to access resources necessary to pursue their passions. “Talent is equally distributed,” said Mayen. “Opportunity is not.”

From Audience to Action
Creating a game is a collaborative process, one that involves finding the right combination of expertise, representation, and goals to build a successful team. Building a game that has a social mission or addresses real world issues requires even more working together, tapping experts who can provide the foundation for your game experience. “You have to backfill the knowledge,” said Deborah Mensah-Bonsu, who works with Games for Good to leverage gaming audiences for social causes. “You need experts from both sides and to bring them together.” Jennifer Estaris of Ustwo Games echoed this, saying that it’s important to always develop for “entertainment first, education second.”

There are nearly 3 billion gamers in the world, a number that’s grown higher and higher since the beginning of the pandemic, and is surely to continue to rise. Whether developers are working with Triple-A studios or smaller indies, there has never been a better opportunity to use the medium to tell important stories and amplify unheard voices. Reflecting on how she approaches partnering with NGOs and charities to build games with a lasting impact, Mensah-Bonsu summed it up best: “These players already have their communities within gaming, so all you have to do is empower them.”

  • Dark Slope is an emerging game studio with ambitious projects in development. Our team is attending GDC this week and are available to discuss partnership opportunities. To set up a meeting please email questions@darkslope.com
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