Poznań Game Arena was an event about gaming. It wasn't very big and I didn't see many game developers or publishers showing their new titles, but surely there was some interesting stuff like PC hardware, driving simulators, Xbox and Kinect and of course beautiful hostesses. A real tractor was also inside, advertising Farming Simulator game. Some other interesting places were a shop with lots of T-shirts with gaming-related overprints or Retro Area with oldschool computers like Atari or Commodore available to anyone who wanted to play these old games.
One thing I like about this event is that it showed hardcore gaming is not dead. In the era of simple, casual, 2D games for smartphones, tables and Facebook everyone is talking about the decline of hardcore PC gaming. I had this thought while on PGA that it's just from the marketing and finance guys' point of view. They sell lots of mobile devices these days because many people buy their first smartphone or tablet. But it doesn't mean we are going to throw our PC-s. Everyone has a PC or laptop. They just aren't able to sell us a new model every year or two like it was some time ago, so they talk about smaller money, smaller market or whatever. Obviously, more people play games like Angry Birds than games like Call of Duty. But hardcore gaming is still there for those who like it, so it was nice to see all these PC-s, powerful graphics cards, extreme overclocking and good looking 3D games.
ZTG, on the other hand, was an event for game developers, taking place at the same time and in the building next to PGA. I've been on ZTG 2 years ago and my experiences were mixed. This time I must tell the organizers did their homework and made an event that could be called a conference, not the convention. 2 days, 4 parallel sessions including talks, discussion panels and movie screenings - that's a lot of interesting stuff. In this year's edition everything was on time and just felt well prepared. One thing that remained is the "spirit" of the event, coming from the people that organize it. They are from the community creating games using middleware, like RPG Maker or Multimedia Fusion and so ZTG is focused more on game design than programming (a talk about terrain rendering techniques was one exception) and more on becoming indie games developer than getting a job in a AAA game developing studio.
When listening talks on ZTG, I had the reflection that there are two general types of talks on every gamedev conference. Both have some pros and cons. First is more scientific - presented by a student or a lecturer from a university. It can teach some subject or show the results of some novel research. But some may say that it is often too theoretic and far from what is really used in game industry, like when about neural networks, genetic algorithms or procedural content generation. Second is a talk from someone representing a game company. This one is often atractively presented and looks like the presenter knows a lot about the subjects from his own practice. But it often doesn't tell anything new or profound as real developers from famous game companies are either not allowed to talk about the details of their work, or just don't need to - it's their name in the agenda what matters, not what they say :) So it's easy to complain on either type of these talks, but for me a good conference finds balance between them. In my opinion, ZTG did this right.