The Ottawa, Ontario-based Capital Gaming Expo recently made news by becoming an acquisition, and the newly purchased event is already off to a fast start before its launch day this spring. We interviewed the proud new owner of the CGX event, Jillian Mood, to talk about the conference and her vision for it.
Events for Gamers: Jillian, to start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do within the game industry?Jillian Mood: I have been working as an human resources director for about 12 years but started in the game industry almost six years ago. I had been working in and running HR departments in various entertainment companies and TV and loved the creativity and passion, but it wasn’t until I found a role in the game industry that I realized I had found my lifelong career path.
Q: What process and people brought the Capital Gaming Expo, or CGX, into your hands?
A: It’s an interesting story. The last few years of being an HR director I had been taking my role from internal to a very external role … branding companies in the industry, working on PR and marketing initiatives, helping companies really build amazing teams with creative hiring and retention, also creating great brands and getting recognition globally. And so I left the traditional role to work on events and conferences in the industry as well as starting my own company that helps startups and indies with their HR, PR and branding — why help one when you can help 20.
While this was happening, CGX came up for sale. In the past, I have worked on several large game conferences and always hated that I had to check with the owner on content or initiatives I thought would be very inspiring and super cool for the industry. When CGX approached me to see if I was interested in taking over the expo, I immediately said yes. It was perfect timing for me, Ottawa and the Canadian industry!
Q: Will the prior owners of CGX be involved in the conference this year?
A: Super question! The CGX owner also runs the very popular Ottawa Geek Market that is a yearly geek market that brings in over 5,000 people. For this first year, I thought how amazing would it be to run CGX and OGM on the same weekend, for a 10,000-person massive celebration of all things geek and gaming? And guess what? This falls during Canada’s 150th year of celebration, so the worlds aligned to make this a massive success! I am also working with the Canadian Video Game awards as they head to Ottawa for the first time, so Ottawa is the place to be this year 😉
Q: What do you feel makes Ottawa a strong location for a game industry event — and for game development and fandom in North America?
A: Ottawa can be a bit underrated in the game industry, but it’s an indie powerhouse! With indie studios such as Steel Crate Games (“Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”), Breakfall (“Starwhal”) and Fire Face (“Small Radios Big Televisions”). And that strong indie community will be growing for sure, especially with a strong focus happening on collaboration, skills enhancements and new initiatives hitting the city (Ottawa Game Jam, Girl Force, Ottawa Unity User Group, Ottawa Google Developer Group, a very engaged IGDA Ottawa).
With Toronto and Montreal so close — and both of those cities have thriving communities that don’t often have the opportunity to travel a short way for a inclusive event — there will be a big component of attendees from those cities as well. But we will also be seeing speakers and attendees from Atlantic Canada and British Columbia as well!
Q: What is your overall vision for CGX?
A: CGX is a massive celebration of games. I love the PAX feel for the game expo and am working with an amazing local developer, Jared Thomson, to have an exciting expo open to the public to really showcase what Canada is creating. This expo will be an amazing array of indies to triple AAA with a strong virtual reality component as well!
On the conference side, my vision for the content was simple: With so many indies and startups happening in Canada, let’s fuel that growth. Day one of the conference will have presentations from CEOs in the game and tech space. Company founders from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and more will be coming in to share their stories of success and failure, and attendees will really learn the ins and outs of starting companies — funding, talent, branding, development strategies — let’s talk about everything! This will be a very inspirational and entrepreneurial day!
On the second day of the conference talks, there will be a strong mix of creative and technical information. We have creative directors coming in from triple AAA companies next to the successful indie art directors all sharing valuable information along with some of the leading developers and technical directors in the industry.
We are adding in a lot of other goodies to be announced as well! What’s amazing is that while the expo will have 5,000 or more people, the conference side will be kept intimate. I am only selling 200 tickets, so those will go quickly, but it will be such a worthwhile experience for them. I am keeping ticket costs incredibly low as well so people are not unable to go for that reason and there will be definitely ways to volunteer and to get involved to give back to the industry!
Q: What do you feel might be the biggest challenge in building up and operating the Capital Gaming Expo?
A: Honestly, I am feeling so confident about this event and how it’s already shaping up. Being so ingrained in the industry has really allowed me to understand what content will be beneficial, and I am so fortunate to have such an amazing team there isn’t one big hurdle standing out … the best part of hiring a team is that you can make sure every component of building this up is being run by the best person, then you trust them to go with it, and it’s a strategy that is working!
Q: What are your metrics for a successful CGX this year?
A: At a high level … I want the community and public to leave thrilled and excited and proud of Canadian game and tech companies and loving what we are creating — it’s shockingly impressive, so showcasing Canada’s industry in one place will be beneficial — and also for conference attendees to leave armed with strategies for their careers and studios and for the companies with demos to benefit in a variety of ways … and I am betting a lot of collaborations will stem from this weekend.
Q: Do you have further details to share about CGX at this stage, such as keynotes or other conference highlights?
A: We have announced our first couple rounds of speakers and are set to announce round three and tickets and launch the new site in the next couple weeks!
For now, check out the Capital Gaming Expo Facebook page for announcements.
And I would love to hear from anyone who wants more information or would like to get involved! Jillian@jillianmood.com