Valve and game developer Auroch Digital will host an online festival next month for “games that cross between physical and digital.” Called the Steam Digital Tabletop Fest, the event will be streamed live from October 21st to the 26th.
The festival will showcase speakers like prolific designer Steve Jackson (creator of the GURPS roleplaying system, as well as many individual roleplaying games), Call of Cthulhu RPG designer Sandy Petersen, and Games Workshop co-founder Ian Livingstone. It will also include sessions for individual games. Plague Inc: Evolved designer James Vaughan will stream a session while discussing the difference between the game’s physical and digital iterations, and sessions for Othercide and Gloomhaven — another dual-format game — are planned as well.
There’s also an eye-catching panel for games about Mars, in which scientists and “actual space agency staff” will talk to game creators about what their work gets right and wrong.
“Digital tabletop” gaming doesn’t have a particularly strict definition. Valve describes its festival as covering things like “a digital port of a physical game, a game which has produced a physical version from the digital one, a game that simulates the physical play experience, or a digital game whose aesthetics are inspired by tabletop games.” More panels will be announced as the festival gets closer.
This isn’t Valve’s first move into festivals. Last year, Game Awards founder Geoff Keighley worked with it to launch a project called The Game Festival, which lets Steam users play upcoming game demos over a short window of time. Valve reprised the festival after the coronavirus pandemic shut down March’s Game Developers Conference and its associated indie developer showcases.
The Digital Tabletop Fest (so far) doesn’t bear much resemblance to tabletop gaming conventions like Gen Con. Interactivity — with designers and other fans — is a key part of these festivals, while Steam’s lineup so far suggests it’s more about panels and let’s play streams. If you want to actually play tabletop games, you can turn to Zoom or other online services... but the pandemic can still make it pretty tough.