À la Big Brotaru, immersed in a microcosm of Belgian video games

The small world of Belgian video games gathered in July for Big Brotaru, a networking event where developers can showcase their games and invite the curious to try them out. This year’s event was a dress rehearsal of sorts for Gamescom, Europe’s biggest video game trade show, taking place in Cologne in a few weeks. We managed to test several prototypes and demo versions of future black-yellow-red games…

Fun place for an aperitif! It is in, a former bank that served as a temporary venue for various events before its re-appointment, that Big Brotaru is being held this year.

Big Brotaru is the large-format version of Brotaru, the Belgian video game community’s monthly online meeting inspired by what’s already been done in Japan. Created in 2014, it allows developers as well as other players in the sector to meet to build a network. In eight years the attendance of the meeting has remained more or less constant (50-80 people), but the Belgian video game market has changed significantly.

Entering, you pass through empty and bare rooms with exposed concrete, like at a construction site. Voices echo in the background and we see what looks like a gathering of geeks of all ages in a casual setting.

Relaxed atmosphere a la Big Brotaru © Arturia Dequimpe

Fabrice Daniel, a cheerful man in his early 30s, is one of the old veterans of Walloon video games. “When I told my relatives that I make video games, they asked me which store sells them! Game development was an abstract thing for people. Today there are more or less a thousand industrial enterprises in Belgium, while ten years ago there were less than a hundred. There was no ecosystem, there was a desert. “But things have changed. Fabrice, who originally worked at Fishing Cactus, founded Maracas Studio last May with ambitious plans. And he is far from the only one launching his box in our country.

This growth of the video game sector in Belgium is actually largely due to the recent realization by the authorities of the economic interest in developing video games here. Because under the right conditions, the gaming industry can pay off big: in twenty-five years, Quebec’s tax break has allowed major job-creating studios to settle in Belle and turn it into a giant in the sector.

Only in 2023 will the Belgian federal government’s tax haven, already established in the film industry, be applicable to video games. However, in recent years there has been some help from the Federation of Wallonia and Brussels, but above all from the VAF, the Flemish audiovisual foundation that supports the sector. It is also one of the few places in the culture where there is such strong cooperation between north and south of the country, where English is widely used as the lingua franca.

A small family of Belgian video games

If we don’t find thousands of industry workers here, it’s because many of them, once their careers have started off successfully, are now too busy to come to these kinds of events. But despite the presence of one or two “big” studios, Larian (Divinity) in Flanders and Appeal (Outcast) in Wallonia, which employ more than a hundred people, Belgium remains a country of independent developers. Despite the growing size of the industry, everyone here knows each other – or will soon get to know each other – and everyone agrees that Brotaru allows you to exchange tips between developers and find new employees. This is especially true of Colin Sovand and Laurent Toulouse from RamRam Studios, who are also present and whose portrait we drew in the previous article.

La Brotaru is also the right place to get to know lesser-known professions in the field of video game creation. Pauline Marlière, for example, is a freelance narrative designer. “The Narrative Designer is the person they always go to in the studio for everything related to the story. I establish a connection between the writer who writes the story and the game designer, telling them that such and such a dialogue will take place in such and such a place, will be caused by such and such an action, etc. ”

Pauline Marlière, Narrative Designer © AD
Sandra, esports enthusiast © AD

We don’t just run into developers a la Brotaru. Aside from a few journalists, we also come across more unexpected profiles like the digital artist host from Point Culture… or Sandra, the 25-year-old athlete, Super Smash Bros and Rocket League fan. She hopes to make contacts to start creating esports events after completing her bachelor’s degree in film art and some hardships in the job market due to the Covid crisis. “Video games in Belgium is a sector where you don’t have to have a degree, it seems to be very open.”

Belgians at the start of Gamescom

This annual edition of Big Brotaru is held under the banner of Gamescom, Europe’s largest video game trade show, taking place August 24-28 in Cologne. FLEGA, the Flemish developer support association, during the afternoon conference, in particular, gave advice on how to prepare for it.

In keeping with the progress of their development, all creators don’t come to do the same thing at the fair in Colon. Fabrice Daniel is in the process of reaching out to publishers for his two projects, a co-op game for PC and “a 3D open-world adventure game on Switch with a twist.” Promises! “We already have publishers we want to work with. The question is, do they want to work with us! »

Guillaume Boucard, organizer, presents the pitch session © AD

The rest will present their games in the public part of Gamescom. And that’s good, because Big Brotaru wants to be a kind of dress rehearsal before pitching his project. In particular, with a presentation on stage, where each creator can show five minutes of pure gameplay. We see a roguelike in the western universe (Bounty of One), a gloomy RPG with pastel graphics (yes, it is possible and called Necro Story), a runner / shooter where you need to type words on the keyboard to shoot, a puzzle game of stringed instruments in virtual reality ( Virtuose)… And a fully twisted Rick and Morty-type humorous game whose name we didn’t see on screen, where funny aliens are controlled by a player installed in VR in a bureaucratic counter in Papers, Please!

We don’t know what it is, but we’ve never seen such a crazy game!

As every year, a Belgian delegation will be present at the exhibition to highlight the creators of the flat country. Yes, you read that right: Belgian, not Flemish, Walloon or Brussels! “It’s amazing, but it really unites the three regions of the country,” applauds Guillaume Boucard, lecturer in the video game section at the Albert Jaccard Higher School and organizer of Brotaru. “There is a lot of unity between the developers. This is a great message for our politicians! »

Crash test

After the presentation, the creators offered several games for public testing, which was a great way for them to get live feedback. We managed to touch some of them, even immerse ourselves in them in virtual reality.


Gazzlers is the most advanced game to test and is scheduled for release in 2022. Playing exclusively in virtual reality, it’s literally a rail shooter as you’re in the back of a train where we knock out characters with viral heads endowed with the IQ of rabid bunnies. A very fun immersive release set in the Mad Max universe.


Definitely, virtual reality inspires many independent Belgians. Finding a Publisher Silhouette is a puzzle game reminiscent of The Talos Principle. Here, in order for a two-dimensional character to move from one door to another, the player must use the shadow of his hands to create platforms on which he can lean. Everything is projected onto mobile devices for activation and rotation in all directions. The famous Chinese puzzle from Team Panoptes, which has already signed the Panoptic game.

When the developers do a live demonstration of the Silhouette, we see a beautiful mise-en-scene. © AD


It is still only at the prototype stage, but already arouses curiosity. Village uses the concept that made Zelda Majora’s Mask a cult game: a village time loop where each villager lives their life in real time (well, with 24-minute days). We have to uncover a police investigation there, being in the right place at the right time …

Noe Gigi, the young creator of Village, developed this prototype alone in his spare time and hopes to one day make it his first selling game. We wish him great success!

The village is still only a prototype without decoration, but its concept is very promising.

Arturia Dequimpe (st.)

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