My visit to Campus Party, the world’s largest technology festival
by Tobias Maul
10,000 IT aficionados – and I am in the middle of them. Tempelhof Airport was THE meeting point for the technology and entertainment community from 21 to 26 August 2012. Berlin is not only the start-up stronghold for Germany but also a magnet for geeks and nerds from all over Europe and the world. I was part of it in the digital metropolis Berlin for four days. During four days I have gamed, marvelled, listened. These are my completely analogue impressions.
Day 1: Fairy versus wizard
Here I go for the airport! I get my ticket from the counter in the entry hall. Whilst I am waiting, I watch the others in the queue. They are all around 20, slightly more men than women. They talk in English, Spanish and Russian. Some are clothed stylishly, with chino pants, sunglasses by Ray-Ban and iPhone. The party not only attracts experts.
In the old passenger terminal the Brazilian bestseller author Paulo Coelho speaks on the main stage. What´s he doing here? If we share contents over the internet, we can change the world, he says. OK, I see. Then I look around in the hall. Apart from the eight small stages I am drawn to the white tables, all equipped with sockets and Internet connections. Mainly young men are sitting in front of their screens, enter something fully focused on their keyboards, marvel at the tuned computers of the other tinkerers.
As a gamer of many years I then want to go to the Stadium. Here the gamers are engaged in epic battles with their armies of demons, fairies and wizards. I can follow the spectacle on a large screen, professionally accompanied by two presenters. The winner will be rewarded with EUR 10,000. Earning money whilst gaming, not bad. But not a job for me.
Day 2: “Just do it!”
Back to technology country! At the beginning I listen to the keynote by Yossi Vardi, a start-up entrepreneur from Israel. He became famous with his Chat software ICQ. “Just do it!” he tells the audience. Just do it! A good tip, not only for young IT aficionados.
The next presentation deals with science fiction from the 80s: Cyberpunk. Virtual reality, hackers and hi-tech prostheses – fiction at the time, by now part and parcel of everyday life. Very cool: in order to have the right access, the young lecturer from Tel Aviv shows us footage from the Japanese sci-fi movie Ghost in the Shell. Electro music from the Wamdue Project is booming from the boxes. Then I listen to papers on fusion energy, cyber stalking and robot contests. Now that’s enough for me, my hard disc needs a restart.
Day 3: Retro feeling on the bus
With my friend I stroll through the hall. Here they play the most recent games, fully concentrated, in the start-up garage people go into a huddle about clever business ideas, small robots are crossing the floor. The largest of them, a head-high steel skeleton hammers the Grunge hit Smells Like Teen Spirit on the drums by using his four arms. So efficiently, that the screws in his neck have to be readjusted in between.
My personal highlight is in the outdoor area. There is an old double-decker travel bus of BVG. KJOSK – the big letters attract me. On the lower deck there are sweets, newspapers and coffee and on the upper deck Super Nintendo invites to gaming. We do some rounds of Mario Kart, a fun racer. Ouch, my banana peel has thrown Mario’s Kart out of the track! But this is not cheating but expressly allowed. Great, we are both on the winners podium! What more could one want!
Day 4: A look ahead, a look back
Finish: today all is about future trends. Aerial drones for all and intelligent glasses with photo function and Internet. Whilst I am listening I sum-up the past days. A lot of input, a lot of technology. The campus party is above all targeting tinkerers and young IT experts who want to have a head start in the industry. Berlin as a start-up capital was the right place for it. I am more interested in electronics and games and would not count myself amongst the geeks. I drive home. After the last days I look forward to a book.