EGX, video games, expo, crowds, stands

EGX 2014: BAFTA Young Game Designers

At this year’s EGX, Phil was invited to attend presentation about BAFTA’s Young Game Designers initiative which included a talk from Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell.

Phil says…

The Young Game Designers initiative (BAFTA YGD) is designed to help those that create video games turn their hobby into a career and is targeted at ten- to eighteen-year-olds. Workshops are run throughout the country where aspiring designers can learn more about the industry and find their most suitable roles, aided by some of the top gaming professionals. Yogcast‘s Kim recently collaborated with BAFTA YGD on a video series going behind the scenes in the UK gaming industry to find out how awesome titles are made at famous studios such as EA and Sega.

Harvey Elliott, chair of the BAFTA Games Committee and CEO of Marmalade, opened the presentation. He spoke about how the initiative has changed for the 2014-2015 academic year by now stretching the age group from eleven to seventeen to ten- to eighteen-year-old designers, and how the afore mentioned video series supports the initiative by allowing them to reach and engage even more with younger generations to encourage those interesting in making video games.

Next up was Dan Sutch, Head of Development Research at Nominet Trust who are the principal funding partner of the BAFTA YGD competition. He talked about the big shift in the UK school curriculum which now teaches coding to children in IT lessons; this shows how the education system has recognised the enormity and importance of the the gaming industry, estimated to be worth $3.4bn in this country alone. With this shift Dan indicated the importance of organising more events to demonstrate the ability of getting younger people involved in developing great games and activities.

EGX, expo, video games, BAFTA Young Game Designers,  Mike Bithell, Dan Pearce

We then heard from Jo Twist, CEO of UKIE about the work they are doing to promote the UK video gaming industry in order to make the country the best place develop and publish games. She shares my ambition to make a title about cats but takes the idea even further by making them felines who are skilled in parkour – I think I’ve been outdone here. Jo talked about how design skills such as art, animation and coding are transferable to many other industries, making a career in creating video games a beneficial path to take. UKIE aims to reach more people from diverse backgrounds as games reflect real-life and so there’s a lot more to be learned from releases that share real experience from all backgrounds. Finally, she echoed how big the industry has become, now larger than both the film and music industries with YouTubers becoming the new celebrities for younger generations.

Then it was time to hear from some successful independent game developers about their thoughts and experiences with the BAFTA YGD initiative, starting with Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone. To him, this was just a hobby game which turned into a massive success and enabled him to start his own game development company which is currently working on the upcoming Volume stealth-em-up. Help and support throughout his childhood, including a teacher that let him submit essays in the form of video games, enabled him to be where he is today but Mike Bithell believes initiatives such as BAFTA YGD would have made him even more successful if they existed at the time.

Finally we had the pleasure of listening to the success story of Dan Pearce, winner of the first ever BAFTA YGD competition in 2010. Winning the award launched his career by helping him get gain access to people within the industry, enabling him to become a successful independent developer – the initiative offers much more than other educational facilities. It was clear how grateful he was and he took the time to thank those involved and promote it to other aspiring young developers in the audience.

Those who love building things from scratch and are interested in creating video games are encouraged to enter with the rules becoming available soon.

After the presentation and for the rest of the day, a workshop demonstrated how the initiative helps to cultivate the skills required in the games industry and also how it inspires young people to use their talent. The 2015 competitions begin early next year and include awards for concepts and creation. Those who love building things from scratch and are interested in creating video games are encouraged to enter here with the rules becoming available soon.

It was awesome to learn about how much effort is being put into the UK video games industry, and to see such a large charity as BAFTA putting effort into ensuring the success of young developers was very inspiring. The industry is a very modest one that doesn’t like to promote its successes even though it has grown bigger than most others, and for it to continue growing we need more initiatives like this to find and nurture fresh young talent. To find out more, visit the BAFTA Young Game Designers website and check out their YouTube channel for in-depth videos.

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