Monthly Archives: November 2012

Video Games and Art

Here’s a speech I gave at London’s City Hall on Thursday 25th October 2012, during the London Games  Festival http://www.londongamesart.com .  It was about why I thought games and interactive entertainment were a key part of the growth in tech based business, what part they could play in the UK’s economic growth and importantly what the Mayor and the Government could do to kick start the much needed economic and social growth we need right now.

That night the assembled guests marveled at the fantastic examples of video game art hanging on the walls of City Hall. Now, anyone can buy these wonderful pieces in an exclusive auction running right now. The great thing is that EVERY SINGLE PENNY raised will go to the wonderful video games charity, SpecialEffect. You can see what’s on sale here http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/specialeffect2012/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686

I would like to thank the Mayor and deputy of Mayor London for allowing the video games industry such a prestigious space to show some of our most creative visual art to the public. I would also like to thank Kirsty Payne, Nadia Lawlor and Adam Cooper who have worked tirelessly to bring these wonderful creations to you.  This exhibition showcases games that are now part of our culture from Mario to Sackboy to Sonic and beyond. This is a first for London and a first for the video games industry and shows that London can and will continue set the pace within the digitally connected global economy.

London’s games sector is part of a national success story that contributes over £3bn to the UK economy a number which is set to rise and rise in the coming years.

London is the home to gold standard business success stories such as Mind Candy, with their 60 million registered players, Rocksteady Studios, creators of BAFTA winning Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Sports Interactive creators of BAFTA winning Football Manager, Splash Damage and Mediatonic whose games have been played by over 300 million people. Add to this the vibrant indie PC mobile and social games and App developers based in London such as, AppyNation, Future Games of London, We are Interactive, Ustwo, Hoopla, Honey Slug, Hotgen, Hand Circus, Playmob, Preloaded and many more.

 Alongside the games developers we also have a vibrant publishing and technology scene which is growing all the time. Sega, Square Enix, Capcom, Namco Bandai, Microsoft Studios, Konami, GREE, Sony Computer Entertainment, Mastertronic and many more  have their European headquarters here, along with household technology names like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Of course The UK Association for Interactive Entertainment, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the whole industry to put this wonderful exhibition together, are also based right here in London. All of these companies employ thousands of skilled designers, marketeers, finance, legal and logistics professionals. London employs 24% of all UK jobs in computing and related activities.

An historic world trading centre, London is sat bang in between mainland Europe, Asia and the Americas. Historically, we used our technical prowess and innovation combined with our spirit of endeavour to build our great businesses and institutions. The old River Thames and the Oceans which were the arteries of trade, have now been complemented by the thing we call the Internet. Our ships and sailors have been replaced by our agile tech companies skippered by intrepid digital entrepreneurs. We are in a new Golden Age and the stakes are high.  London continues to lead the way in digital trade and exchange of ideas with an evolving culture fostered through a spirit of collaboration and disruptive  business models.

 In short London is at the epicentre of this digital world economy culture. But we are in a global race, and some may even say that this country is at economic war, either way the stakes are the highest they can be.

The UK and London have some of the most creative and innovative hi-tech businesses around.  We are growing and a success story but could grow faster and employ more Londoners if we could solve our talent shortages.

Simply put, we don’t train enough people, early enough in their education, in the right things – chiefly computer programming – and we need to address this.   

The Mayor’s Education Inquiry recognised the challenge for London set out by Next Gen Skills’ evidence. 

In 2011 there were just 382 A level computing and computer studies entries across London out of 98,027 entries in all subjects – 0.4% of all A-levels taken in the city.  We know that this is down to poor curriculum, low numbers of schools offering the subject, low numbers of qualified teachers and poorly articulated career horizons.

The Ukie-backed Next Gen Skills campaign was launched last year to solve skills shortages not just in the video games industry, but across digital creative and hi-tech businesses.

Since then the Government has committed to reforming the outdated ICT course students study at GCSE and create space in the curriculum for Computer Science to be taught in our schools. 

On 19 October the Government has also made clear its support for Computer Science teachers, by providing £20,000 bursaries  akin to Physics teachers to attract bright new talent.

This is welcomed – at the moment 2/3 of ICT teachers in London are not qualified to teacher even the outgoing ICT curriculum. 

Now we need a new strategic look across London’s 32 Boroughs at the quality of our provision and the quality of our teaching.

We believe the Mayor could play a major role in improving partnerships between business, universities and schools for the study of STEM subjects, and promote effective routes into STEM-related professions like ours.

So we have challenges, of course we do. All new and innovative industries will have these, but we know what we have to do and if we are in any doubt about the power of games, just draw on the inspiration around here  at City Hall. The video games and Interactive Entertainment is the new rock ‘n’ roll and the movies rolled up in one. Our games, our play and our communities will shape and define our culture and create our wealth.

Enjoy these wonderful images.

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GamesAid gets pretty vocal

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It was back in April at the MCV Awards  that Ian Chambers mentioned to Ian Livingstone and I that he had the idea of assembling a choir and performing a live concert, in front of real people, entirely made up of people from the games industry. Without really thinking it through, Ian and I said we were in and it would not be a problem to get 25 fellow games industry people together. To make things even ‘better’ we would do it as a fund raiser for GamesAid and set a target to raise £10,000 and a load of awareness to boot.

Then it dawned on me. It’s not often that one really does take oneself out of one’s comfort zone. [Or indeed refer to yourself as ‘one’ Ed ].  Yes we all talk about it and some of us do it, but usually we know that we can and will achieve the goal. But this choir lark means some of us i.e. me, were truly going to a new place.

So on the 19th of September this year, a few souls from the games industry assembled at the wonderful Neville Mariner rehearsal room deep in the crypt area of St Martin’s, just off Trafalgar Square in central London on the start of our journey. Could we be blended into a functioning choir?

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Ian was very clear from the start. We needed to both believe we could do it and enjoy the experience. If we did that, then the hard work or the ‘note crunching‘ would become secondary and thus easier.

It turned out that we did have some ‘form’ in the gathering. Rich Keen, Becca Roberts, Harry Holmwood, Ombelline Wallon, Katie Brooks and Rob Cooper all have great voices. Ian of course is an accomplished musician and singer, although as a choir we would not have the benefit of his Alto on the night!

The overriding lessons of the early sessions were geared around the act of breathing which is vital, obviously. I was struck by just how hard this can be and how exhausting one is after just one number! We were told to stand up straight and put our weight on our toes. Look forward, head up and smile. We did as we were told. We always do.

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The curve ball outside of all the physical effort and technique needed is that the songs are not always as I remembered them as a kid. Because many of them are different ‘arrangements’ we are effectively learning new songs. Without giving the game away too much, harmonies can lead us all into temptation. Temptation to sing the versions or arrangements we all know and have come to love. Unlearning can be as hard as learning especially after all these years!

Despite all of this, Ian has managed to drill us into a semblance of a harmonised unit. The 2 months have flown by, we have had 6 rehearsals which have all been well attended, given everyone is always mega busy, it’s a tribute to the dedication of the choir members (I am loathe to use choristers just yet) that we have come so far. But with less than a month to go now, we have to up our game. A lot.

So more single practice at home, in the shower or walking along the street, more rehearsals and more belief are needed. As our choir master keeps telling us there is no substitute for the hard hours we all need to put in to make sure we deliver on the night of the 19th of December.

The venue is booked, and it is stunning the wonderful St Stephen’s in Rosslyn Hil, London, NW3.

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We have even got  the mince pies, mulled wine, film crew, sheet music, venue, ticketing all sponsored by the wonderful people at EA, IGN, Sega, Indigo Pearl, Ubisoft, OnLive, Mastertronic and Fink Creative.

If you would like to come along and lend your support on the night, sing along, enjoy the festive fancies and support the wonderful charity that is GamesAid www.gamesaid.org then you can buy at ticket at http://www.justgiving.com/christmasconcert .

Every single penny of your entrance fee goes to GamesAid. It’s only £20 for adults and only a tenner £10 for under-16s. 6.45pm on Thursday 19th December 2012, mark your diary now.

Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas!

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