Tag Archives: Special Effect

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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oneaday#52: The day I asked the Prime Minister for computer science

I should have written this up at the time, I drafted it, half finished, half dusty.

Having just read Eric Schmidt’s MacTaggart lecture from the Edinburgh Festival today, it took me back to a brisk winter morning in Oxfordshire. It was Thursday 1oth March 2011. It turned out that this was a very special day for Kirsty and I. We had been invited to the opening of the UK’s first National Accessible Games Centre in Charlbury, and I was to address the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron no less. On the way to the opening, our hearts sank, when we heard on Radio 4 that ‘Prime Minister Cameron was on his way to Brussels to meet feillow European leaders to discuss the escalations of civil unrest in Libya’.

‘That’s us done for then Kirst’ I said, ‘the PM won’t be coming to Charlbury today to open the centre’

‘Yes, what a shame’ said Kirsty, ‘still let’s make the best of it after all Matt Hampson is guest of honour and it is a big day for SpecialEffect (the charity that had built the centre)

So we carried on and I was less nervous about my speech, given I knew Matt and the SpecialEffect team.

However, when we got to the National Accessible Games Centre, it was crawling with all sorts of men in black, complete with ear pieces and military style gaits. The word from our hosts was that Mr Cameron was coming after all. He duly arrived and I made the following speech in a small room pretty much one to one, we were literally 3 feet from each other.

I am extremely proud and honoured to be asked to say a few words on this momentous occasion on behalf of the UK video games industry. I am thrilled that SpecialEffect are opening the National Accessible Games Centre here in Charlbury and is a tribute to the hard work put in by the whole of the SpecialEffect team.

This Centre is the first of it’s kind in the UK and we believe in the world and it is a real landmark not only for this wonderful charity, but for the video games industry in general.

The video games industry prides itself on providing true interactive entertainment. But it was only when this very special charity reached out to our industry, the multinational corporations and the smaller businesses, when they nudged us if you like, that we realised that that we could do so much more and make our games truly accessible to those
people with disabilities.

We feel that video games and interactive entertainment products offer a unique opportunity to level the playing field so to speak, to allow all people with or without disabilities to compete, play and enjoy games with each another. We are in an unique position as an entertainment industry and through interaction with initiatives such as SpecialEffect we can
truly start to ensure that we make games that are inclusive.

Our industry charity, GamesAid of which I am chairman, has been massively impressed by their work. So much so that for two years running the members of GamesAid have voted to support SpecialEffect.

Indeed the highlight of the UK’s premier consumer games show, the Eurogamer Expo last September in London was not Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Dance Central or Gears of War 3, it was the work that SpecialEffect showed wowing media and gamers alike. SpecialEffect certainly left a massive impression with their amazing Eye Control technology allowing everyone to play Need for Speed with nothing more than their eyes.

I would also like to say a few words about the synergies between the UK games development industry and SpecialEffect as these
are important to us all.

Driven by a technical expertise, fuelled by passion and commitment and often against all the odds and without a book of rules to follow, the UK has produced some of the greatest video games ever produced. From Elite to Grand Theft Auto to Fable to Little Big Planet, the UK has shown a propensity for technical innovation and awesome gameplay. In short we have punched above our weight on the world wide stage and our UK games developers have contributed and will continue to contribute significantly to the creative industries sector.

In the same way, SpecialEffect led by Dr Mick Donegan and his wonderful team have showed exactly the same approach to their cause. They are doing amazing work, writing the rules as they go, innovating and pioneering along the way. They have showed true leadership and are a massive asset to UKPLC.

Today is the day that SpecialEffect have taken an important step on the road to building this very special place – it really is a little big accessible games centre, built for games and above all open to everyone.

The Prime Minister gave his response, which was straight off the bat, without notes and highly impressive. There were some pictures and then we were instructed to move outside for more pictures. At this point Mr Cameron asked if the industry was getting behind SpecialEffect, and ‘are there any stragglers that I need to help along?’. I said that the industry had got behind the initiative and support was forthcoming and from multiple sources.

He then asked me if there was one thing he could take back to his Government to make a difference to the computer and video games industry. I paused, thought about it, and then said ‘yes, as a matter of fact there is one crucial message you could take back to your Government. Please ask Mr Gove to consider putting computer science back on the National Curriculum’. I referenced the recently published Livingstone Hope Report on skills for the computer and video games and VFX industries, commissioned by Ed Vaizey at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and that it had called for 20 recommendations, the
first of which was to put computer science back on the map. Mr Cameron asked why we should do this. I couched it in simple terms.

‘Prime Minister, we are very creative nation and the creative industries are an example of where we are winners. We have an amazing music, TV, film, and games industries and are
respected the world over. One of the many reasons for this is that we own the English language and it gives us and other English speaking peoples a unique advantage. It is almost a code which allowed us to create art and entertainment relevant to the 20th century. But now in the 21st century, we are all touched and influenced by technology beyond our wildest expectations. Technology requires a different language – the language of computer code if you will. If we do not equip our children to both read and write code, then they will only
ever be consumers of that technology, not inventors. Our culture and economy will be threatened and we will lose
.’

‘But we teach IT in schools’ said the PM.

‘Yes, but that teaches children how to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It does not teach them how to design, develop and build those products. Think of it as the equivalent of being only
able to read and not be able to write. Communication is one way and we have no ability to express ourselves culturally and thus economically’
.

‘I see, that is interesting. In fact it reminds me of the Baltic Conference I attended recently. There was much talk of the big technology companies eyeing Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia as possible sites for expansion. I was told all of these countries have skilled technicians and education standards in the science , technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are high. ‘ said the PM.

‘Yes Prime Minister, they all have a greater command of the new languages, the code, than we do.’

Our conversation ended and we had a series of pictures for the media and guests , before the Prime Minister left in a car, headed for an aircraft to take him to the important European summit on Libya. But before he left, I shook his hand, tapped my nose and said ‘Prime Minister, don’t forget it’s all about the code’.

Mr Cameron looked me in the eye, tapped his nose and said ‘yes, it is all about the code’.

And so to today, Eric Schmidt chairman of one of the world’s greatest technology companies, Google, spoke at the Edinburgh Festival about many things – but the line that did it for me was that the country that
invented the computer was “throwing away your great computer heritage” by failing to teach programming in schools. “I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even
taught as standard in UK schools,”
Schmidt said. “Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made.”

Let’s hope our leaders listen up and take some action. If we don’t, then Britain may not have talent for too much longer.

Full articles on Eric Schmidt’s speech can be found at www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/26/eric-schmidt-chairman-google-education#start-of-comments

and

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14683133

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Filed under Eric Schmidt, Politics, Video games