Friday 24th November, Bradford, UK: The potential for storytelling in games to compete with film and TV, the difficulties of pulling off successful PR for your game, and the growing chasm opening up between big budget triple-A releases and their indie counterparts: It might have only been the second annual Yorkshire Games Festival, but that didn't stop prized speakers tackling the games industry's difficult issues.
Taking place at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford over five days earlier in November, the festival saw some of gaming's brightest and most esteemed peers both take to the stage and light up various events to educate, inform and, dare we say it, entertain almost 9,000 attendees - a figure that represents a 15 percent jump over 2016's figures.
Speakers who have worked at the likes of award-winning studio TT Games, Frontier Developments, Criterion Games, Ninja Theory, Wargaming.net, Naughty Dog, and the talent that created mega multiplayer hit Overcooked, all offered insight and provoked debate aplenty.
"This was my first year attending the Yorkshire Games Festival and it was great to see such enthusiasm for the games industry running throughout the speakers, organisers and attendees," offers Dominic Matthews, Commercial Director at Ninja Theory. "The quality and breadth of talks was excellent and the audiences eager to learn. Altogether a hustling, bustling event of enthusiasm and optimism for the games industry set in the aspirational setting of the National Science and Media Museum."
It was a setting fit enough to host Matthews' own musings on the growing divide between games from triple-A studios and the often more creative releases from indie developers - developers who have the freedom to take risks their bigger brothers don't. Ninja Theory, however, sits in between the two he argued, exploiting the opportunity and somewhat greater scope provided by independence with the bigger budget typically afforded only the major players. Does this growing 'independent-triple-A' space offer a massive opportunity for studios currently entering the market?
His time on stage came after scriptwriter and narrative designer Martin Korda, who drew on his experience as a writer on some of the biggest games launched in the last decade to suggest storytelling in games has the potential to become one of the most powerful forms of narrative in the world. Games, he suggested, can utilise storytelling techniques from movies, TV, radio and books and combine them with interactivity and player choice to create a compelling combination.
"The Yorkshire Games Festival has the potential to become one of the key annual UK games industry events," said Korda of his visit. "Its audience of established game development professionals, and students aspiring to one day become a part of the industry, provides the event with an excellent balance of experience and enthusiasm. It was a real pleasure to speak at such a vibrant and welcoming festival."
For organisers, the jump in attendance and the overall quality of the speakers has validated both the event's creation and its expansion this year, which saw a dedicated School Day, numerous workshops and game showcases.
"It may only have been the second Yorkshire Games Festival, but the event already feels both established and growing in scale and scope," comments Festival Director, Kathryn Penny. "It's so exciting to see the mixture of experience - our amazing speakers - and excitement from the large number of students and delegates the festival attracts all mingling together, exchanging ideas and debating the issues. It's an event that really lights up the museum."
The schedule, in brief, included:
Wednesday 8th November, 2017
- School Day: A free day of activities for schools, with special events for KS2 and KS3 children covering all elements needed to make a great game
Thursday 9th November, 2017
- Talks: Presentations by Destiny 2 videogame writer Martin Korda, Arthur Parsons - Head of Design, TT Games - who examined the legacy of TT Games and delved into the making of his current game, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2, Director of Special Projects at Wargaming.net Tracy Spaight, Louise McLennan and Sebastian Hickey of Elite Dangerous developer Frontier Developments, and Dominic Matthews from Ninja Theory
- Workshop on the Business of Video Games
Friday 10th November, 2017
- Talks: Keynote speech from former Naughty Dog VFX artist Iki Ikram who talked about his work on The Last of Us and Uncharted 4, plus legendary composer and musician David Wise, Overcooked's Oli De-Vine and Phil Duncan, Kieran Crimmins and James Svensson of Criterion on Star Wars: Battlefront VR Mission, Gang Beasts' creators James Brown and Michael Brown of Boneloaf
- Meet the Developers networking event
Saturday 11th November, 2017 and Sunday 12th November, 2017
- Let's Play Weekend - Scores of special events, many of them free, extending beyond the National Science and Media Museum, encompassing games showcases, arcade games, WiFi Wars (charge applies), Minecraft workshops and The Displaced, a live-action multiplayer game!