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And The Award Goes To...

BAFTA is a big name in film and television - but does the games industry need the Academy?

Tonight the BAFTA Video Games Awards take place at the Park Lane Hilton in London. It's an event which will gather more mainstream consumer interest than most triple A title launches, but speak to a selection of professionals in the UK industry and not everybody is sold as to its relevance or usefulness.

Here's why they're wrong.

A Brief History

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is undoubtedly one of the most respected names in the entertainment world, and BAFTA is as much of a byword for quality in TV and film as the Oscars or the Golden Globes.

Founded in 1947 by key names from British cinema at the time, it later merged with other organisations to become BAFTA in 1976 as a charity with the mission statement to "support, develop and promote the art forms of the moving image, by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public".

It first involvement with videogames came in 1998, with its Interactive Entertainment Awards, but it wasn't until 2003 that games was given its own ceremony, and not until 2006 that the industry was deemed significant enough to be placed on the same level as TV and film.

Given that the games business is generally obsessed with gaining the acceptance of the mainstream public, you'd have thought that such a decision by such an entertainment industry pillar as BAFTA would have been received with unquestioning support - but two and a half years on from the first televised event in the Camden Roundhouse, there are still some who seem to need convincing.

Put simply, the BAFTA Video Games Awards has never quite managed to find its place in the business - either in terms of acceptance of the judging process, or the time of year in which it all takes place.

When the first 'big splash' event happened in 2006 there was no doubting the glitz and glamour of the proceedings, although the resultant television coverage was perhaps less spectacular than some may have hoped for.

Nevertheless it was a solid base on which to build, and so the following year saw something which was arranged far more with the television company - in this case the Channel 4 network - in mind.

Sadly, that meant an oft-interrupted ceremony that people later complained was "dumbed down" for the E4 television audience, something taken to mean once more that the videogames business wasn't a strong enough spectacle to be taken on a par with other entertainment industries. It prompted criticism from some quarters that it was out of touch with what the games industry needed, and not doing enough to promote its interests ahead of BAFTA's other concerns.

Putting it in Perspective

However, Sony Computer Entertainment UK boss Ray Maguire, who is chair of the BAFTA Games committee, is firm in his belief that the Awards are crucial in the wider scheme of things - particularly when it comes to the consumer.

"I feel that if you take film and TV, and you look at what surrounds them in terms of the awards, you see the glamour," he told GamesIndustry.biz. It gets media coverage - the consumers, the media, the public look at that and see an environment they want to be associated with. They'd love to go to those awards - it's entertainment, and it's special.

"We, on the other hand, have many internal awards but they're not facing the consumer. In a time when it's tough out there, what we really need is the consumer to look at the games industry and see that it's all about art, creativity, innovation and great entertainment. We need to be proud of what we do, and we need to be proud of it in front of consumers.

"What better way of doing that than to look at the people who create the games, and award those that create the best with BAFTA masks. Imagine what it would be like to hold a BAFTA mask, if you were part of that team to get that award - that's the kind of spirit we need to capture.

"We do very little that faces consumers - this is the best way of doing it. And also, I think we have every right to eat at the same table as film and TV with pride. Many years ago I would have felt embarrassed, that we weren't actually worthy of it, but now we certainly are.

"Commercially we're as successful, technology-wise we have some ground-breaking technology, and the crossover is immense in terms of post production. So therefore I think we have every right to be part of it, and every right to be proud of the creativity we have. To reward it is exactly where the industry needs to be."

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Phil Elliott avatar

Phil Elliott