BAFTA Breakthrough Brits: A winner's story

As applications open for 2014 Dan Pearce shares his journey

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has a reputation for supporting the nation's creative endeavours, and games is no exception. With the launch of the Breakthrough Brits initiative last year it focused its attention on up and coming talent.

20 young and horribly talented creatives, selected by panel of industry professionals, were chosen to receive in-depth career guidance and mentoring, as well as free access to BAFTA events. As BAFTA opens applications for this year's Breakthrough Brits, GamesIndustry International spoken to Dan Pearce, one of the lucky few chosen last year, to find out how the initiative impacted his career as a game designer.

For more information on how to apply for this year's BAFTA Breakthrough Brits please go to the official site.

Q: How important was the BAFTA Young Game Designers Award in 2010 to your current career?

Dan Pearce: Winning Young Game Designers was huge for me. I can't imagine where else I could have received the boosts it gave me to my contact and experience, and also my confidence as a developer. A lot of what I've got now, and the opportunities I'm getting stem from YGD; BAFTA have been incredibly friendly and supportive. I got so much guidance through Young Game Designers, it's kind of ridiculous. By the time I turned 18, I had a pretty robust knowledge of the industry, and that's been continuously beneficial.

Q: What was the most valuable part of taking part in Breakthrough Brits for you?

Dan Pearce: It's tremendously cool to know that an organization like BAFTA is there to back you up. There are so many doors that BAFTA can open to you, and if you're a Breakthrough Brit, all you have to do is ask. The glitzy Breakthrough Brits party and free Burberry trench coat certainly didn't hurt either.


Q: Would you encourage other young people to seek out schemes like BAFTA's?

Dan Pearce: Yes. One hundred percent yes. I cannot express how useful it is to have BAFTA on your side, or how much they can accelerate a career. They're dedicated to helping creative people, and they do it in the kindest way possible.

Q: What are your other tips for aspiring game designers?

Dan Pearce: If you're an aspiring designer, one of the most important things you can do is keep making stuff. If you can't code, you probably can, it's just really awkward to start. Trust me, I've been there. If you really really can't code, focus on design theory and communication. Make design documents, pitch games to people on forums, make Minecraft textures, toy around in RPGMaker. There are a bunch of things you can do to improve yourself as a designer; you'll probably pick up a lot of programming knowledge by association, simply by working around games.

Q: What were some of the most important things you learnt from your mentor Andy Payne?

"If you're an aspiring designer, one of the most important things you can do is keep making stuff"

Dan Pearce: Stay real and stay friendly. I think there's this perception that, as you get further into the business side of the industry, or gain more of an understanding of how it works, you lose your humanity a bit. Andy is proof that this isn't true. He's very genuine, very kind, very humble, and he knows exactly all the right ways to help the people who approach him.

Q: Where would you be now without BAFTA?

Dan Pearce: Oh man, without BAFTA, I have no idea. I'd probably not be as proud of the work I've done, I might not even be making games still. I imagine I would be on some university course I didn't like, or I would have a "real job" instead. My parents had to be very supportive to get me where I am, and I think that would have been much more difficult for them if I didn't have the backing of such a well-known organization behind me. I really do owe BAFTA a lot.

Pearce's games include Hamster: Accidental World Domination which won the BAFTA Young Game Designers competition in 2010, 10 Second Ninja and Castles In The Sky which was nominated for a Best Debut Game BAFTA.

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