The Eden Project

Jeremy Cooke explains the thinking behind the Cambridge-based organisation

Games Eden, a networking organisation aimed principally at the development community in the Cambridge area of England, launches today (December 5).

The event will be hosted by Bill Thompson, with talks from Frontier Developments boss David Braben and actor Andy Serkis.

To find out more about the organisation, and what it is hoped will be achieved, we spoke to its chairman, Jeremy Cooke.

Q: Why has this come about, and what are you hoping to achieve with it?

Well, there are a number of developer groups that have been established in areas such as Yorkshire, and there's one in the south of England, and these have been the focal point for the local game development community, and have proven to be very successful.

The fact of the matter is that around Cambridge there's a very large game development community which is unrecognised in the rest of the country, and indeed globally.

We've got Jagex, which is the largest independent game development studio in the UK, we've got a Sony studio, we've got David Braben at Frontier Developments, we've got Ninja Theory, we've got Zoonami, and of course we're here, Gameware, there's NiceTech who have just done an interesting product for the BBCâ¦

So we've got all this development talent locally, but they haven't really been talking to one another, and I just wanted to try - with the assistance of the government agencies who are keen help the local development community to communicate with one another - to bring about a networking organisation which assists the developers locally to talk about issues and concerns that are mutual, and secondly to bring to the attention of a wider UK and global audience the fact that there's some pretty serious creative talent in Cambridge and the surrounding region.

Q: Why hasn't this come together previously?

I think game developers by their nature are very heads-down, getting on with the job. So when you're working on a project, if you're a technical or creative person - as the bosses of most development studios are - then they tend to be focused on the job in hand, which is the creation of the project, rather than what's going on in the wider world.

It's only because the games are increasingly influential in terms of their global reach that there are other issues that we now need to be aware of.

Q: What will be your definition of success?

Cambridge specifically is renowned as an area of academic excellence. There are a number huge global technology companies, and they're increasingly going to need some creative assistance, because as we know it's the software that sells the hardware.

So in my view there is going to be more need for creative development talent, and if that talent is where the technology is created, that's a pretty logical and sensible mix.

Basically I believe there will be further business opportunities created by this networking organisation - that's with local companies, and it's also with international companies that will hopefully be more attracted to come and seek about the talent here in Cambridge and the surrounding area.

Q: And is that something you've seen happen with other groups already established?

I know that Game Republic [an organisation in the north of England] has been hugely successful; I know that members of Game Republic all speak very highly of it. It's a bit like supporting a football team I suppose.

But the same sort of thing applies - if we're from the Cambridge region then we've got something in common, quite simply. And there may well be opportunities that require the services and talents and expertise of more than one development studioâ¦and we've got more than one development studio locally.

In fact, in the region there's close to 1000 people employed in the games industry locally - partly thanks to Jagex and their 400 plus - but it's a not insignificant amount of people.

Q: Tell us about the launch event this evening.

Well as much as anything it's to try to make people locally aware of the fact that the organisation exists, and to let the game developers who are the steering group and beyond get together and meet senior managers.

There are seven or eight companies around Cambridge alone who are already active on the Games Eden steering committee, like those already mentioned, so we've got a solid base of support already, but what we want to do is attract more local freelancers, we want to attract more creative industry types - TV, film, those sort of people - that may well be interested in the creation of game content.

Jeremy Cooke is the chairman of Games Eden. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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