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Channel 4 education continues indie gaming agenda

Channel looking for new projects following successes of 1066, Bow Street Runner

Channel 4 commissioning editor Alice Taylor has said the channel is currently looking for educational content for its 2010 schedule, a significant portion of which will be made up of games.

Speaking at this year's NEoN event in Dundee, Taylor expressed Channel 4's interest in commissioning indie game companies to create a range of content for it, from Facebook applications to XBL Indie games.

Since making the decision to spend its GBP 5 million annual education budget on internet native content rather than traditional television programmes, Channel 4 has made significant inroads in reaching its teen audience.

History series 1066 now boasts over 8 million plays and Bow Street Runner – an historically accurate point and click adventure – picked up a BAFTA last year. Similarly, the new Derren Brown fronted online series Science of Scams is attracting increasing numbers of viewers to each new episode.

Future projects, said Taylor, would continue to cover typical teen issues such as sex, health, body image and alcohol, as well as lesser touched upon topics such as happiness, religion and death. Channel 4 had identified particular issues, she added, such as the disparity in numbers of girls studying science at higher education level compared to boys, and aimed to address issues that could be acting as boundaries for them in an attempt to encourage girls to study science subjects.

Channel 4 has three key criteria for its online content, said Taylor. It needs to be playful, sociable and useful. The word 'game' she uses in a broad sense, since its titles vary in form, from a Facebook app for discovering books to a DNA and genetics focused online series revolving around a filmed documentary.

Examples of upcoming projects for the coming year include Pressure, an online comic; Privates, a sex education game pastiche of Gears of War; and Ada, a PC downloadable platform game about climate change.

Budgets for Channel 4 content have ranged from GBP 40,000 to GBP 850,000, said Taylor, and the games are always free to users. The platform is typically PC – either Flash based or downloadable – although the channel is looking into publishing on XBL. Since most teens don't have iPhones, it's less likely it will publish games on that format.

The developers Channel 4 works with are 100 per cent independent, and the majority used in the last year have also been first-timers with the channel, said Taylor, who cited Six to Start, Zombie Cow and Beatnik as examples.

Studios interested in submitting ideas for games are always welcome to do so, she added. In particular for 2010, the channel is looking for games that cover the areas of entrepreneurship and careers.

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Kath Brice