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D&AD on why gaming deserves more recognition than it's getting.

D&AD is an educational charity representing the creative, design and advertising communities. It was established more than three decades ago, but it was only last year that a gaming category was introduced for the D&AD awards.

Otherwise known as the Yellow Pencils, these awards are given to work which the judges believe to be "original and inspiring, well-executed and relevant to its context".

In 2006 Yellow Pencils were won by Resident Evil 4 and Nintendogs; this year Nintendo picked up two, for Wii Sports and Brain Training, while Sony was recognised for PSP game LocoRoco.

During the judging week talked to D&AD president Tony Davidson and Paula Taylor, team director for the awards, about the growing importance of games and where they sit in the world of design. What was the thinking behind the decision to award Yellow Pencils to videogames?

Paula Taylor: Gaming's a new category for us, and what's fantastic is a lot of gaming aesthetics come from a design aesthetic. It's about creative excellence, so it's really important for gaming to be included with all our other categories.

In future would like to work with other countries. Gaming is a huge industry, and we'd like to get out there and meet everyone who's doing all this great work.

Tony Davidson:It's interesting how you judge something like gaming. You've got the backend, so you might have a game that's technically really good, but then you've also got to consider the design.

I would argue that what Nintendo has done with Wii - that for me is actually a creative leap. That for me is against the tradition of let's do more football, for example, the next FIFA, which is just incremental. They went, 'No, let's make it a physical thing,' which was a big stand.

I think the way they're advertising Wii is rubbish, but the PR they've got around it and the idea of doing that physical thing - which is the way gaming is going I think - is great.

Do you mean the 'lifestyle' type adverts?

Tony Davidson:Yes. If they were entered in the advertising category they'd be voted straight out, because they're not creative. You could do much better advertising for that product.

But the product itself, and what it stands for - it's broken the mold, it's a big step forward. Nintendo has always been quite a radical company like that.

Paula Taylor: We're using the DS for wireless judging as well, in all the categories. It's the first time we've done it, we're test running it now. Nintendo has looked after us - we're not actually doing it in liason with them but they've given us a very good price.

Tony Davidson: I'd love to bring Shigeru Miyamoto over to do a talk because he's truly inspiring. But we need to engage with the gaming fraternity a little more so we make sure we get an audience that's big enough for him.

It's quite difficult because gaming has its own awards, and you have to make people understand what D&AD is because it is slightly different. But you'll mix, you'll merge with other people, and that's the interesting thing about D&AD - I would like to think that if there was a load of gaming people they might bump into a designer, and something might happen as a collaboration as a result. That's a really important part of D&AD.

You can see it changing - there's advertising happening in games, there are digital sculptures, everything's merging, and the good companies are thinking much more broadly about working with other people.

I just think it's interesting meeting people from other creative industries that you perhaps don't understand, or 'get', and then you suddenly realise that you all have a common goal.

Looking at the games being considered by the judges, a lot of them use innovative control systems - like the DS's stylus or the Guitar Hero controller. Does that mean games which use traditional controllers won't be considered to be as innovative?

Tony Davidson: Not at all. That's someone looking out there rather than thinking, 'Well, I'll make the next better, faster football game or the next golf game.' It's like Hollywood, in a weird way - you realise that 90 per cent of films don't make money, and they're sh*t. I don't know whether the games industry works the same way - the 10 per cent make up for all the others.

As D&AD I sit there and go, 'Why do you make the 90 per cent sh*t?' I think it's because they know, 'Well, Rambo IV will make us enough money to cover it and we can market it.' It's a very interesting model, whereas I suppose everybody here is looking for the 10 per cent.

I'd say for me, I think The Sims should have won something - it was groundbreaking, a great game. I think Spore will be a huge thing; it sounds amazing. Will Wright's really inspiring in the way he thinks. But I question whether those things are being entered into D&AD yet; we need to build our bridges and relationships.

Gaming is just such a big part of design culture that it's really important it's part of D&AD. We've always tried to look at what's happening in culture, and you know, gaming is a bigger industry than television.

So gaming is becoming more important to our culture?

Paula Taylor: It's become very relevant, and it's very important for that form of creativity to be expressed and acknowledged as well.

Tony Davidson: If you've got something bigger than television going on in the world... It'll be interesting to see what happens to gaming in the next few years because it grew and grew, and now there's an interesting time where it's not growing at the pace it was.

There's some debate in the industry over whether games can be considered an art form. What do you think?

The same question gets asked about advertising, and I think you don't have to get mixed up. It's not an art form, it's a part of culture, and it is part of design because of that. That's more important.

There's an eternal debate about 'Is it art?'. No, it's not art, it's a business idea. You're trying to sell a game. Art is an individual, I think, expressing themselves in any way that is within them. In gaming, there's a little bit more strategy going on.

One game that's been brought up in that debate is Shadow of the Colossus - some would argue with that game, Fumita Ueda is trying to express a particular idea, a vision of the world. Is that not artistic?

Tony Davidson: There's an element of artistry, of course. Somebody is putting themselves into a piece of communication. Every piece of work I do I'm putting some of my work into it, because you can't help that, but there's a brief and an objective to meet.

There, if somebody didn't think that was viable to sell - it would be interesting, I don't know how much freedom you'd get. Of course there are elements of people expressing themselves, and sometimes, when you go out on a limb like that, you touch people's hearts a bit more because it's different.

Tony Davidson is president of D&AD, while Paula Taylor is team director for the Yellow Pencil awards. Interview by Ellie Gibson. For more information, visit

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Ellie Gibson


Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.