Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Fringe Benefits

Chris Deering on what to expect from this year's Edinburgh Interactive Festival.

The Edinburgh Interactive Festival is back this year, complete with new speakers, new events and a new agenda. Here, EIF chairman and former Sony Europe boss Chris Deering reveals more of what's planned for the event.

Read part one to find out about Deering's views on PS3 and Sony's current strategy. How are the plans for this year's EIF going?

We think it's going to be the best ever. It's the fifth anniversary, it's the longest continuous running conference that deals with games in Europe. There are other things that happen in Europe, developers' conferences and so on, but this is simply a celebration of creativity in an atmosphere where creativity is in the air.

It's not a business conference, it's not a development conference; it's really looking at interactivity in general. We call it the interactive festival because so many things, including games but not limited to games, are interactive, and interactive features are becoming part of experience in an awful lot of ways. So the games industry is becoming more relevant in a broader context than ever before.

What kind of content are you looking to showcase?

We try to find things that are at the cutting edge, a little bit different, try to get people to think outside the normal constraints of the games industry as it has been up to now.

Of course, even the industry's changing rapidly, with so many games being played on mobiles, MMOs, casual games... The old cornerstones of the PC and consoles are as robust as ever, but it goes beyond that.

Because of the new high-powered capabilities of the consoles in particular, but even PCs, the cinematic experience is getting more relevant. Therefore things that have traditionally been in the realm of cinema become part of the production responsibility and opportunities in gaming, such as scripts, direction, acting and so on.

There are some business aspects - we have some financial analysts speaking to us this year - but by and large, it's a networking opportunity for the creative side of the business to rub elbows with the management side of the business.

So what's the benefit for companies in being part of EIF?

It isn't all just companies; there are many individuals, academic and government people, who come to get a sense of what's happening in the industry.

We build in a lot of time for networking, but we don't expect companies to send their entire workforce. Generally we get between 150 and 300 delegates coming, and we couldn't handle much more than that anyway.

Can you tell us about some of the changes for this year's event?

We have a session called Games Actually, which is a circuitous way of coming at the issue of more and more women playing games. The question is always raised at conferences - what can we do to bring more women into the gaming world?

This isn't quite the same as such but we'll be asking what are the opportunities now quite a lot of the gaming audience are women. And we'll ask whether we being focused enough at the creation stage on products that will have broad appeal.

The hardcore female gamers get upset about this, because they don't want to be distinguished for being female. We respect that, but there are a large number of people who don't consider themselves hardcore gamers but do have fun, and that's a big marketing opportunity and a big creative opportunity.

How does that tie in to the main agenda for EIF 2007?

The theme of this year's EIF is expanding the creative culture of gaming... This year we're going to have a session on behind the scenes in the development studios of Second Life, which we think will be interesting.

We have a talk from the president of EVE Online, which is generally considered to be one of the highest technical achievements in massively multiplayer online games.

We try to find things that are just peering up over the horizon, that look like they may be trends or at least fascinating new developments, and we try to bring some perspective to that and just celebrate it.

One of the things that people in the games industry seem to agree on, even though they're fierce competitors, is that they love the uncertainty of it - they love the thrill of adventure of it. They're always excited when they see technology and entertainment being merged in some creative new way. So this is basically the atmosphere that's in the air.

So it's not so much about making money?

We're not a business like some conferences quite frankly are businesses. We try to make enough money to cover our costs and that's it. Probably the cumulative so-called profit is probably still a bit negative.

Last year we kind of broke even, thankfully, because ELSPA and Tiga are the co-sponsors and they don't have the kind of money to underwrite negative balances. It seems to be on an even course financially.

Do you think you will turn a profit this year?

We have quite extensive amount of production costs et cetera, we have some good sponsors. I'd rather have the bottom line be black than red, but essentially if there is a positive it gets reinvested next year for whatever we can do to improve the experience.

Are games really as respected as other forms of media taking part in the Edinburgh festival, TV and theatre and so on?

It really depends. We're not trying to hitchike on the integrity of the prestige of films or live performances, but we do respect that there's a great deal of that creative spirit in the air.

It is getting more respected by the cinema community, especially the big studios, who have been in and out of games over the last 20 years but seem to be ramping up again.

They recognise that game companion programs to films are quite profitable in most cases - look at things like Harry Potter and the new Lord of the Rings MMO. The movie industry certainly has a lot more respect for gaming than in the past.

Chris Deering is chairman of the Edinburgh Interactive Festival. Interview by Ellie Gibson.

Read this next

Ellie Gibson avatar
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.