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Winning Formula

Sony's Eric Matthews on what it takes to win a D&AD Award.

Established in 1962, D&AD is an educational charity representing the creative, design and advertising communities. Each year the organisation gives out a selection of awards, otherwise known as Yellow Pencils. They are designed to recognise creative work which is "original and inspiring, well-executed and relevant to its context".

For many years, awards were judged in traditional categories such as product design, advertising and photography. But in 2006, D&AD decided to introduce a games category for the first time, and Yellow Pencil trophies were picked up by Resident Evil 4 and Nintendogs.

The winners of this year's awards have yet to be announced, but D&AD last week revealed that there are six nominees in the gaming category. Sony's LocoRoco, Shadow of the Colossus and Buzz! the Big Quiz could all receive a Yellow Pencil, along with Nintendo's Wii Sports and Brain Training. CDX, an educational game produced by the BBC, is also up for an award.

The shortlist was decided by a panel of judges which included David Amor of Relentless, EA's Pete Hawley and former GamesIndustry.biz editor Rob Fahey. Eric Matthews, creative director for Sony Computer Entertainment's London and Cambridge studios, took on the role of foreman.

Here, Matthews discusses the benefits of the D&AD awards for the games industry, the judging process and Sony's approach to encouraging innovation.


GamesIndustry.biz: What is the importance for games, and for the games industry, of being recognised by D&AD?

D&AD are the biggest and most prestigious annual design and advertising awards. They recognise the very best achievements in creativity and design and are judged by world's top creative talent.

Over its 45 year history D&AD has rewarded design and advertising classics such as the iPod, the Guinness 'Surfers' advert and the Channel 4 idents, along with prominent designers and creatives such as Jonathan Ive, Philippe Starck, Michel Gondry and Ridley Scott.

For the gaming industry to be recognised by D&AD shows that our work is now considered as significant as other creative fields such as TV, film and product design.

What are the benefits of winning a D&AD award?

A key benefit for the winning teams is that their work is exhibited and screened all over the world alongside the very best examples from other creative industries. As well as the prestige of being recognised as great pieces of design and creativity, the work of these teams will be exposed to a wider audience and creative community than would otherwise be the case.

The benefits of this are not just for the winning teams, but for the industry as a whole. It allows our industry to demonstrate that it values and promotes creative excellence; it enables us to forge new links with top creative talent from around the world and to encourage new talent from the design community to consider a career in videogames as a legitimate alternative to other creative industries.

What criteria do you use when judging games?

D&AD rewards the very best examples of creative excellence each year. In order to win, a game needs to meet D&AD's criteria of being a great original idea, well-executed and appropriate to the medium.

The best work of the year makes it into The D&AD Annual, and those which are considered to be a true mark of excellence receive the Yellow Pencil award. Finally the highest award is the Black Pencil which goes to work considered to be groundbreaking or redefining the medium. From the 25,000 entries last year, only two pieces of work received this award across all categories, and for the first time ever a winner in the digital category.

How do you ensure that there's no bias towards certain products, when for example Sony games are under consideration?

We ensure there is no bias in two ways. A judge who has any connection with a title has to abstain from voting in all judging rounds, and is not allowed in the judging room when these titles are discussed by the panel.

Speaking of Sony - what's your strategy with regard to producing innovative games?

The focus of our innovation process is to produce titles that either create new categories of entertainment or redefine existing ones with distinctive experiences, which appeal to both current and new audiences. At the heart of this aim is innovation, which breaks down into two types: 'Big I' and 'Little i'.

'Big I' innovations are those ground-breaking, pioneering titles such as EyeToy, SingStar and Buzz! that create new categories of entertainment for new and existing audiences.

'Little i' innovations are incremental innovations that, while not creating entirely new entertainment experiences, reinvent an existing category or evolve a franchise in a significant and imaginative way. LocoRoco, Gran Turismo, ICO and God of War are all examples of games that redefined their category through 'Little i' innovations.

A lot of what D&AD stands for is strongly aligned with our own values at Sony; we also strive for creative excellence, pushing the boundaries of what videogame entertainment can be with innovative new experiences, delivered at the highest quality and are relevant to both existing and new audiences.

Do you look at videogames as examples of design, and/or as works of art?

Evidently videogames are pieces of design; the more important question is whether they are comparable to design in other industries. A successful videogame must deliver a design that integrates art, animation, technology, sound and interactivity in an innovative way. The quality of design required to achieve this is easily equal to that found in other industries.

Eric Matthews is creative director for Sony London and Sony Cambridge studios. Interview by Ellie Gibson. The winners of this year's D&AD Awards will be revealed on May 24.