BAFTA's coding contest for new talent

BAFTA's coding contest for new talent
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

July 18th 2013 at 10:00AM

Develop looks at the charity's support for smaller studios and its new contest for Welsh indies

[This feature was published in the July 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

For many years, BAFTA has supported video games.
Actually a charity, the UK academy for the promotion and development of the film, television and games industries is most famous for it’s annual awards for the greats of the silver screen and its smaller cousin.

The ceremony is draped in glamour and sophistication, and such is its fame that it makes it easy to assume BAFTA’s work is all about red carpets and big-budget releases.

The reality is much different, and across film and games the work of UK indies of every kind is a core concern to the academy. The reason is obvious; in the UK the role of independent studios past and present is arguably the foundation on which the sector is built on.

“BAFTA is constantly looking to ensure that the very best talent is recognised and showcased within its programmes, and the UK indie community has always been rich with creative excellence that deserves to be seen on a broader stage,” says Harvey Elliott, BAFTA Games Committee chair and Marmalade CEO.

BIG THINGS FOR SMALL TEAMS

Indeed, BAFTA introduced the Debut Game category for the 2012 awards to recognise the smallest UK indies, and last year that category attracted 27 entrants from across the country.

“The new British Game award went to an indie team this year, showing a real support for the indie community from the BAFTA membership, and the ability of this community to compete on a global stage,” continues Elliott.

“Our learning and events program puts the talent behind the games on a wider platform, allowing members and the industry as a whole to learn more about how specific games are developed, or the challenges the teams and individuals faced.

“As opposed to only showcasing the front-line triple-A titles, we are keen to showcase creativity wherever it comes from.”

And it’s that attitude that has seen BAFTA recognise not just the indies from the UK’s hippest hubs, but also those fledgling studios in emerging regions, such as the one found in Wales.

In a country famed for its rural vistas and industrial heritage, a new wave of independent games makers is now thriving, and BAFTA Wales is forging relationships with government, studios, trade bodies and tech giants like Microsoft to better the chances of games makers in the UK’s westerly region.

“BAFTA in Wales are keen to promote our work in the games industry and an association with Microsoft enables us to reach new audiences with this message,” explains Dewi Vaughan Owen, chair of BAFTA Wales, which was set up over 20 years ago.

“As a charity, we are looking to encourage emerging talent to share their creativity and enthusiasm for the moving image industries and a competition of this nature would offer Microsoft an opportunity to support BAFTA’s charitable endeavours.”

BAFTA Young Games Designers is a good example of a nationwide project with a similar goal of encouraging young games enthusiasts to think about game design as a viable career and to make them aware of the opportunities available to them.

Welsh indies are well served not just by BAFTA, but also by a regional government that today recognises games development is a highly competitive and rapidly growing area of the local economy. And conveniently, that government offers financial support to Welsh based individuals and companies through its Digital Development Fund, including games developers.

“Our ambition is to help make Wales one of the best places in the UK to do games business and, as an academy, ensure that we recognise and celebrate the very best work of our emerging talent,” says Vaughan Owen.

A UNITED EFFORT

Clearly, then, from Cardiff to London’s Silicon Roundabout, via Scotland’s numerous hubs, BAFTA is behind independent developers. But why do small studios even matter to the culturally weighty organisation?

“Unlike many industries, the UK indie community represents the heritage of games on a global stage,” states Elliott. “The talent created here is disproportionately high versus other geographies, and it deserves to have a presence beyond just the games that it creates. In a small, resource constrained team, it is the talent and creativity that the individuals within it hold that makes the experience as rich as it is. To see these games compete head-to-head with those from the larger studios is a great reward of helping to surface this talent.”

To put it another way, it’s the same logic that has seen the wider BAFTA organisation push independent films to mainstream cinemas across the United Kingdom, and promote fresh productions across the television industry.

Looking forward, BAFTA has plenty else in place to support independent studios and start-ups beyond the new contest organised with Microsoft.

“Ultimately we want to ensure that there is a healthy and vibrant industry, creating excellence across the UK,” concludes Elliott.

“There will always be large studios drawing in and engaging great talent, but we mustn’t lose sight of where the next generation of creators could come from.

“If we can help inform practitioners in the indie community on what happens in other parts of the industry, and inspire them with fresh ideas and approaches from beyond it, then we are playing a valuable role in ensuring that indies can continue to thrive.”

www.bafta.org/games

COMPETITION TIME

As part of an on going commitment to start-ups
and small studios, BAFTA Wales is hosting an exclusive Windows 8 games development competition.

The British Academy Cymru Award for Games involves making a game for the Windows 8 Marketplace.

“The competition itself was launched at the presentation of the British Academy Cymru Award for Games on June 26th in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff,” explains Dewi Vaughan Owen, BAFTA Wales chair.

“The Awards presentation – and competition launch – was a part of the Wales Games Development Show.
The App competition winner will then be awarded on September 29th at the champagne reception prior to the opening of the British Academy Cymru Awards.”

To keep things simple, the rules and terms and conditions are the same whether you enter as an individual or a team. If entering as a team the maximum number of people allowed in any one team is five – including a team captain – and the majority of the team must be based in Wales.

The closing date for app publication to the UK Windows 8 Store is 6pm GMT on September 15th. All apps which are to be considered for the competition must be published to the UK Windows 8 Store no later than 6pm GMT on September 8th. Prizes will include Windows phone and Kinect devices.

A CREATIVE SPARK

As part of its support for the contest, Microsoft is offering entrants access to it’s DreamSpark and BizSpark initiatives, which serve student and start-up developers.

DreamSpark is a Microsoft programme that supports technical education by providing access to Microsoft software for learning, teaching and research purposes. DreamSpark is simple: it’s all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and designer tools at no cost so that students can chase their dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology – or just get a head start on their career. So, if you’re a student go to DreamSpark’s website to take advantage of all it has to offer.

Microsoft BizSpark is a global programme that helps software start-ups succeed by giving them access to software development tools, connecting them with key industry players, and providing marketing visibility. The programme also includes access to Windows Azure, a flexible, and powerful cloud platform for the creation of web applications and services.

In addition, BizSpark offers technical support, business training and a network of over 2,000 partners to connect members with incubators, investors and more. Since it was established in 2008, more than 45,000 companies in over 100 countries have joined.

For more information and full terms and conditions of the competition, please visit www.bafta.org/wales.