Event Spotlight: Brains Eden

Event Spotlight: Brains Eden
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

June 20th 2013 at 9:55AM

Develop finds out what Cambridge's games hub gains from this annual conference for new talent

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

It’s little surprise that the UK’s academic stronghold in Cambridge is also home to a bristling games development hub.

The city’s two universities – Anglia Ruskin and Cambridge – have fostered a significant local technology sector with a substantial global standing, and as a result a wealth of studios from indies through to giants like Jagex have made a home there.

One of the bodies representing the games makers gathered around the Cambridge hub is development network Games Eden, which, together with Anglia Ruskin’s own Creative Front incubation and growth initiative, produces the Brains Eden Gaming Festival.

Brains Eden itself brings together a symposium – which this year will see a keynote from Eidos life president Ian Livingstone and a live BAFTA Question Time Panel – a game jam, careers clinic and even a games artwork exhibition. It’s an ambitious mix, and one designed to help both local games companies and students from across the globe.

WORKING AS ONE

“Creative Front has worked with Cambridgeshire’s creative industries over the past two years to fully understand the skills and attributes employers are looking for,” says Creative Front manager Clare Denham.

“Our mission is to help grow and develop the talent of the future. In an effort to retain and attract the very best talent to Cambridge, Creative Front is launching new services through www.creativefront.org to give graduates invaluable advice on creative careers, industry insights and access to paid internship opportunities. This is made possible by an EU initiative called VIVID [found at www.vivideurope.net]”.

With Livingstone set to share the secrets of his success, and the BAFTA panel bringing together locals David Braben of Frontier Developments, Mark Gerhard from Jagex, indie superstar Terry Cavanagh, ARM’s Nizar Romdhane and Mark Green from Sony Guerrilla Cambridge, Brains Eden will be invaluable to student developers that attend the show.

But it is of equal use to even the most established of studios, as Green reveals.

“It’s all very well going out and recruiting seasoned industry veterans, but we also need new blood, new talent who have fresh ideas and no pre-conceptions about the way things should or shouldn’t be,” he says.

“Brains Eden is a great place for us to meet hundreds of students and recent graduates with an eye to the future. Outside of Brains Eden we have strong relationships with a number of universities, but this event gives us access to so many more students who we wouldn’t otherwise have met.”

FIRST COME, ALL SERVED

And Green isn’t the only SCEE staffer who sees that value. In fact, a relationship has been forged between the event and PlayStation First, which fosters the next generation of games developers through working with educational establishments and providing access to professional PlayStation development technology.

“PlayStation First works in partnership with Brains Eden and Sony Guerrilla Cambridge, in our common goal to raise awareness of video game career paths, and to energise the next generation of game developers to showcase their talent and skills to our studios,” explains Maria Stukoff, head of academic development at SCEE.

And, adds Green, Brains Eden also serves academic bodies looking to better serve the games industry.

“Right from the first Brains Eden five years ago we’ve encouraged the universities to send their lecturers as well, and a combination of them getting close access to so many industry professionals, meeting with other academics from this country and across Europe – and I think most importantly – seeing how their students get on in the game jam can really demonstrate what they’re doing better than other institutions, where they’re falling behind the leading schools and, of course, finding out what is and isn’t actually of interest to industry,” he says.

Combined with the Careers Clinic, which offers students and graduates a rare opportunity for to talk directly to games development studios and future employers, and the creative exercise that is the game jam, it all adds up to an essential event.

Brains Eden 2013 takes place at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge from Friday, June 28th to Monday, July 1st.

For more information visit www.creativefront.org/brainseden.