Channel 4 continues support for UK indies

Channel 4 continues support for UK indies
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

September 15th 2009 at 2:20PM

UK broadcaster also accepting submissions for new projects

In a conference announcing a selection of new game projects from Channel 4, the broadcaster has revealed a number of ways in which it is continuing its commitment to supporting UK indies.

“We’re certainly looking at getting our game Privates up on XBLA’s Indie Games channel,” revealed the broadcaster’s acting head of education Matt Locke. “We’re really intent on working with new talent, and giving them a leg up to that level.”

As detailed in Develop’s in-depth feature, Channel 4 is increasingly satisfying its public service requirement as an educational resource by commissioning games from UK indies, as opposed to traditional televised content. The titles it funds continue to attract awards and praise not just as educational tools, but as entertaining, original games.

Locke, who described Channel 4’s gaming output as “very mainstream”, claimed that working with indies echoes the creative spirit and purpose of Channel 4 in the early eighties, when the broadcaster was known as controversial and innovative force in televised media.

“In terms of indies, and things like XBLA and iPhone, there is such encouraging growth in all directions. Just like in 1982, there’s a wealth of new voices and new talents, and that’s what Channel 4 is getting involved with. I’d love the indie teams we’re working with now to be the ‘super-indies’ of the next ten years.

“Some of the people we’re working with, we’re offering them their first ever paid work, which is what I think Channel 4 should be doing,” added Locke.

Later, Locke also spoke of the TV industry’s failings with regard to harnessing the potential of the UK’s indie sector. “Really the UK is lagging behind US broadcasters in terms of commissioning games in the way MTV and Disney are,” he said. “It has taken far too long for a UK broadcaster to put serious money into indie games.”

As well as discussing the plans to take Zombie Cow’s 2010 web-game Privates to XBLA, which Develop first revealed, Locke also touched on the company’s interest in other platforms. “In terms of our reach, and getting to more teens, we’d love to do something for the DS, and with the DSi, that is actually getting easier,” he said.

At the conference, Locke and commissioning editor for education Alice Taylor detailed the success of the soft launch of Six to Start‘s look at issues of personal safety and privacy online, named Smokescreen, which Develop detailed last month. The two also revealed web comic Pressure, due to go live by the end of the year, and Cover Girl, a parody of Photoshop that sheds light on issues related to body image and beauty.

Beatnik Games’ new project, which Develop covered previously, was also shown. Now under the working title Ada, the game hopes to inspire youngsters, and girls in particular, to pursue and interest in science. An online TV show, The Science of Scam, which will star magician and hypnotist Derren Brown, was also confirmed to be underway for Channel 4’s education department, along with Burble, a newly confirmed Facebook widget that hopes to promote reading across the social network’s teenage userbase.

Asked if Channel 4’s games are primarily about profit or the public good, Locke’s response was immediate. “We do it for the public good,” he insisted, adding: “We are not a profit centre for Channel 4.”

Locke concluded the presentation by confirming that the channel is currently accepting submissions from indies for games to be commissioned for next year’s educational themes. The first topic hopes to look at emotional resilience and mental health ion the modern world, while the second explores the issues and dangers facing teenagers using public transport and public spaces.

Click here to visit 4 Producers’ educational page, which provides resources and materials for those wishing to submit potential gaming projects to Channel 4.