'Now THIS is convergence'

'Now THIS is convergence'
Michael French

By Michael French

April 16th 2008 at 4:24PM

Big-money backing of Dare to be Digital shows the true crossover of games and broadcasting, says Abertay's Paul Durrant

Talent is the key to how big media companies can utilise and support the games industry – that’s the key message coming from Channel 4 as it steps up to support the 2008 Dare to be Digital game development competition.

Earlier this month the UK TV broadcaster – which is publicly-owned, but commercially funded – announced it had partnered with Dare organiser the University of Abertay to help transform the event into 4Dare, taking the event to a wider national scale with a ‘substantial’ six-figure investment.

4Dare will challenge students across the UK to form teams of five and apply to participate in a ten-week residency where they develop a game from pitch to prototype. The scheme will run across host centres in Brighton, London, Cardiff, Dublin, Dundee and Birmingham (all UK) and Frankfurt (Germany), while tams from India and China are also invited to compete at the Dundee centre.

Channel 4 will contribute towards the funds needed to run the host centres, where the student teams stay and are paid during the ten weeks. It will also help pay for the Dare ProtoPlay events – which showcase the resulting games – taking place in Edinburgh and London this August and October respectively.

For both Abertay’s 4Dare director Paul Durrant and Channel 4 chief executive Andy Duncan, the move recognises the increasing overlap between mediums – and how games development talent can play a major part in the evolution and education of the moving media. Durrant explained to Develop that Channel 4 is using its clout and public service remit to explore the games space.

“Channel 4 recognises the development of talent at a regional level – because of course they have a nations and regions remit. And on a public outreach level the showcase events are totally unique in games in the way it gets the public interacting with the prototypes,” he said.

Channel 4 will also be setting an optional brief in the competition, entitled ‘Learn about life’. The entering teams can, if they wish, choose to make a game that addresses new audiences and may provoke thought on a particular theme, if it’s relevant, or explore moral or emotional themes. Durrant added that at this point the brief was so wide and optional so as to not constrain entrants – being more ‘serious entertainment’ rather than ‘serious games.

Ultimately, he said, the point of Dare is to channel hopeful developers towards turning strong ideas into playable concepts that could in turn end up as viable pieces of entertainment; it will purely be a bonus if some of the games were a companion to the strand of Channel 4’s television output which aims to tie into pertinent cultural themes as well as offer entertainment value.

Duncan announced that the Dare partnership – established when Channel 4 became a more modest sponsor of the event in 2007 – was to evolve in March, when he outlined the channel’s ‘Next on 4’ initiative, part of which includes the 4IP £40m fund to develop all kinds of new intellectual digital properties, including games.

Added Durrant: “The fact they have announced a fund of that scale shows they’re interested in what you might say is ‘non-traditional’ broadcast content, but will include games. It shows the direction in which Channel 4 is going.”

The Channel 4 boss Andy Duncan added: “Channel 4 is driven by innovation, talent and risk-taking and all of these are inherent in the Dare to be Digital competition.

“Video game design and production requires a fusion of art and science and 4Dare will bring together the top young talent from regional centres vital to the future of digital broadcasting in this area.”

If you’re a student or studio looking to enter or support Dare to be Digital, head to www.daretobedigital.com