In profile: The Channel 4 indies

In profile: The Channel 4 indies
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

September 9th 2009 at 9:38AM

Four UK studios creating educational games for the broadcaster

Following on from our recently published feature looking at the way Channel 4 has harnessed the creative talent of UK indies to realise its vision for a new wave of educational gaming, today we profile four small teams currently working with the broadcaster...


BEATNIK GAMES


Year founded:
2008
Headcount: 7
Key staff: Robin Lacey, Damien Cerri
Current projects: Plain Sight and an untitled C4 project
URL: www.beatnikgames.co.uk
Email: info@beatnikgames.co.uk

“We’re currently working on an untitled game that aims to get teenage girls into science based subjects and careers,” explains Robin Lacey, when asked about his team’s work for Channel 4.

Inspired by the fact that only one-in-eight girls who gain an A-star in double science GCSE go on to select a scientific subject at A Level, Beatnick, which is based in London offices not far from Channel 4, is presently dividing its effort between the educational commission and its independent project, Plain Sight.

“We thought it’d be a great idea to get teenagers into the mindset of what science is like, and felt that a video game would be the easiest way of doing so,” adds Lacey. “Not only is it a medium that the demographic understands, but also the very process of playing a game is about problem-solving, learning from your mistakes, understanding underlying complex systems, and developing your skills to navigate those systems.”

LITTLELOUD


Year founded:
2000
Headcount: 15
Key staff: David Jacklin, Darren Garrett
Previous projects: Bow Street Runner, numerous flash games to support some of Paramount’s biggest movie releases including Transformers 2, Watchmen, Eagle Eye, Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda; Kerwhizz for CBeebies, Humf microsite produced for Nick Jr
Current projects: Horrible Histories, G.I. Joe, Tourists from Mars children’s TV show
URL: www.littleloud.com
Email: bigchief@littleloud.com
Tel: 01273 625066

In Littleloud’s nine years the studio has created an amazingly diverse range of titles, from TV ads and virals to animated television and promotional materials.

In terms of gaming, the team’s most successful, recognised output is the BAFTA winning Channel 4 commission Bow Street Runner, which has become something of a champion of the new school of educational gaming. A combination of live action and classic point-’n’-click adventure gameplay, the tale of the dawn of the UK’s police force has set a standard for other Channel 4 clients to match.

Littleloud is owned by executive producer David Jacklin and creative director Darren Garrett. Together the pair have produced award winning broadcast and interactive content across the movie, TV, and entertainment sectors.

ZOMBIE COW


Year founded: 2008
Headcount: 1
Key staff: Dan Marshall
Previous projects: Gibbage, Ben There, Dan That!, Time Gentlemen, Please!
Current projects: Privates
URL: www.zombie-cow.com
Email: dan@zombie-cow.com

“I’m currently working on a sex education game for Channel 4 about a squad of teeny tiny marines clearing peoples’ rude areas of sexual infection, called Privates,” explains Dan Marshall. “It’s a sort of parody of all that gung-ho Space Marine nonsense the video game industry seems to be so hung up on, and definitely falls into line with the direction Zombie Cow Studios is going – to produce quirky comedy titles.”

The work Channel 4 has taken to Zombie Cow’s door has allowed Marshall and those he recruits for individual games to continue the studio’s tradition, which started with lo-fi point ‘n’ click adventure, Ben There, Done That!.

Apparently designed with the hardcore in mind so as to deliver the game’s message without a hint of edutainment, Marshall assures Develop that Privates offers “this awesome balance between something that’ll not only actually teach you a bit about why catching syphilis is a bad thing, but can also get away with anthropomorphising the disease into something that makes for a playable and funny game.”

SIX TO START


Year founded:
2007
Headcount: 8
Key staff: Adrian Hon, Dan Hon, Lisa Long
Previous projects: We Tell Stories, Young Bond: Shadow War, Liberty News, Muse: Ununited Eurasia, Landshare (with Mint Digital)
Current projects: Smokescreen for Channel 4 Education, Misfits for E4
URL: www.sixtostart.com
Email: hello@sixtostart.com
Tel: +44 (0)33 3340 7490

Six to Start’s history lies with alternate reality games, and in particular the commercial ARG Perplex City started by the firm’s founders at previous company Mind Candy.

The London studio, based in the same building as Beatnick Games, is currently at work on Smokescreen, a 13-part web adventure that explores ideas about online identity, privacy and trust.

Players are charged with delving into a mystery on a fictional and interactive social network that parodies the problems that arise on the likes of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

“It’s so nice to make games that are good for people,” says Six to Start CCO Adrian Hon. “It’s nice too, to be able to go and meet the teachers and parents, and to say: ‘This is something that is good for your kids, and it’s also really fun, and you won’t really have to convince them to play’. That doesn’t just help us – it helps everyone realise that games can be good.”