Edinburgh Interactive gives games a festival platform

This article is from 2010.

Edinburgh Interactive gives games a festival platform

Henry Northmore looks at how videogames are making their mark on Edinburgh’s festival landscape as Edinburgh Interactive returns for its eighth year

With theatre, comedy, books, music, art and dance at various festivals across Edinburgh it’s only fitting that one of the newest artforms is represented by the Edinburgh Interactive festival. And while some may scoff at the idea of videogames being art, the design work, depth of story and characterisation involved in modern games is astounding. ‘I’ve always thought in some way being called the “games industry”, where the word “games” suggests entertainment with an exclamation mark, it is also flippant, when some of the best games are simply stunning. We get better at it every year, the dialogue in Red Dead Redemption is better than 90% of movies released,’ explains Sean Dromgoole, CEO at Some Research/GameVision and member of the Content Committee at Edinburgh Interactive. ‘One of the beautiful things about Edinburgh is that we’re alongside things like television, theatre and comedy. Games should sit there, as part of that continuum.’

Modern technology can take a long time to be truly appreciated, as in the case of television’s long, hard journey to being accepted as a medium for intelligent, groundbreaking work . ‘I think it takes at least a generation,’ says Dromgoole, ‘but what’s interesting about games is we’re just about heading into that territory where parents can discuss gaming with children, because once that dialogue is going on it can be treated more seriously.’

EI aims to take games ‘seriously’ with conferences, talks and workshops on all aspects of gaming. ‘We try to be a meta-conference, there are a few conferences based on prize giving and some are based around commerce, what Edinburgh tries to do is be a year ahead of that,’ adds Dromgoole. ‘We try and keep ahead of the curve in the way audiences are approaching games, games are being made and how companies bring those games to audiences.’

Subjects up for discussion include the advent of 3D and the launch of Xbox’s revolutionary Kinect (a system for gaming that doesn’t require a controller), both of which innovations should have a revolutionary effect. ‘When you have the [Nintendo] 3DS in your hands you simply won’t believe how well it works, it’s incredibly effective, it works beautifully,’ says Dromgoole. ‘I played a baseball game on PlayStation 3 where you could actually see where the ball was, so you’re swinging your bat-thing at exactly where it was. At the other end you have people who have tacked on the technology after the initial idea – and that’s just going to be a disappointment all round.’

If you’re not attending the main industry conferences, there are also a host of activities, including free game screenings and a chance to playtest some of the latest games, available in the Play Free area in Festival Square (log onto www.edinburghinteractivefestival.co.uk/screenings for free tickets). Highlights there will include a talk, Q&A session and an exclusive demo of Shogun 2: Total War from Creative Assembly’s Mike Simpson; a showreel from Codemasters (including their latest Formula One title); Sony will be discussing how to get the best results from their PlayStation Minis; Train2Game will be hosting a session on courses available and how to crack into the industry, while Musemantik will be demonstrating their ‘emotion-aware’ technology. ‘BBC’s Dr Who session is billed as “a special announcement from Simon Nelson”, but they won’t tell me what the special announcement is,’ laughs Dromgoole, ‘if you’re a Dr Who fan go along and find out at the same time as even the people organising the whole festival.’

In a market where Scotland has thrived – companies including Dynamo Games, Digital Goldfish, Denki and in particular, Rockstar North with their Grand Theft Auto series, have made Scotland a game development hub – Dromgoole is keen to encourage the next generation to step up. ‘The best way to encourage young developers is to give them a market that is making money and they can see the fruits of their labours,’ he says. ‘I’m a great believer in cluster theories, if you have one company on its own, the candle might blow out at any time, but if you have ten or 100 then you get a whole community growing, people and ideas can flow between them. All of that can happen with a thriving industry. All we can hope to do in Edinburgh is share a bit of knowledge and focus the flames a bit.’

Edinburgh Interactive, Filmhouse, 25 & 26 Aug; Game Screenings, Filmhouse, 25 & 26 Aug; Play Free, Festival Square, 26-29 Aug; see www.edinburghinteractivefestival.co.uk for full details.

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