The Teaching Game

17 07 2007

Steve Swink left a game design job that was wearing him down to work on indie game development and teach game design.

In an excellent answer to a letter at Game Career Guide, he talks about making the transition from mainstream developer to educator. Part 1 is here:

If you’re going to grind your life away in a masochistic profession – and make no mistake, game development is unadulterated masochism – I say to you this: make it mean something. Spend your life making meaning. Create things that excite you, which get you out of bed early in the morning and keep you up late at night. Create experiences that will set minds on fire and inspire, in turn, to create experiences for others. We all have a reason for wanting to create games and, at some level, it boils down to an experience we had playing someone else’s creation, their dream. What was that game for you? Think of that experience. Now, imagine giving that experience to someone else. There’s just no excuse for hunching over a keyboard 80 hours a week, forgoing health, hygiene, socialization, and everything else a balanced life needs, to squeeze out something you don’t believe in.

What is teaching at the Art Institute like? Is it satisfying? What are your responsibilities?

I must say, it’s been one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, and enjoyable experiences of my life. There is Yiddish word, naches, “pride from the accomplishment of a child or mentee” which synopsizes the feeling nicely. Many of my students have graduated and gotten awesome jobs. This fills me with a sense of satisfaction, purpose, and meaning I’ve rarely known.

Part 2 is here. He gives a wealth of tips on teaching in general.

Wii Steals TV Time

12 07 2007

The Times Online reports that the Nintendo Wii is being blamed for a decline in primetime viewing figures:

The Nintendo Wii – the games console that is outselling Sony’s Play-Station 3 by three to one – has begun to “steal” prime-time television audiences in Japan.

The Nintendo machine, which was specifically designed to repackage video gaming as a family-oriented affair, is believed by media insiders to be responsible for an unprecedented decline in early-evening viewing figures for Japan’s top-rated shows.

via Wonderland:

I’m sure this will be a temporary big-dip, and Japanese TV will recover; but there’s always the risk that it won’t recover to its previous levels, as is the case of terrestrial Brit TV since the invasion of satellite …

Yorkshire Games Academy

12 07 2007

Tax credits are one thing, but a regional games academy is a hugely positive step in aligning government, academic and commercial institutions around game development. Taking this further into a national centre of excellence would be a massive boost to UK game dev.

Yorkshire’s Bradford, Hull and Sheffield Hallam universities have teamed up to create what they say is an answer to the UK’s talent drought – the Game Republic Academy.

Regional screen agency Screen Yorkshire and local games development trade association Game Republic have committed £120,000 for the Game Republic Academy scheme to run for two years. The programme provides sponsorship opportunities for burgeoning developers across the globe to study for a masters in games development in the region.

The Academy boasts work experience opportunities and is backed by local developers Rockstar, Team 17 and Sumo Digital. Each will employ the students involved during summer periods and allow them to carry out their final year projects at their studios.

Ian Livingstone: UK Devs Need Level Playing Field

12 07 2007

Ian Livingstone has an opinion piece up on MCV, lending weight to the call for UK game development tax breaks:

In continuing to focus on skills and the development of a first rate workforce the government is showing great foresight in tackling one of the key challenges faced by the industry.

This new focus will certainly help to build on the success of the accreditation scheme already piloted by Skillset and backed by the games industry, and we welcome the increased commitment to new skills initiatives shown by the government and look forward to working with them to ensure that industry’s needs are met.

However, raising the level of skills in the workforce alone does not address all the issues facing the UK development community.

From an industry standpoint, an increasingly concerning issue for us to address is that UK development community is losing its competitive position in global gaming and in the main this can be attributed to the fact that other territories are offering very attractive investment propositions.

For example, in Montreal, the Quebec games subsidy means studios can claim up to 37.5% of their creative staff’s salaries after a year of business – there’s even a possible 40% tax credit for R&D and other credits for major employment-generating projects.

UK Government Pledges to Support Games Industry

6 07 2007

From MCV:

Margaret Hodge, Minister for Creative Industries, has pledged to continue the Government’s support of video games, telling MCV:

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the video and computer games sector to support innovation and growth. The Government has an important role to play in championing all the creative industries, both at home and overseas, to ensure that the UK maintains its position at the forefront of the global stage.”

BAFTA Deadline

5 07 2007

There’s only one day left to get submissions in for the 2007 BAFTA videogame awards. Full details on their site.

GAME Profits soar

5 07 2007

It’s only two months since an 80% fall was reported, but in advance of their AGM, GAME have just announced a 74% rise in sales.

A growing base of current-gen systems has eased things somewhat, nonetheless GAME expect margins to shrink:

As we said in April, the higher volumes of new generation platforms will increase hardware participation in the sales mix for the year to January 2008. The substantially lower margins achieved on hardware compared to software will reduce gross margins. The acquisition of Gamestation will also impact margins, as Gamestation has traditionally operated on lower margins than GAME. Taken together, the Board anticipates that gross margin for the half year will be around 230 basis points lower than the same period last year and for the full year will be around 250 basis points lower than last year.

Brighton Polygons

3 07 2007

We’re doing a Never Mind the Polygons in Brighton on the last day of Deveop. It will be at Koba on the 26th of July, with Dan Marchant, Nick Burton, Rusalka Clarke and Ange Fenge.

The pixel-horse’s mouth is here so to speak, and you can find Develop coverage here as well as a piece here.

Games: Good for Kids

3 07 2007

The pro side of the to and fro over the effects of games just got a shot in the arm from Brunel University. The Scotsman reports:

Researchers from Brunel University spent three years studying 13-16-year-olds who play a leading web-based game.

And far from becoming pale prisoners of their own bedrooms, regular players were found to enhance rather than restrict their imagination, the study found.

Because the game allows them to meet other role-playing gamers, many youngsters also get the chance to find out about different nationalities and races they would not normally come into contact with.

Multi-player online games give children a freedom to explore but without their parents worrying about where they are in an age when, in real life, they are not allowed out by themselves because of safety fears, said Nic Crowe and Dr Simon Bradford of Brunel’s School of Sport and Education.

Here’s the page of the Doctor responsible, and I believe this is the reference:

Crowe, N., and Bradford, S., (2007, in press), ‘Identity in On-Line Gaming: young people’s symbolic and virtual extensions of self’, in Hodkinson, P., and Bennett, A., (eds), Scenes, Subcultures and Tribes, Routledge.

Kuju: Chemistry

3 07 2007

Following on from the rebranding of Kuju Brighton as Zoe Mode, Kuju Sheffield has now been rebranded as Chemistry. The studio is set to be an Unreal Engine 3 specialist.

We blogged about Zoe Mode when it happened, indeed it’s such an unusual move that it often gets mentioned in in pieces about *other* rebranding exercises.

The approach has certainly paid off well for Blitz, who now have imprints working on everything from traditional videogames to simulation and heritage. At best, these kind of brands do communicate niche specialties rather than corporate blandness. It seems like a savvy approach to a new medium set amidst splintering tastes, and I hope it works for Kuju too.