Edinburgh Interactive Festival – Talent Arcade

My first day at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival (I stayed home yesterday), and a pretty good day overall – writing this at the final session of Channel 4′s Talent Arcade, a full day’s program of talks and panels dedicated to helping people get into the game industry. This final session is putting a range of questions gathered over the day to a large panel of experts from the games and related industry.

Below, a summary of my day, including highlights from the Talent Arcade, the single talk I attended at the conference proper, and other odds and ends. A bit rambling, but that was the day for me…

The day started with an arranged meeting with Rebecca Thompson of 4Talent to hand over some leaflets for the UWS games courses. That was my first surprise as Rebecca turned out to be an old friend from when I was an undergrad – so that was a nice start to the day!

I took a walk around the games and flashing lights on display on the ground floor – a heavy Wii presence, though the biggest queues were undoubtedly for the PS3 title Little Big Planet. I had a chat with an industry recruiter, discussing opportunities for students graduating next year, then played through part of a level of Little Big Planet. And all this before 10am when the conference officially started!

The opening session of the Talent Arcade was titled ‘The Knowledge: Get Into Games’. I think few surprises, but the panel emphasised the need for a good CV. Rob from RealTimeWorlds indicated that they were starting a graduate training program and a placement program, both news to me, but both good news. Recruiters in the industry never hesitate to mention how good a placement is on a student’s CV – but relatively few companies actually offer placements.

The following session, ‘The Knowledge: Show me the Money’ looked at how games companies and startups-to-be can look for, and secure funding. The shock revelation for many startups with great ideas looking for investors to fund their game is that investors tend to want to make money too! Recommendation for graduates? Get a job in the industry first (with a small company if you have dreams of starting your own some day), and get some experience and friends in the industry before you try to start your own company.

However, this point has just been completely reversed in the current panel – with the caveat that you have a good team, and are prepared for some very hard graft and some difficult times.

I spent only limited time in the main conference – Graham Brown-Martin spoke a little on the use of commercial games in the classroom, and introduced Derek Robertson of LTS who outlined some of their great work (previously noted here). Derek’s larger scale trial with Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training (32 schools, 16 test and 16 control) is complete, and the results should be out soon. Check the Consolarium blog for news.

One highlight was meeting a couple of former students who graduated just last month – but who are already two months into their games careers – and hearing about another student’s progress from his new boss.

I then dipped into the screenings room to see David Braben and Steve Burgess of Frontier talking about the genesis and development of Lost Winds, the WiiWare title. The session was full of good ideas for budding game designers, and interesting to see how the game had its genesis in a single page design submitted to a weekly competition within the company. That and being in the same room as David Braben, co-author of Elite – a game which had a BIG impact on me as a youth, and seeing that Elite IV is forthcoming, made it another highly enjoyable session.

Finally, if you are around Edinburgh tomorrow, head over to the conference center for the free Education morning. I’ll update tomorrow, and mention Dare Protoplay, 4Talent’s “The Brief” – a great opportunity for graduates to get into the industry – as well as tomorrows talks and happenings. Ran out of room and time today…

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