Wednesday, 27 March 2013

New Beginnings

Some years ago a few of us decided to host a conference as part of the London Games Fringe, which in turn was part of the London Games Festival. The conference was called Sense of Play. The idea was to explore the future possibilities of what we saw as an exciting emerging art form, one which had yet to fulfil anywhere near its potential. We were a ragtag collection of academics, practitioners, journalists and commentators drawn from the far flung corners of games, film, television, theatre and various other creative and cultural industries.

In those days, the games industry was very much that - an industry. Those of us who were foolish enough to attempt to thrive in a small scale independent development environment were hopelessly ahead of our time. Large multinational publishers had a stranglehold on what was and wasn't made: games cost a lot of money to make for the limited platforms available and the certainty of a dedicated audience who would basically consume more of the same outweighed any notion of creativity. Games were made with little meaning or artistry, anything out-of-the-box, or not adhering to the well known formulaic genres (most of which involved shooting, fighting or competitive sport simulation) was out of the question. Halcyon days. Not.

But even then, it was clear that change was inevitable. There was a vast potential audience which remained untapped, and enough creative people beginning to realise that we could do so much more. This was what Sense of Play was all about. Exploring the creative future of the medium, trying to accelerate towards a more meaningful future. Fast forward to today. We are nearly there. Some wonderful stuff is being made, with more to come. With cerebral and ethereal titles such as Journey sweeping the awards scene worldwide, Papa and Yo bringing into play poignant metaphorical and magical realist elements previously confined to the literary and theatrical arts, and transmedia offerings such as Walking Dead offering script and storytelling excellence as good as anything contemporary film, theatre or television has to offer, it does indeed feel like we are coming of age. Meanwhile the prevalence of platforms and their accessibility to creative developers of all sizes is causing a revolution, and is certainly signalling the demise of large publisher stranglehold.

But there is still a long way to go. It seems there always will be. What's holding things back is another story, another post. In the meantime, for those who remember the dreams and discussions we had back in 06-07, welcome back. I'll use this space to commentate, highlight, speculate and occasionally reminisce. Thank you for reading and come back soon...