Dare to be Digital 2014 – Best Ever…

Dare to be Digital’s Protoplay event is always a joy. A four day festival and celebration of creativity, innovation and hard work, the event offers something for every visitor, whether it’s a family of Minecraft fans, or the UK’s growing number of indie studios. This year’s event was one of the best yet. Alongside the 15 teams taking part in the competition, 30 indie developers were on hand to showcase their games. Guest speakers included the admirable Richard Lemarchand, game designer, visiting professor from the University of Southern California. An innovation competition funded by Creative Scotland allowed exhibiting companies to put their latest projects forward for a £25,000 prize. Us And The Game Industry, a documentary about, well, us and the games industry, received its UK premiere… in short ProtoPlay is one of the most exciting and rewarding games events in the world. Dare_to_be_Digital_ARThe primary reason for the event is to allow the teams competing in the Dare to be Digital competition to showcase their work from the previous nine weeks. The 15 teams were duly on hand to show the world – or at least the demanding Dundee part of the world – some amazingly accomplished games. The teams came from all over the world. Entrants from Scotland, the rest of the UK, the USA, India, Malta and China were part of the 2014 competition. Games covered a huge range of genres and blended some of the latest themes from the indie scene. Giant death worms, met cheerful gameboys. Silent Samurai lurked in two tone shadows, awaiting a quick kill. A droplet of rain, out on its own in the big wild world sat side by side with children playing hide and seek but with only one sense each. Dare_to_be_Digital_ARSeriously. They were incredible. Game developers of the world take note. Nobody did a match three. Innovation oozed and suppurated out of each device like a delicious rainbow fondant of joy. The companies in the indie showcase were just as diverse as the Dare teams. Established companies like Outplay, One Thumb Mobile, Ludometrics and Guerilla Tea shared space with up-and-coming indie studios including Space Budgie, Pixel Sword, Future Fossil and Hidden Armada. Abertay University’s Games Development Society had a large presence, as did the Game Expo Scotland event organisers, as well as newcomers including MunePene (showing their real money stocks and shares trading game), Tapology (a project from Abertay University and Quartic Llama, creating games for people with low vision and eyesight problems). In previous years, Dare ProtoPlay also offered an Indie Games Festival, running alongside the main exhibition. This year, recognising that the smaller companies simply couldn’t be in two places at once, the organisers instead brought in evening events, which allowed all of the participants, competitors, exhibitors and judges alike to come and join in. 10568826_812318952126352_639182390613608954_nThe keynote speaker at Dare 2014 was Richard Lemarchand, the game designer behind the Uncharted series and now a professor at the University of Southern California. An engaging and compelling speaker, Richard spoke about Games And Players: Futures And Predictions, which had social media buzzing before, during and afterwards. Dare_to_be_Digital_ARSophia George, the Game Designer in residence at the V&A Museum was also on hand to demonstrate her first game, based upon her time at the Museum. Strawberry Thief is a work based upon the textile prints of William Morris, created in 1883. More information on that coming soon… PrintThe following evening, visitors were given the opportunity to watch the UK premiere of the full length documentary, Us And The Game Industry. It’s an excellent feature, filmed between 2009-2012 in the USA and in Copenhagen. the film explores computer game development. In the film developers including Jason Rohrer, Alexander Bruce, Die Gute Fabrik, Zack Gage and programmers and designers at thatgamecompany share their motivation, design process, focus and execution of game ideas. Each developer has a different style and takes a different direction. Each wonders about the potential of digital game design. The film begins in San Francisco and expands significantly to an observation of processes at thatgamecompany as the team builds, completes JOURNEY. Saturday saw the judging of the Creative Scotland Innovation Competition. This was a brand new event, open to the companies exhibiting at Dare ProtoPlay. The premise was simple, to reward innovation in game design and development. Games that moved beyond rescuing princesses, collecting coins or blowing things up. Games which move in new directions and reexamine the whole notion of what a game is. The prize on offer was a £25,000 grant to develop the concept further. 13914_812319482126299_175924570076798937_nEntries ranged from a ferociously frantic local-multiplayer party game through to a procedurally generated horror game, a first-person-shooter which teaches basic programming concepts and a project to gamify and visualise physical spaces in new, interesting and fun ways. The competition is an interesting new addition to Scotland’s interactive sector. The argument between innovation and the commercial realities of developing games is one which has been ongoing for quite some time and is likely to remain contentious until we can access some kind of funding to enable companies to go out and work on entirely ground-breaking and new ideas. 10441003_812319285459652_4127068983953012852_nThe innovation competition doesn’t disguise the fact that the games sector cannot access project funding in the same way as other areas of the arts, but it’s a valuable weapon to give the games industry a platform and chance to show what can be done if that sort of funding was in place. The final day of Dare ProtoPlay culminates in the awards ceremony. A glamorous and star-studded affair, rivalling that of the Oscars, the awards ceremony has grown in recent years. While there remain three main award winners for the Dare to be Digital competition, there are a number of other awards which have been created in conjunction with other partners specifically to recognise the incredible achievements of the teams taking part in Dare. 10553351_812319392126308_8377476984008957369_nThis year, the awards included:

  • Don’t Walk: Run, created by Torque won the Channel 4 Award. The team will receive £25,000 of support to start a business and complete their game, which will then be published by the broadcaster.
  • The Design in Action Award for Commercial Potential went to A Fox Wot I Drew for their game Baum. The team will receive financial support and mentoring to bring their game to market.
  • The Artistic Achievement Award, sponsored by the Foundry, went to Seek by team Five Pixels.
  • The Audience Award for the most popular game of the festival went to World Eater by Taleforge.
  • The Team Choice Award went to the Pillowettes, creators of D-Bug.
  • FI Games Contest, organised by Future Internet Content Consortium – won by IasAR by Ateo from Switzerland.

1656150_812318918793022_8476317414835710227_nThe three teams who receive full Dare awards are then entered into the BAFTA Ones To Watch Award, which is handed out at the annual BAFTA Games awards in March. This is a huge achievement for the Dare teams – to finish university and already have a BAFTA award on your CV (and if they’re smart their App Store/Steam page) is a unique incentive and really highlights the value of the competition and work which has to go into creating a winning game – in only nine weeks. In 2014, the winning teams were:

  • Chambara (Overly Kinetic) – A Samurai stealth game where players use colour to hide stealthily from their opponents
  • Don’t Walk: Run (Torque) – An action game where three players compete as a film’s actors escaping the wrath of its world-controlling director
  • Sagittarius (Too Mainstream) – which uses the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to aim a crossbow from a moving chariot.

Kevin Wong from Overly Kinetic, the creators of Chambara, said:

We’re all really honoured and really excited to get a BAFTA nomination, and to see all the children come to our booth and enjoy the game so much. That’s what we live for.

Vivek Deshpande from Too Mainstream, the creators of Sagittarius, said:

We’re elated, we really didn’t think we’d win. All the Dare to be Digital games are incredible. After this, we’ll go back to India and develop the game further, and are hoping to release it in the near future.

Niall Taylor from Torque, the creators of Don’t Walk: Run, said:

This is amazing, I don’t believe it – we nearly fell off our chairs. Everything has completely changed in our lives in the last eight weeks.

10559728_812319418792972_6469069821128153372_nFor the second year running, the three main awards were sponsored by PlayStation®First, the academic development programme of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. Luke Savage, Academic Development Manager at PlayStation®First, said:

Dare to be Digital is such a unique game competition. It’s a terrific showcase of the next generation of game developers, which is why we’re delighted to support the three main awards again this year. PlayStation®First is fostering the next generation of talented individuals looking to get into the games industry, and we can’t wait to see what the Dare to be Digital teams do next.

10544306_812319222126325_843942273981955965_nWe will of course bring you the winners from the 2015 BAFTA Games Awards as soon as they’re handed out. And then, with a bang and a shower of confetti, it was over… Dare to be Digital is something unique. It combines the very best elements of creating games. It inspires passion and creativity. It demands commitment and dedicated. It is, right down to the very roots, FUN. It can and should be celebrated the world over for the amazing competition – and event – it is. At some point we may be able to drag more and more of the official games industry to Dundee for four days and remind them of why they got into games in the first place. Everyone at Dare has fun. The competitors, the visitors, the families, the indie developers, the judges, the mentors, the speakers – even the volunteers looked happy to be there. You should go, you’d enjoy it. 10562954_812319262126321_1283096603622399119_nRoll Credits:

  • Everyone (Abertay University)
  • Kelly Smith (BAFTA)
  • Rob Jones (BAFTA)
  • Johnny Minkley (BAFTA)
  • Ruth McGuinness (Birmingham City Uni)
  • Susan Gillan (Caird Hall)
  • Colin Macdonald (Channel 4)
  • Michael Barclay (Cloud Imperium Games​)
  • Mark Ettle (Cobra)
  • Bao Fengming (Come Plus)
  • Morgan Petrie (Creative Scotland)
  • Clive Gilman (DCA)
  • Douglas Wilson (Die Gute Fabrik)
  • Sean Taylor (Denki)
  • Colin Anderson (Denki)
  • Brian McNicoll (Design in Action)
  • Craig Chapple (Develop)
  • Alan Dobson (Dundee City Council)
  • Sarah Craig (Dundee City Council)
  • Diane Barnett (Dundee City Council)
  • Stuart Galloway (Dundee City Council)
  • Lindsay Matthew (Dundee City Council)
  • Lindsay Cox (Dundee City Council)
  • John van der Burg (EmotionFX)
  • Crystal Voliva (Epic Games)
  • Mark Rein (Epic Games)
  • Mike Gamble (Epic Games)
  • Grant Wei (Epic Games)
  • Raymond Usher (Euphonious)
  • Gillian Learmonth (Event Scotland)
  • Emma Wilson (Event Scotland)
  • Stephen Mclean (Event Scotland)
  • Kenny Mitchell (FI Content Consortium)
  • Marcel Lancelle (FI Content Consortium)
  • David Sinclair (FI Content Consortium)
  • Marc Aguilar (FI Content Consortium)
  • Nicki Morris (Foundry)
  • Chris Van Graas (Fraps)
  • Olga Göcmen (Hansoft)
  • Phil Dench (Headus)
  • Peter Brisbourne (Jagex)
  • Stewart Gilray (Just Add Water)
  • Andrew Macdonald (King)
  • Alice Rendell (Kobojo)
  • Salvatore Fileccia (Lift London)
  • Lee Stott (Microsoft)
  • Andrew Fletcher (nFringe)
  • David Hamilton (Ninja Kiwi)
  • Danny Parker (Ninja Kiwi)
  • Sam McMahon (Ninja Kiwi)
  • Barry Petrie (Ninja Kiwi)
  • Phil O’Halloran (NL Productions)
  • Craig Bellshaw (NL Productions)
  • Erin Michno (Quartic Llama)
  • Malath Abbas (Quartic Llama)
  • Tom (Quartic Llama)
  • Ian Reynolds (Quartic Llama)
  • Adam Mackenzie (Reloaded Productions)
  • Neil Cullen (RSNO)
  • Billy Thomson (Ruffian)
  • Brian Baglow (Scottish Games Network)
  • Michelle Campbell (Scottish Government)
  • Dean Trotman (Sega)
  • Jim Woods (Sega)
  • Maria Stukoff (Sony)
  • Luke Savage (Sony)
  • Chris Jones (Sony)
  • Ian Pickering (Sony)
  • Neil Mcphilliops (Sony)
  • Mark Sample (Sony)
  • Rogan Ogden (Sony)
  • Mark Parry (Sony)
  • Tara Saunders (Sony)
  • Frank Arnot (Storm Cloud Games)
  • Marc Williamson (Tag)
  • Jamey Stevenson (Tag)
  • Paul Farley (Tag)
  • Brian Lawson (Ubisoft)
  • Jo Worrall (Ubisoft)
  • Lorna Evans (Ubisoft)
  • Morrissey Williams (Unity)
  • Akouvi Ahoomey (Unity)
  • Jb Evain (Unity VS)
  • Stephanie Beth (US And The Game Industry)
  • Richard Lemarchand (USC)
  • Sophia George (V&A)
  • James Foreman (YoYo Games)
  • ALL OF THE HELPERS AND VOLUNTEERS…

We’ll see you in 2015.

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