Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Gaming and Digital Technology Day

Those of you who follow us on Twitter will be aware that I was at Birmingham Science Park Aston for the Gaming and Digital Technology Day representing +AsDesigned Games yesterday, the event was part of Birmingham City Council's Global Entrepreneurship Week and featured a range of speakers and stands from indie start-ups such as OOP! to industry veterans Blitz Games and Rare.

On arrival I picked up my name badge (which for some reason had printed my surname twice) and headed into the main 'street' which was lined with exhibition stands. First things first though, I needed a complimentary cup of tea and a bacon roll.

After having a brief wander I took my seat in the conference hall for the welcoming talk from Dr. David Hardman, Managing Director of Birmingham Science Park Aston. It wouldn't be a day discussing future technologies without a bit of Twitter of course and this was catered for in the form of a large plasma screen showing every tweet with the #futuregaming hash tag.

The first talk of the day came from Stephen Roper, Professor of Enterprise at Warwick Business School who discussed the topic of entrepreneurship and how it relates to the games industry. This led neatly into one of the most anticipated talks of the day, Philip Oliver, CEO of Blitz Games Studios took to the stage for an animated discussion of Game Tech.

 (Picture courtesy of Luis Oliveira @lubhz)

Amongst other things, Philip talked about the early days at Blitz and how the company grew, citing their biggest mistake as hiring people, or more specifically the wrong people. From these mistakes they learnt not to hire anyone on the basis of a one hour interview and to instead insist on a 2-3 day internship to ensure that any prospective employees could do what they said they could and that they integrated themselves well within the existing team.

We then had a quick break for more tea and networking. As I walked along the 'street' I bumped into one of my former lecturers from my Staffs Uni days, Nia Wearn, who introduced me to a group of recent graduates who are in the early stages of setting up their own studio, Techno Potato.

Next up in the conference hall were talks from David Burden from Daden Limited, Kevin Corti from Soshi Games, Paul Taylor from Mode 7 Games and Drew Wilkins from fish in a bottle.

For me this was the most interesting and useful hour and a half of the day as we heard about how each of these companies formed and what they believed were the key reasons behind their success. It was heartening too to hear that fish in a bottle formed as a direct result of Drew being made redundant from his games industry job. Those of you who know the origins of +AsDesigned Games will know that we can relate to that!

During lunch I had a good chat with Charlie Horn from OOP! Games Studio about forming a zombie alliance between Zomblebee and their upcoming Facebook game, Deadland. The video below from BBC Midlands Today features Charlie so we'll let him tell you more about the game:

The following set of talks began with Mark Barrow from Birmingham City Council. Being a studio based 370 miles away in Dundee this particular speech wasn't all that relevant for us, though they did award the 2010 Digital Entrepreneur Award... to OOP! 

The next talk came from Rare's Business Manager, Jim Horth and Development Director, Nick Burton and included a live demo of Kinect, including a Kinect's-eye-view showing how the technology within reads the player and translates what it sees to replicate what you are doing on screen.

(Picture courtesy of Game Central West Midlands @GameCentralWM)

Simon Jenner, Head of Incubation at Birmingham Science Park Aston followed, talking about the work they do at BSPA. Having already helped a number of digital technology businesses get off the ground, they aim to fund ten new companies over the next year and increase their incubation space to 8,500 sq ft with 5,000 sq ft dedicated to games start-ups.

Time for the final break and to get my fourth cup of complimentary tea for the day before talks from Jason Hall from Screen West Midlands, Oliver Williams from NTI, Neil Holmes from Blitz 1UP, Tim Luft from the Serious Games Institute and Prof. Bob Stone from the University of Birmingham, who managed to fit a 45 minute presentation into 10 minutes! These talks centered on the various support structures available to new businesses.

Of all the games-related events I've been to, I've never taken away so much valuable information nor met as many like-minded people as I did here. And I've never been more motivated to make a real success of +AsDesigned Games. So stay tuned because even when we do get get a few inevitable knock-backs there's no way we're going to give up without a fight!

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