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ExPlay 2012 – celebrating UK games development

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Elia Romanos

CEO of Plymouth-Based Indie Gaming Company

Ella Romanos, CEO of Plymouth-based indie gaming company Remode tells us about what visitors can look forward to during this year’s ExPlay Festival in Bath.

Over the last few years, we have seen games increasingly become part of the cultural landscape of the UK. More people than ever are playing games, and the market and UK industry is growing despite a tough economic climate. The games industry significantly contributes to the UK economy, and awareness of games across government, education, the public and the media has become almost ubiquitous.
image from ExPlay 2011
One area to shine a spotlight on is the South West, which was recently highlighted by Develop magazine as a hub of growing game development talent and industry. The South West did in the past have several large developers, but this has declined in the last decade and the area had lost recognition as a development hub. However, over the past few years, smaller studios, driven by the lower barriers to entry created by digital distribution, and then mobile games, have started up. These studios have been growing and have been drawing talent from local university graduates, as well as experienced talent that remained from those larger studios, and those who had relocated locally for lifestyle reasons. The South West has a legacy of creativity and of small studios, who partly due to the lack of investment in the area have often remained small but focused on quality and creativity.

Growing a community

Two years ago, ExPlay Festival was founded to see if we could nurture the growing industry and build a community to support and enhance it. ExPlay’s mission is to support companies, freelancers, individuals, students and academic institutions, and showcase the South West to the rest of the UK. Last year was the first major games festival, held in Plymouth, with speakers including Games Workship creator Ian Livingstone OBE, TIGA CEO Richard Wilson and The Guardian Games Correspondent Keith Stuart, alongside which there are now other events including monthly meetups in Plymouth and Bristol, game jams held through the year and a 2-day Bootcamp for startup studios (supported by Creative iNET in the South West). After a very successful first year, ExPlay festival returns this year in Bath, with Edge magazine as media sponsor, and a strong line up of speakers. The community has gained a national presence and this year the main ExPlay game jam is supported by the Wellcome Trust and is being held at the Science Museum in London as well as at the Pervasive Media Studios in Bristol.
image from ExPlay
This year we have speakers including keynotes from Robert Briscoe, one of the creators of indie hit Dear Esther, Hide&Seek founding director Alex Fleetwood and Jo Twist, CEO of UK games industry body UKIE. We also have a great line up of talks including on game design from Clive Lindop and Alex Trowers, ‘startup stories’ with stories from three successful indie studios who all started up straight from university, ‘The Never Ending Story’ a panel on writing in games, and ‘Cultural Exchange: Japanese Gaming and How it Impacts Us’. We are also very excited to be hosting the inaugural TIGA awards, which will be celebrating the best games, games businesses and people within the industry, with an awards dinner and ceremony on the Thursday evening of the festival. TIGA is the trade industry body that supports all UK games developers, big and small and the awards are a great example of supporting the industry.
Last year’s festival was well received by the local gaming community, who enjoyed the opportunity to network and discuss ideas. This year it promises to reach further across the UK, to celebrate the games industry’s place within British culture.

Further information

Explay 2011 photos by Extended Play Festival on Flickr. All rights reserved.

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