Brave new world

Abertay Univer­sity ex­per­i­ments with the con­cept of the in­die game fes­ti­val

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Abertay’s in­die game fes­ti­val ex­per­i­ments with its for­mat

Like its soon-to-grad­u­ate par­tic­i­pants, Dare Pro­toPlay is in a state of tran­si­tion. The event, which marks the cul­mi­na­tion of Abertay Univer­sity’s an­nual Dare To Be Dig­i­tal stu­dent game de­sign com­pe­ti­tion, has been steadily grow­ing over the past few years, and now it’s look­ing to bol­ster its of­fer­ing.

Di­rec­tor Dr Wil­liam Hu­ber, who is bet­ter known to stu­dents as the head of Abertay’s Arts, Media And Com­puter Games di­vi­sion, is keen to sculpt a more cu­rated ex­pe­ri­ence for at­ten­dees. It’s an in­ten­tion that’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous in the care­ful use of space that char­ac­terises this year’s event. Whereas the ma­jor­ity of last year’s Dare – in­clud­ing talks, game ex­hibits, and other events – took place in a sin­gle large mar­quee, with Caird Hall’s main room re­served for the in­die show­case, the Au­gust 2015 event sees the City Square play host to sev­eral smaller tents, while Caird Hall opens up more of its cav­ernous in­te­rior. The event is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for the stu­dent teams to prac­tice their pat­ter as they ex­plain their ideas and re­ceive im­me­di­ate feed­back – both good and bad – through­out the week. And un­like last year, where all of the teams had to work on their games in Dundee, a change in the rules means this time around the ma­jor­ity of de­vel­op­ment took place in each team’s home univer­sity, which has led to greater dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween the projects.

The largest mar­quee is re­served for the 16 Dare To Be Dig­i­tal projects, and proves re­mark­ably busy through­out the week. The crowd here is markedly dif­fer­ent to those of other videogame events, con­sist­ing of fam­i­lies with young chil­dren and cu­ri­ous mem­bers of the public who’ve wan­dered into the event from the busy high street.

This year, along with the reg­u­lar Ju­nior Judges ini­tia­tive that gives a group of kids a clip­board, vot­ing power and the op­por­tu­nity to skip the lines, some of the event’s younger at­ten­dees also take ad­van­tage of the Dare Pro­toPlay card­board chal­lenge. Tak­ing place on the main stage, the idea is to high­light the con­cep­tual stages of videogame de­sign and give kids the op­por­tu­nity to quickly pro­to­type ideas into some­thing playable. Mean­while, at the op­po­site end of the hall, vol­un­teers talk par­ents and kids through game cre­ation in Scratch along­side a per­pet­u­ally busy run of Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Joust games. In the room be­yond, ses­sions of Killer Queen Ar­cade Field Game, which takes the tit­u­lar ar­cade game’s rules and trans­poses them into re­al­ity with buck­ets, balls and swords, run through­out the Fri­day and Satur­day.

More ad­vanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion of the cre­ation process is pro­vided this year by the Ed­in­burgh Game Sym­po­sium: Pro­toPlay Edi­tion – a se­ries of talks and pan­els pri­mar­ily fo­cused on game au­dio, as well as tips on start­ing your own in­die stu­dio – and a key­note on In­ter­sub­jec­tive In­ti­macy within games. The in­de­pen­dent ex­hibitors, mean­while, in­clude Get Into Games Chal­lenge win­ner Jon Caplin and the run­ner-up Abertay stu­dents of Glyph Games, who are dis­play­ing their games Icarus.1 and Penny Pur­suit re­spec­tively.

Dare Pro­toPlay con­tin­ues to be an in­valu­able event for as­pir­ing game de­sign­ers and even younger en­thu­si­asts who might even­tu­ally de­cide to go down that ca­reer route them­selves, pro­vid­ing a mix of in­spir­ing role mod­els and fun, hands-on learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. But while this year’s cu­ra­tion de­liv­ers a more var­ied sched­ule and be­gins the process of ex­pand­ing the event’s re­mit, it feels like the first steps to­wards some­thing much big­ger. There’s a no­tice­able ab­sence of es­tab­lished de­vel­op­ers in the in­die show­case, for ex­am­ple, the pres­ence of whom would sig­nif­i­cantly el­e­vate an al­ready ap­peal­ing propo­si­tion. How­ever the fes­ti­val de­vel­ops in the com­ing years, though, just a cou­ple of days spent among its crowds demon­strates the clear im­pact it’s al­ready hav­ing on ev­ery­one who at­tends.

While there’s a more var­ied sched­ule, it feels like the first steps to­wards some­thing much big­ger

FROM TOP The in­die show­case; the Global Card­board Chal­lenge sees kids make dozens of playable games us­ing noth­ing but card, tape and glue

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