John Romero will be among the guests at the inaugural Yorkshire Games Festival
A look ahead to the Yorkshire Games Festival, with John Romero
Yorkshire is one of the UK’s most prolific, longest-standing game development hubs. Numerous iconic studios have called the region home, from Team 17 and Revolution Software to Rockstar Leeds and Sumo Digital. Quite rightly, then, there’s a little Yorkshire pride when it comes to games.
The general public may not primarily associate the county with the craft and business of building digital worlds, but game development arguably deserves a place on any list of local archetypes. In an attempt to share what games mean to the region – and to help stimulate and bolster the area’s industry – Bradford’s National Media Museum is hosting the Yorkshire Games Festival this November.
“We’ve hosted a number of game events here over time,” says Kathryn Penny, festivals director and film business manager at the National Media Museum, as she considers why 2016 provided the ideal time to launch a new gathering. “This year we wanted to go really, really big on games, and we wanted to have a platform for the game industry in our festival calendar. The motivation behind the Yorkshire Games Festival was to have an event where students and recent graduates in relevant games courses – mainly in the region – could get closer to the industry.”
Penny firmly believes that process should inspire and inform, by giving fledgling talent a chance to meet with and learn from a spread of visiting luminaries. There are family- and playerfocused elements too, taking place over the festival’s closing weekend, offering a number of free elements. And despite being a way to promote the local game industry, the event is anything but parochial, despite its name.
“It’s not just about Yorkshire,” Penny says. “There will be local, national and international speakers. We’ve got John and Brenda Romero. Warren Spector and Rhianna Pratchett are there, and then there are our local guests like Charles Cecil from Revolution. It’s all about access to industry, and students getting an unrivalled opportunity to meet that industry and learn about a range of topics, from diversity in games and programming Doom to reviving classics and writing in games.” John Romero will be taking to the stage at the festival for an interview hosted by Edge, and the famed gamemaker will also deliver a detailed look at his professional past, and the lessons he learned on the frontlines at Id Software, the studio he co-founded 25 years ago where he worked on seminal shooters including Doom, Quake and Wolfenstein 3D.
“My talk covers the early history of Id Software,” Romero says. “It’s a short history of the beginning of the company, all the way through to shipping Quake. During the process of telling that story I’ll have lots of other little quick stories about things that happened back then.
“I’ll also cover 13 programming principles that helped us make the amount of games that we made during that period, which was – I think – 28 games in five years. That was a time when we had to write the engines ourselves, too. The funny thing is, even on the PC – compared to previous ’80s consoles and computers like Commodores and BBC Micros that had sprite hardware and sound hardware – we didn’t have any of that kind of thing.”
That, Romero believes, led to a distinct development method and mindset that remains relevant and applicable today. “[David Kushner’s] book Masters Of Doom kind of tells the story of Id Software, and I get a lot of feedback from people that have read the book,” Romero explains. “They basically tell me it’s so inspiring. A lot of people that are feeling depressed or burned out or whatever, they read the book and it re-energises them. Most of that comes from the fact that they realise they are like we were at Id Software, and I think that’s still relevant today.”
Back in Bradford, organisers are drawing up the final plans for the festival, which runs from November 9–13. Narrative expert Pratchett is set to discuss the challenges and opportunities that face those looking to thrive as game scriptwriters, while System Shock producer Spector will join via video link to offer insight from his three decades at the leading edge of game development.
The closing weekend will also feature Yogscast hosting a live Q&A session; there will be careers advice for those pondering a move into videogame development; and, for the family-centric final day, there will be a collection of events based on Minecraft.
“We’ve got a few fringe events as well,” Penny says. “There are things like DJ Yoda on the Friday night, which will see games clash with other art forms. There’s plenty to get excited about.”
For tickets and more information, visit www.bit.ly/yorkshireGF.
“It’s all about access to industry, and students getting an unrivalled opportunity to meet that industry”
Kathryn Penny, festivals director at The National Media Museum in Bradford