Dare to inspire
Scotland’s biggest indie event shines a light on a new generation of game developers
Scotland’s biggest indie event showcases a new generation
Inclusiveness: if there’s one overriding quality that defines this year’s Dare ProtoPlay festival, it’s a communal sense of unifying passion. You can see it in the eyes of countless families who flood the marquees of this constantly expanding Dundee-held event, and you can certainly feel it in the 16 student games all vying to win recognition from BAFTA at the festival’s showpiece Dare To Be Digital design competition.
“Games are embraced by the community here in a way unlike any other place I’ve seen,” says Dr William Huber, who acts as both ProtoPlay’s director and the head of School of Arts, Media and Computer Games at Abertay University, the event’s host institution. “It’s very intergenerational.” A stroll around Dare To Be Digital’s floorspace confirms this,
with scores of children partnered by parents who appear inquisitive when presented with titles showing a sense of purpose and playfulness that captures the imaginations of young and old.
The trio of winning titles, whose teams have now been nominated for BAFTA’s One To Watch award, boast a remarkable level of coherence considering their short gestation
period. Among The
Stones, Pentagrab and Rebound (see facing page) all demonstrate a commitment to accessibility, and it’s an approach shared by the other 13 finalists’ projects – a legitimate achievement given that many were made in just eight to ten weeks.
It also speaks to the strength of Abertay’s prospective graduates that all three winning teams hail from the Dundonian school. Despite facing commendable competition from a variety of overseas projects, it’s the homegrown games that appear to hit the most resonant note with crowds.
Among The Stones – a colourful 3D platformer that has been crafted with a painterly poise reminiscent of
Okami – is a particular standout, with its art designer, student Rory Sweeney, effusive about the value of not only Dare To Be Digital, but also Abertay’s game design course. “It’s been phenomenal. In a practical sense, Abertay is the best. They put you in so many projects at once. It’s overwhelming, it’s scary, but after a while you get shoved into a team and start making games, which is the most valuable part.”
Indeed, it’s this hands-on approach to game-making that Huber believes is invaluable for nurturing the next generation of developers. “Increasingly, studios do not hire based on the boxes you can tick on what programming languages you say you’ve learned. They hire based on your portfolio: ‘Show me what you’ve done’. Careers are built on the games you’ve made.” With all 16 teams gaining not only invaluable development experience during Dare, but also direct feedback from the public, the festival is a useful tool in helping a wave of game makers prepare for an increasingly crowded, competitive industry.
Dare’s rapid expansion – some 13,000 attended the event over four days in August – has led Abertay to collaborate with other institutes in recent times. The Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) now hosts annual talks on a nearby campus, with UKIE’s Dr Jo Twist most recently presenting a keynote on making the UK the best place to produce and sell games and interactive entertainment. Seminars such as these are part of ProtoPlay’s overarching philosophy to get young people thinking about games not merely as entertainment, but as the basis for a prospective career.
Though the festival’s Indie Showcase, held inside Dundee’s Cairn Hall, may lack the presence of big-name developers, there’s no doubt that Dare is continuing to grow year on year, providing a rare opportunity to see the work of future developers at a raw yet exciting stage as it inspires children to look at games in a whole new light.
“It’s overwhelming, it’s scary, but after a while you get shoved into a team and start making games”
FROM TOP Dare To Be Digital remains ProtoPlay’s star attraction; the Junior Judges initiative gives children the power to vote for their favourite games
ProtoPlay director Dr William Huber