Dare to in­spire

Scot­land’s big­gest in­die event shines a light on a new gen­er­a­tion of game de­vel­op­ers

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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

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