Edinburgh Interactive Festival

Edinburgh Interactive Festival

Stadium arcadium

Henry Northmore considers the thrills and spills the Edinburgh Interactive Festival has to offer and ponders the future of arcade games

Now in its sixth year, the Edinburgh Interactive Festival is offering even more for gaming enthusiasts. To complement the usual conference, the games screenings are expanding with sneak previews of videogames. Expect hands-on exhibits, a recruitment area for wannabe game developers and designers (in association with Channel 4’s 4Talent) as well as discount games from Gamestation’s on-site outlet. It’s also free; just head along to your local Gamestation from 29 July to pick up your ticket (or register at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on the day).

The EIF also offers intelligent debates on issues affecting the industry, from alternative reality gaming to politics in online communities and how game mechanics can be utilised within the education system. Speakers include representatives of Codemasters, GameVision, Perplex City, EVE and 19 Entertainment.

Kevin Williams, founder and director of amusement and attraction company KWP Ltd, will be discussing arcade games, an aspect of gaming that has been neglected in the rush for powerful home consoles. From the halcyon days of Pac-Man and Space Invaders to Double Dragon and Space Harrier, arcade machines helped shape today’s gaming. Nintendo introduced Mario for the first time in Donkey Kong, Sega used the popularity of Altered Beast to help launch its Megadrive system in the UK and Nintendo similarly used the massive success of Street Fighter II to launch the SNES. Some of the world’s most enduring games, from Mortal Kombat to Tekken started life in the arcades.

‘The consumer games industry won’t admit it, but the innovation comes from the amusement sector,’ says Williams. ‘The force feedback gun, the dancing platform, motion capture were “borrowed” by the consumer sector.’

Many of the Wii’s gameplay dynamics were arcade innovations, which are far more powerful machines with all their processing prowess focused on just one game. Arcades offer intense gaming in a more sociable environment and are continuing to innovate. ‘We’re looking at total immersive display technology that surrounds the player, so you’re sitting in a 360 graphic experience; and physical force feedback beyond just jump-thump arcade driving cabinets,’ says Williams. ‘We’re looking at fully configured motion cabinets.’

Add to that innovations such as the IC card that stores portable games stats, to be updated each time you play. ‘We have technology that puts the player into the game experience. I like to use the phrase “unachievable-at-home technology”, if you can do something similar on a home system it’s not really suitable for our investment.’

KWP Ltd also hopes to bring at least a few of these new-style arcade machines to Edinburgh, although Williams admits, ‘It’s proving to be an interesting challenge.’ It looks like the local arcade will be a hotbed of gaming innovation for many years to come.

The Edinburgh Interactive Festival, EICC, Edinburgh, Sun 10–Tue 12 Aug.

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