Dare Protoplay is one of Scotland's biggest gaming showcases and conferences
Henry Northmore looks at Scotland's gaming future as Protoplay showcases the next generation of video game designers
Recent years have seen the democratisation of video game publishing: where once it took a team of hundreds, working away for years at a cost of several million dollars, to produce a triple-A console title, the proliferation of gaming on mobile phones, tablets and downloadable content on Xbox Arcade and PSN has made independent games publishing a reality.
'Games are so varied in the current era, it's possible for small teams to make mobile and tablet games in three to six months,' explains Professor Louis Natanson, Academic Director at the Institute of Arts, Media and Computer Games at the University of Abertay Dundee. 'It's certainly more independent, whether it's an easier market place is debatable. Because it's easier to get out there makes it harder to get noticed. However the new business model and the ease of getting to publishing means you can reasonably easily make enough money to put into your next project.'
This makes Abertay's Dare to be Digital competition even more significant. Since 2000, participants working in small teams of around 5 have had roughly 9 weeks to create a working prototype. 'I think the fact you can self-publish has made Dare more relevant, there was a team last year who released their game as soon as Dare finished,' adds Abertay graduate and former Dare entrant Sophia George.
The winning team members also pick up a One to Watch BAFTA, so it's a massive kick start for a career within the industry. 'I think it's helped me tremendously. I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't applied for Dare,' adds George, whose team, Swallowtail, won a BAFTA for their game Tick Tock Toys. She's currently the Victoria & Albert's first Game Designer in Residence. 'I'm going to be using the British Gallery at the V&A to come up with a game idea. I'll be there for 6 months then I'll go back up to Dundee and create the game at Abertay. I'm going to be very busy but it's very cool that the V&A is recognising games as an artform.'
As well as training the next generation of videogame designers and consolidating Dundee's international reputation as a games development hub, Dare to be Digital also offers the public a chance to test out the games at the annual Protoplay event. 'These game prototypes the participants are creating are not just exercises,' says Natanson, 'part of the process is putting yourself out there and letting your audience crawl all over your work, that's really what Protoplay is all about. Dare to be Digital on its own would be nothing without confronting the public and seeing what they think about it. A painter can't really be considered an artist if they don't exhibit their paintings.'
Protoplay also sees various games companies displaying their wares alongside the work of the students, as well as workshops and the first Dare Indie Fest, a new conference for independent developers. Tying into the ideas being put forward by Dare and Protoplay, BAFTA Scotland presents an interactive panel examining Scotland's standing in the world of video game development at the Filmhouse. 'I would definitely say it's a rosy future,' says Natanson, 'as we migrate from the big behemoths to these smaller companies, I think that actually favours the kind of industry we've got in Britain.'
Protoplay, Caird Hall, Dundee, Thu 8--Sun 11 Aug; BAFTA Scotland presents: Games Industry Secrets of Success, Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Jul.