This is the second year when we had our own games conference called Interactive Futures in Leamington Spa. Not sure if you are aware but our town is one of the gaming development hubs of the UK. We have long wanted a developer-focused event where we can discuss the past, present and future of the industry with our peers. It was also a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances.
Our games conference
The first Interactive Futures event was in 2019. It was three days long and had various technical sessions, panels and a public day to showcase our industry to anyone who is interested. I really enjoyed it and I was glad to hear the organisers decided to do it again this year.
I had a fantastic and somewhat hectic experience. The programme was somewhat different as we only had one industry day that consisted of fewer technical presentations and more panel discussions. We had a few companies showcasing their portfolio in the expo area as well.
As it turns out I do know a lot of people in the area. In general, our industry is like that. Once you are in it’s easy to find connections through people you know. This is a perk I really like.
I walked through the Jephson Gardens, which is a lovely Victorian garden in the heart of our town. Even though it’s in the middle of winter it looked splendid. The Spa Centre, where the event was taking place is right next to it.
We do Economy
I had to arrive early as we had rehearsals for the panels. The programme started with Jordan Erica Webber talking to Dr Jo Twist who gave an update on the state of the industry on the back of the recent UKIE industry report. It highlighted the role of the creative industry in the UK economy and the role of games development within.
Past, Present and Future
The second panel I attended was a split discussion of the past, present and future of video game making in Leamington Spa.
The first group was about the past and present. It was great to see and hear legends like Andrew Oliver (founder of Blitz, now Digital Dragons) and David Darling (founder of Codemasters, now: Kwalee) remembering how they’ve basically kick-started the industry here. We also had some great insight from the rest of the Alex Darby (Darbotron) and Phil Bale (Ubisoft) who have been around for quite some time.
The second group was a selection of representatives of studios who either recently moved to the area or planning to in the near future. We had Chris Southall (Sumo Digital), Phil Warner (Mediatonic Games) and James Nicholls (NaturalMotion) talk about their plans, inclusivity and the state of the industry. I didn’t expect to enjoy it but I did.
The next panel was about Brexit. It was timely as the UK was leaving the EU on the day. The panel was absolutely excellent, the insight and facts I think helped to clear up some of the confusion around the next year. It was chaired by Seth Barton (MVC/Develop) and consisted of Liz Prince (Amiqus), Anna Mansi (BFI), Guy DeRosa(Electric Square), George Osborn (UKIE) and myself. As a company owner and EU citizen, I tried to give a positive but honest description of my experience and my perspective on some of the areas we covered.
At this point, I had to leave as I was taking part in the Indie Game pitching session representing Sponge Hammer Games. It was definitely interesting. We had a few publishers who could potentially sign games and two advisers who provided unbiased feedback on the pitches themselves. You could spend 20 minutes to explain the game concept and have a discussion. I got some fantastic feedback, positive criticism and sparked some interest which we’ll be using to move the project forward.
Top tips for speed pitching
- Practice the pitch and time it. It should fit in the time needed.
- Remove any clutter, focus on the key message.
- Stay calm but speak fast.
- Have some water with you, you’ll dehydrate at a much faster pace than normal.
- Listen to feedback. It may save some headaches later.
- Be friendly and dare to say you don’t have all the answers.
- Work those out and incorporate those in subsequent pitches.
At this point, I missed a few sessions and I only got to see the end of the discussion with John and Brenda Romero.
After the session ended I wandered around a bit. As I had a few scheduled meetings to attend soon after. Luckily I managed to catch the end of the UKIE hub crawl which is a must for any indie devs. If it’s in your area please make an effort and attend. There’s so much you can learn during events like this.
In the end
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the event. After meeting so many talented individuals, having great conversations I came home with a lot to think about. I am hoping there will be an Interactive Futures 2021 built on top of the success of the last two. So see you there next year, hopefully!
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