We do like to develop by the seaside. The UK’s leading development conference returns to Brighton.
Develop is a long-established fixture in the UK industry calendar. Each summer, developers suck in Brighton’s salty air as they network and attend talks covering everything from creating game engines to non-linear storytelling.
This year’s first full day at Develop:Brighton began with two interesting keynotes. One from within the industry and one from the government.
Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford has long been on the speaking circuit. He has an easy charm and self-deprecating style that always engages an audience and was certainly in evidence as he introduced himself with an amusing roll call of some of Gearbox’s less than successful games.
He began his talk by affirming the importance of games as enriching part of our lives.
“Entertainment, in my opinion, is a very noble pursuit.“ he said. “A way of commoditising the creation of joy and happiness in other people.”
It is our duty, as a species that can feel emotion, to create experiences that provoke and stimulate them, Pitchfork explained.
This led onto the central thrust of the keynote; taking value from feedback, whatever its form.
Gearbox have experienced feedback from both ends of the critical spectrum of course. Feted for games like Brothers in Arms and Borderlands and ridiculed for the likes of 007 Nightfire, Duke Nukem Forever and the notorious Aliens: Colonial Marines.
“If you’re making entertainment on a grand scale, if you’re reaching millions, there will be tens of thousands of people who absolutely hate us, and some percentage of those will take it upon themselves to let us know how they feel,” he said.
Despite this, Pitchford suggests that all feedback, good or bad, is important.
“I read it in this way: we moved those people, we touched them – even the person who hates your game so much, you’ve affected them,” he said, adding, “It takes energy to care.”
Pitchfork used the analogy of a child who creates a sand castle, only to have another child stomp it to pieces.
“Most of us will not crush a real sand castle, because we realise that someone put effort into it. We realise that it’s someone’s creation,” he said.
“If we’ve moved someone, if they tell us they’ve loved what we done, or they tell us they hate what we’ve done, we’ve still moved them. Try to find a way to get fuel from all of it. If you let the destruction of your sand castle prevent you from building the next one, that is the biggest tragedy of all.”
Following a somewhat excruciating Q&A, Pitchford was followed on the stage by Ed Vaizey, Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.
Having openly admitting to not knowing a thing about video games when he first took the post, Vaizey then cited the many achievements that have taken place on his watch – including developer tax breaks and the addition of Computer Science to the UK curriculum.
Although Vaizey may not be a natural advocate for the industry, he certainly appears to have become a genuine supporter during his time in office.
“It’s not one of those industries that’s based in London, it’s everywhere, from Brighton to Dundee. So it was easy for me to become a champion of the games industry, and push for games to take their rightful place alongside some of the more vocal creative industries like film.”
Rather than beating down the door to No. 10, Vaizey’s approach appears more of an enabler, helping the industry make its own weather through UKie and schemes such as the University Abertay’s $4m protoype fund.
You can’t imagine Vaizey ever playing Borderlands but he evidently realises the value of the industry to the economy, the skills sector and society. “Games are taking their rightful place alongside the film industry as one of our most important assets.”