Vision Statement : An Inconvenient Festival

The first step is admitting there’s a problem…

Five years in, GameCity takes stock of the videogames industry and the public and tries to work whether they have a future together.

We confront a number of issues including

Why does everybody hate videogames?
Why are old games so cheap?
Why couldn’t we call this a videogame festival at first?

and other matters arising.

This is the 2010 Vision Statement, and the only thing standing between you and a delicious curry.

(please note: features music and provocation).

Iain Simons with a bit of James Newman.

My Thoughts

Quite (self knowingly) rambling collection of thoughts on how good games are but companies are not. Supersession and the cannibalising of the industry through previews and “the thing that isn’t out is better” really is true in any case. Also on the use of “Interactive Entertainment” which is something I too entirely abhor.

I’m glad, although it reads that way as well as how he put it, that Iain Simons doesn’t actually hate games though, and plans to continue the festival.


There is no special guest this year for the BAFTA vision statement. This talk is partially an explanation of why.

Cue: “You’ve got a Friend in Me”. If only it was Karaoke 🙂

We all love games; it’s a videogame festival. But. Used to like games now. I believe it is a big part of modern culture. But the thing that is absent as the games industry gets bigger is the face of the games industry. You know the faces of bands, the directors of films, the writers of books.

The ability to take things and play with them, like Horace, is kind of absent from todays games. David Braeburn, Jeff Minter. Simple idea; games are made by people. Rob Hubbard, need to get him in the future eventually.

It’s not like I don’t like games, I don’t like the games industry very much – the shield.

A big of history; in 2006, a festival. Wanted the city to be playable, pods from platform owners. Got loads of areas to use; went to industry and said to brand managers “We’ve got plenty of things we’re able to do”.

Things that we thought would come up: First thing that came up was Shottingham. Not the most obvious place for a festival. Secondly was Unproven. Started as a research project, so mitigated the financial risk. Thirdly was “just some bloke turning up literally and saying we’ve got the whole city”. Had the partners from the university and city on board. None of these things turned out to be the problem.

The showstopping problem which we never never predicted: “We can’t really support it because you’re called “gamecity” and the word “game” isn’t consistent with our brand strategy”, from Sony. Was a big push to Blu-ray at the time. The games industry isn’t necessarily sure it likes games. Games were becoming interactive entertainment. The problem with that strategy is that it reduces peoples perceptions with videogames by simply stopping calling them games – as if the problem is the word and not the problem with industry itself.

David Braeburn states well why to use game. (see picture).

Thinking you can solve the problems just by changing a name is ridiculous. Around that time a few strategic things happened when trying to do a culture event. When it is an industry that is attacked for not being a cultural event, where do you hold it? London? Bristol? Leicester? Liverpool? Edinburgh? Perhaps during the festival; perhaps putting things next to stuff that is art it might legitimise things. In 2005 the first Edinburgh Interactive Games Festival takes place – it changed immediately to Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival. Not calling them out because we do a lot more things wrong but having the removal of the word game and the festival being with other art forms holds on legitimising it. It became the Edinburgh Interactive Festival last year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Sales figures got quotes claiming “evidence that videogames are now mainstream” because of making a lot of money. Legitimate and mainstream-ness only because of their sales. It only tells us of only one kind of value in the world.

Medal of Honor controversy – Taliban named in the game. Audience comments: Double standards. Four Lions gets lauded. Was a controversy because of multiplayer having a side called Taliban shooting at Americans.

Official response on this: “someone has to be the robbers when playing cops and robbers”. Somewhat understandable. However it is looking back to childhood games.

Audience: Could ask why the Taliban? Why aim it for real world? Got to ask this question.

Iain: How and where can that discussion take place is the point.

Started the National Videogame Archive. The industry is hooked on supersession – the best game is the next game. It has to acknowledge that the games that came out last week are not immediately rubbish though. No where can you see this better then the Fifa series of games.

Audience: The updates to rosters are a big part of the game.

Iain: Just an example, same with other games – when a sequel comes out the original gets immediately cheaper. Cannibalising itself. It is also about new tech – quote on Kinect 2! Have to acknowledge a game existed before the one you’re playing now.

Cue second track from Toy Story 2.

As you might be aware now interactive entertainment is the future. It has been written. Games are the past. The past. This is a really important cultural moment. Media and industry needs to change because games are made by people and played by people.


Audience: What are you worried about by changing it to Interactive Entertainment?

Iain: A colossal waste of time. People won’t suddenly go they are relevant and important. Let’s keep things in perspective though.

Audience: What about the comparison and splintering of comic books and visual novels?

Iain: Absolutely. The difference is there is the Spielgeman area and Scott McCloud area. In videogames you can’t point this out though.

Audience: The mistakes from comic books being marginalised took 50 years before it was realised.

Audience: Do you become a participant with interactive entertainment rather then a gamer?

Iain: I don’t know. What do you think? (no one has a clue).

Audience: We don’t really say to book readers: Ah-ha you’re a literate!

Iain: I don’t know really what gamers means in any case but it is a useful term sometimes.

Audience: What can we do with Sony stopping people talk to the industry?

Iain: From what we are doing, we know that there are greatly creative and insightful people in industry making games. They are just interesting. Perhaps at a basic level having humans means you become a bit less scared of the items. Try that by just putting developers in a city and seeing what happens.

Audience: What about metrics released by companies to validity the industry?

Iain: It’s more auditing – It is just another set of numbers to use. Not always the most helpful thing.

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