Welcome back Games Britannia!

Finally Games Britannia 2013 was announced this week, with a planned launch event due to take place on 23 and 24 January 2013 at Sheffield Hallam University.

Though I’m not involved in the festival anymore, it gives me a nice fuzzy feeling that it’s found a new home with Hallam, and a new Director who is just as passionate about teaching our children the necessary skills for them to understand, be creative and prosper in the digital world that they live in.

GB last year was mainly overlooked by the media and press because it focused on using games as the engagement to get children excited about STEAM subjects. Other, more traditional approaches (and most London based surprisingly) at delivering coding to children, for example using government data or building databases gained far more coverage. Games still seem to have a stigma attached to them (the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones cited GB as being “just another games festival”) though why this continues against the raft of economic data the industry produces, and the fact that games are best way to engage with kids is beyond me. Because its not “computer science” its frowned upon, but I guarantee that a coder who gets things flying around on an Android or iOS device at 60fps has just as valid ability to someone who can build a web page that connects to a database.

Regardless, GB 2012 achieved some great things – the main one being successful enough for Sheffield Hallam to continue the legacy – if it was in the hands of the local council then it would have bitten the bullet. I’m exceptionally grateful to Jake, Joe, Kate and the rest of the team at Hallam for that.

We delivered over 50 hands-on workshops and lectures last year to over 1000 school children, aged between 6 and 18 from across the country – from Kent to Merthyr Tydfil, from Dundee to Rotherham. A staggering number which doesn’t include the number of school teachers and staff that also attended. We covered everything from coding to Interactive Fiction, had a special BAFTA Games Question Time – the first to be held outside of the capital, went mad over Minecraft, had a girls-can day with coding, animation and careers advice, launched the new PEGI ratings systems for games, set two Guinness World Records, hosted 3 OBEs and 1 MBE (Ian, Andy, Miles and Charles), a fantastic BBC technology presenter, and the BBC Games Development team, enjoyed a BAFTA Young Game Designers workshop, played board games, reunited Gremlin Graphics, prototyped games from lego and plastercine, raised money for the wonderful Special Effect charity, launched the Raspberry Pi Summer Programming contest, had an abseiling Lara Croft, premiered the IndieCity Game Factory, opened the fonts of knowledge at SUMO Digital to school children and students, met a few heroes, were filmed by Blue Peter, entertained (with the help of Replay Events) almost 4000 members of the public at our weekend expo REPLAYED, and attracted nearly 150 entries for a game design competition and held a game jam with the winning school set to release its game to the IndieCity (thanks to Chris Swan and team) store next week (again with proceeds to Special Effect).

And we had a lot of fun! Not bad for “just another games festival”.


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