Being from Yorkshire myself, any chance to wax lyrical about God’s Own County is alright in my books, and the Yorkshire Games Festival has given me the chance to do just that. This area of the UK has been crying out for a dedicated event with big backing like this for a long time, and the chance to experience the inaugural ‘fest’ has been a privilege.
The Festival ran from Wednesday 9th November 2016, over the weekend and finished on Sunday 13th November. The first three days were jam packed with talks ranging from Sumo Digital and their upcoming physics platformer Snake Pass, which looks a lot of fun, to Rhianna Pratchett, talking about her career as a games writer so far. There were probes to find out what her involvement is with Shadow of the Tomb Raider but nothing was confirmed. On Saturday and Sunday the doors opened to families, with events not just at the National Media Museum in Bradford (where 90% of the activities were held) but all over the city of Bradford including: A dedicated Nintendo Zone celebrating the ‘Year of Pokemon’, a competition in Minecraft to recreate the Museum in blocky form, and a Game Jam at the University of Bradford.
Friday saw the keynote speech from John Romero discussing the early days of ID software and the creation of the FPS genre as it is known today. The man oozed charisma and rightly so; his talk and presentation easily drew in the biggest crowd of the week and Romero had their undivided attention. His talk also went on to discuss the founding principles that ID was built upon including fixing bugs at the point of discovery, some of which seem to ring as true now. Fun fact: DOOM was actually the 91st game he had made; this seemed to shock the audience, most of whom are in the process of creating their first games, as the stark realisation hit them that it was a very long road. He appeared again onstage later in the day with Ben Maxwell from Edge Magazine to discuss other stages of his career, including Daikatana.
Other events through the week included a chat with Warren Spector via VC, Team 17’s Creative Director Kevin Carthew on how to keep a franchise like Worms fresh and Brenda Romero on what it means to be a woman in the games industry. The fact that this talk was needed proves that this is still a contentious subject for some.
There were also plenty of talks directed at the students in the audience from people deep within the industry they are trying to break into. Rob Bartolomew from Creative Assembly gave plenty of advice on when and how to market a game, Gary Napper from Supermassive Games was also there to offer advice on how to break into VR development, and Charles Cecil from Revolution Studios spoke about the renaissance happening with the point and click adventure. Even if you weren’t a student looking for advice on where to go next though, the calibre of the people involved was enough of a draw.
Whilst the talks were great, there was a bit of time in between each one where not very much happened. There were cases housing items from Brenda and John Romeros personal collection, and not to mention the 5th floor having some classic arcade games to play – more on that later – but that was it really. On the weekend there were additional stands to play more recent and upcoming games on, and it felt like these were missed throughout the week.
Friday night also saw a performance by DJ Yoda. His show was an audio visual extravaganza, mixing classic gaming soundtracks in with hip-hop tracks from the related time period, all with accompanying video of said game interspersed with funny Youtube clips and unusually, a lot of clips of Nintendo breakfast cereal. It started off a bit slow, but by the end of the 90 minute performance everyone was really into it – not least DJ Yoda himself given away by the big beaming grin on his face. This was clearly something he enjoyed doing, and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
Also on an evening was Wednesday nights’ Delegate Reception. This was hosted in the gaming area of the Media Museum on the 5th floor. Games available to play included Pong, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Goldeneye, Space Invaders and, my personal arcade favourite, Point Blank. Each of the day’s speakers were there and it was a great opportunity to meet them (and also where I was able to sit down with Keith Stuart to discuss his new book), have a drink, and maybe even take them on at one of the games available.
The weekend gave way to the lectures and the talks, opening its doors to more family-friendly days of fun. Amongst other activities there was a Game Jam at the University of Bradford where teams of students put their creative heads together to see what they could create in 24 hours. Back at the Media Museum members from The Yogscast were in attendance to talk about how they got to become a YouTube sensation, and even provided the audience with some exclusive gameplay. With Pikachu wandering around to meet the little ones and Mini NES Classic Editions to play some of the classics, the weekend really did serve up something for everyone.
The first Yorkshire Games Festival was a rousing success. There really was something for everyone whether you wanted tips and tricks from the insiders, fancied meeting some of the legends in the industry, or just wanted to visit a social event with other like-minded individuals then this is the place to be. My massive thanks go out to all the organisers and the volunteers who were extremely helpful and friendly and made the entire experience even more enjoyable. I am very much looking forward to the Festival being the start of many to occur and I for one will be attending many more in the future.