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General, Technology

Brains Eden – a quick walk through a gaming symposium

Yesterday I attended the Brains Symposium (see left)  – part of the Brains Eden Gaming Festival in Cambridge.

Billed as bringing together the industry’s best brains, the event was designed to highlight the contribution the gaming makes to the UK creative sector.

As someone who regularly bangs on about the importance of technology and creativity, this was a fascinating event.

In particular I want to write about some of the speakers that really grabbed my attention.

Professor Paul Moore  – head of an innovative creative technologies  degree at Ulster University. Prof Moor’s contention was that the education system was still clinging to learning models that were hopelessly out of date, leaving students ill-equipped for the rigours of the ‘real ‘world.

So in the Creative Technologies degree, students are taught how to be creative using collaboration, technology and enterprise. He described it as art, meets code in a cultural context. It is about the application of new technologies in all kinds of different scenarios. He also talked about the punk aesthetic of the Maker movement, about tapping into the desire to make actual stuff. All quite radical for academia.

So students are taught self appraisal, defining criteria by which to mark their own work. More impressively rather than a final year dissertation, they ae given £3,000 to start their own business. If the business is still going and has at least one contract after a set deadline, they can tap into further funds to grow the business. A simple but powerful idea. You can find out more about the course here.

Next up was Jim Sweatman, a senior games designer at Jagex. He was talking about the challenge of monetising content. The former editorial product developer in me shared some of his pain.

I won’t go through the psychological justifications for his findings, but essentially his point was – create the right incentive for the right content and people might be prepared to part with cash to enhance their gaming experience. It’s something that is an issue not just for games developers but for any content creator. I’ve written about this issue before too but it was interesting to hear how the issue is affecting an industry I had assumed was insulated from having to worry about monetising content. Sweatman made the point that micropayments are changing the nature of gameplay (Zynga games) but also the way games are designed and sold.

Finally Dave Coplin, a futurologist (Chief Envisioning officer for Microsoft) delivered a keynote. His point was that technology was about augmenting our daily experiences, it was about creating new tools to improve the way we live our lives.

Coplin made some really interesting points about the contextual use of technology, about how our use of technology adapts to match our emotional mood, our environment, our location and our devices.

The most interesting comment was around Big Data and how this was going to be the next big challenge for technologists. Not only in terms of using data to create new services, but also in finding relevant data to assist our day-to-day living.

A really enjoyable insight into part of the creative industries I knew very little about. But something we should definitely encourage as part of the FabLab project.

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