For its ninth year, last week's Edinburgh Interactive moved into its most high-profile spot on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Surrounded by the fringe, and buckets of rain, EIF 2011 kicked off with a message that would echo across two days of panels, talks and public sessions: creativity is key. From first-time chairman David Yarnton’s opening speech encouraging creativity in co-operation with the game industry’s rapid technological advancements, to Learning Without Frontiers founder Graham Brown-Martin’s call to arms for more innovative and relevant education reforms (and, ultimately revolution), EIF 2011 touched on a wide range of areas in a very short space of time.
Cramming talks like Jason Daponte’s, of digital consultancy and production company The Swarm, which addressed the future of gaming and gaming tech, into a single hour was a little restrictive but no less interesting. Touching on a number of themes we explored in our Flash Forward feature in issue 229, the potential for visors and “active contact lenses” to take centre-stage in our everyday lives was once again brought to the fore.
PlayGen's Kam Star
In his presentation, titled The Multiplayer Revolution, Jagex CEO Mark Gerhard discussed the need for MMOGs to stay relevant in the age of social media. For Jagex’s Runescape (which Gerhard described as “the only MMO that’s continued to grow despite its age”), the realisation that the game was already “a social network” was integral to the company’s decision to veer away from Facebook. EIF 2011 raised more questions than answers, touching on issues such as the psychology of gamification, in a talk by gamification specialists PlayGen, and the future of facial recognition software with Image Metrics’ director of research Mike Rogers.
It wasn’t all business, however, as Sir Ian Livingstone lightened the tone with regular appearances that traversed the public and conference sessions. It was when he chaired the debate: “This House Believes That The UK Games Industry Is Only One Life Away From Game Over”, that the conference showed its lighter side. The debate pitched a team for and against the UK game industry’s current trajectory and descended, at times, into a chaotic mix of opinion and oddball humour. It was this portion of the conference that perhaps best highlighted EIF’s overall sensibility: a mixture of stern business and good humour.
Individuals from Rockstar proudly show off their award
And of course, the conference also saw our presentation of the Edinburgh Interactive Edge Award to LA Noire, for its MotionScan technology's contribution to taking videogames another step closer to mainstream entertainment.
Next year Edinburgh Interactive marks its milestone tenth year. If it’s given a little more room to breathe, and its speakers are able to provide some answers to the questions raised this year, then it will certainly be a crucial conference.