Abertay’s ProtoPlay gears up to showcase the brightest new videogame talent

Dare To Be Digital, Abertay University’s annual student coding competition, kicked off in June and will see 15 teams of five students attempt to create a game prototype in just nine weeks. The results of their work will be showcased at ProtoPlay, under a large marquee in Dundee’s City Square, which is taking place August 7–10. ProtoPlay also allows more established indie developers to show their games for free (interested parties can apply at www.daretobedigital.com), and this year they’ll be in nearby Caird Hall.

On the last day of the competition, three winners will be announced, voted for by an independent panel of industry judges. The winning teams will be nominated for the BAFTA Ones To Watch award and receive a £2,500 prize.

Sophie George, who opened this year’s Dare proceedings, was a winner of 2011’s competition with puzzle game Tick Tock Toys and went on to become the Victoria And Albert Museum’s first game designer in residence. She is currently working at Abertay on a game called Strawberry Thief. “When I competed Dare To Be Digital, I had only recently graduated from my undergraduate degree,” she tells us.”So winning the competition gave a boost to the first steps in my career. I feel that being able to showcase an award-winning game at the age of 21 was key to developing the next stages of my journey into game development.”

For the Dare To Be Digital finalists, the experience can be invaluable. “Winning ProtoPlay meant a lot for us,” says DOS Studios’ Mattis Delerud, who was one of last year’s winners with twitch action game Size DOES Matter. “It enabled us to be visible to more people and for us to gain a lot of confidence in ourselves as developers. When we saw that a large number of people enjoyed the game, we were amazed! We thought for a while that Size DOES Matter was a niche game. ProtoPlay proved us wrong.”

According to Delerud, Size DOES Matter, which sees you adjusting the size of a block and manoeuvring it through gaps in an unholy union of Flappy Bird and Super Hexagon, is driven by its music. And winning ProtoPlay lent DOS Studios the credibility it needed to work with the artists it admired, including Chipzel, Eirik Suhrke and Savant. “In other words,” Delerud says, “without Dare To Be Digital and ProtoPlay, DOS Studios would not be where we are today.”

It’s an event that transcends the typical audience for a videogame show, and this year’s ProtoPlay – which we’ll be covering in two issues’ time – will surely build on its success to date. “I think these events expose the videogame medium to a wider range of people than it usually does,” Delerud says. “This is my favourite part. We had 50-year-olds come up and play Size DOES Matter, as well as shy children. In my opinion, society benefits from this; it’s our responsibility to show society that videogames can be everything, and that it’s a medium that will be here for a long time.”