Thursday, 30 May 2013


Yesterday the V&A announced the appointment of its first games designer in residence – 22 year old, BAFTA-winning Sophia George. The residency is a partnership between the V&A, V&A at Dundee, University of Abertay and Ukie. You can watch the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones interviewing Sophia here .

Sophia George, the V&As new games designer in residence

Sophia will be taking inspiration from the collections at the V&A and hosting public participation workshops to, in her words, “show the public just how amazing games are.” A spokesperson from the V&A explained that the museum had always been about embracing new, cutting edge culture and games were no different. The vases and pottery in the V&A were cutting edge in their time - it’s just they’ve aged a little since those days.

On Wednesday at BAFTA’s games journalism evening Christian Donlan told the audience that one of the reasons he loved games was because LA Noire transformed the way his dad viewed them, what they are, what they do and what they can be.

Last Tuesday Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport visited NCSOFT in Brighton to learn more about the importance and size of the video game industry in the UK. Her visit was filmed by ITV News.

The week before I was listening to Heresy on Radio 4 and Victoria Coren-Mitchell asked the panel to argue for and against video games being accepted as a new Olympic sport. They said ‘yes’.

On 21st May, Microsoft not only announced Xbox One, it also announced the launch of a Halo TV series directed by none other than Steven Spielberg.

Forgive me if this blog reads a little like ‘My Week in Video Games’ by Ali Fearnley, aged, well none of your business what age, but this was one hell of a week for the games industry. If ever we wondered if and when this industry and the entertainment we create are going to evolve from being a sub-culture to just plain culture, from being the domain of 18-25 men to the domain of everyone, then this week confirms that this transition is definitely happening.  

Even Rory Cellan-Jones in his sign off described video games as, “One of Britain’s fastest-growing and most important industries.” Why? Because it is. And now that we have a generation who have grown up with games and have never known a world without them, this transition, evolution and acceptance will hopefully become more widespread and happen faster.

Ali Fearnley is the conference director at Develop in Brighton. You can comment on this blog below or @developconf on Twitter and /developconf on Facebook or contact her directly at

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Meet Helen. Helen is a 40-something year old (sorry, Hels) working mother of two living in the south east of England. When I first met her fifteen years ago, she would never have dreamt she'd become a gamer. Even seven years ago, Helen had never heard of social media and didn’t play games. She was irrelevant to, and ignored by, the games industry.

Then Facebook opened its doors beyond colleges, Apple launched the iPhone and the likes of Zynga and King were born. These days, the first thing Helen does when she wakes up is check Facebook on her iPhone app, mostly to post (pretty funny, it must be said) status updates about her frustrations at being stuck on level 67 of Candy Crush Saga.

She is not alone. In fact, there are millions of Helens in the UK and beyond and, together, they have breathed new life into an industry that was suffering from the longest console cycle we’ve ever experienced and an ever-reducing pool of gamers happy to pay £40 for boxed product. The Helens were an untapped market. Now they are making the industry billions.

Candy Crush Saga, for example, has so perfectly tapped into the psyche and lifestyle of the ‘Helens’ that it now has its own Wikipedia page and for good reason. It launched in November 2012 and by March 2013 had surpassed Zynga’s Farmville with 45.6 million monthly active users. Its Facebook page has 20 million ‘likes’. It is the most popular app on Facebook. One in seven people in Hong Kong play it. And – despite being free to play – it is the highest grossing app in the Apple and Google stores. It is so ‘addictive’ that some people (not mentioning any names, DAD!) have joined Facebook just so they can hassle friends for tickets to give them access to higher levels. Getting to the end (without paying) brings with it major kudos and the determination of – and downright competitiveness between - Helens to stick with it and win is leading to humorous claims of addiction.     

From a games industry viewpoint, however, it’s not really a laughing matter, it’s one to be taken quite seriously. The Helens of this world have opened up a massive – and massively lucrative – new market: a market that is encouraging creativity and is accessible to even the smallest of players due to reduced development, publishing and marketing costs. A market that has, some might say, saved this industry and, many would say, saved a lot of jobs from being lost from within it. So when your alarm goes off in the morning, think of Helen, and thank her. 

This blog was written by Andy Lane, who is managing director of Tandem Events, organiser of the Develop in Brighton Conference. You can contact him at and follow conference updates on Twitter @developconf  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

GUEST BLOG - AJ GRAND-SCRUTTON: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

When I was asked to write a blog post about something I feel passionate about in terms of game development there was something which was very prominent in my mind: the way in which people are treated in the so-called chain of command.

                                                                                                          (Aj - right)
Looking at my career and the careers of my friends, it feels that the higher certain individuals move up that chain the more they behave like assholes to those below them. Whether this be seniors, leads, producers, directors, it was always the same, suddenly a holier than thou attitude of “Well, I’ve got a more important job title so I’m better than you,” appears.

One thing I didn’t understand until now is that job titles are just words. Since Dlala was formed last June, Craig [Thomas, co-founder Dlala Studios] and I have had an assortment of titles each. I’ve been Creative Director, Chief Creative Officer and now Chief Executive Officer and for the majority of that time we were the only two full time staff members!

Don’t get me wrong, job titles can serve a good purpose. Having roles defined can be a good thing, but not for the purpose of forcing authoritative nonsense down the throats of incredibly talented, and often underappreciated, individuals. Job roles, and their titles, should be seen as a driver and a reward, not as a stamp of power. Looking back on my own career now I can think of one time in particular that I had some absolutely horrendous arguments over a ‘promotion’. Reality was I was already doing the job itself. All the tasks, responsibilities, etc… they were all mine already, but I wanted that job title, I wanted that stamp of approval that acknowledged my hard work and effort. Not to feel superior to anyone but to know that I was progressing and recognised.

I should point out at this point that this isn’t the ranting of some disgruntled developer, or a chance for me to take cheap shots at people. This is a post from someone who has moved into a role which is more focused on production/direction/management. And in that role I try to remember the following two points every day:

1              Protect Your Team
“Congratulations! You’ve been promoted, you are now a manager.” What does this mean? This means you now have a responsibility to protect your team no matter what. The second Craig and I started hiring people we noticed a massive change of focus onto the security of our little family at Dlala. We know that if something went wrong tomorrow we could get back in the parents’ garages and start again, but now we won’t let it happen because we have four amazing guys who count on us to keep this studio going.

It’s not just about job security, though, you need to protect your team from blame. Reality is everyone fucks up and it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. The second you are scared to make mistakes is the second that making games becomes hard. Most important of all, protect them from yourself. It’s easy when you are being shouted at to turn around, blame your team, and then take them into a room and unleash on them. Your team should never be told, “If you don’t do better you will probably be out of job,” because it should never get to that point. Fear is an awful, unproductive motivator.

2              You need them, they don’t need you
How many successful projects have been made with just a producer, just a director or just a manager of some type? NONE. Now how many projects have been made by a single developer or a developer/artist combination? A metric fuck ton. Just remember that without your staff there is no game but without you there still could be.
As I said this isn’t a post for me to slag anyone off and this is definitely not me saying I know best. This is a post for me to warn myself and a reminder of what I don’t want to become.

This blog was written by AJ Grand-Scrutton, CEO of Dlala Studios. Visit for more information or contact AJ on Twitter @dnost.