Image: Playground Games, IGDB

In conversation: Interactive Futures

Interactive Futures is a new three-day event specialising in highlighting the games cluster in Leamington Spa, or the Silicon Spa. Important things to note about the event is that it is a non-profit event, designed to be accessible for all. All people are welcome, even non-gamers who are simply intrigued by what’s going on around Leamington. The focus of the event appears to be positioning games as a media and an art, into our culture and into Leamington. The future around us is bright and games, in a lot of ways, could be integral to that.

A passing glance at the schedule for the event should be enough to get you excited. There are representatives from all ends of the field, including but not limited to Playground Games, Special Effect, and the infamous Oliver twins. It’s a three-day event, the first day, Thursday January 31 2019, being a student-focused academic day, and the days that follow offering equal opportunities for education and celebrations of the gaming cluster in Leamington.

The focus of the talks is visibility and accessibility. The speakers cover a range of subjects from the history of the industry, games used as educational devices, streaming and influencer opportunities, to accessibility in the industry, games design, and player psychology. Such titles include: Can Fantasy Games Impact Behaviour in the “Real World”?, The Importance of Accessibility in Games, and How to Get Your Foot in the Door at a AAA Studio. With speakers such as Helen Routledge (CEO of Totem Learning), Dr Joe Twist OBE (CEO of UKie), and Dr Luke Webber (Co-lead of Games@STEAMhouse). It was clear from speaking with Suzee that there was a great sense of pride in the event and that certainly shows in their lineup.

Ex-Boar Games Editor and University of Warwick graduate Jordan Erica Webber will be the Conference Chair of the event. A prolific games journalist, writing for The Guardian and hosting sections of The Gadget Show, she fell in love with the Leamington cluster after attending university and has been local ever since. With her starting and finishing the proceedings, we’re all in for a treat.

We got to grips with the purpose of Interactive Futures and need for greater recognition of the Silicon Spa

After a recent interview with Suzee Laxton, the event’s organiser, we got to grips with the purpose of Interactive Futures and need for greater recognition of the Silicon Spa and the Leamington cluster.

We spoke initially about the immediate purpose of the event, Suzee spoke of the event’s focus on accessibility, noting that the event will be for people of all ages and all interests, even those who may not have been initially interested in gaming. There will be talks on parental guidance and tips for staying safe on the internet as well as the typical careers talk for those with specific interests in the sector. This range of interests in also perceivable in the combination of academic speakers and speakers who are actively working in the industry.

When asked about the academic day, we discussed the importance of students getting to know the industry they’re getting into, particularly following recent news of the ‘crunch’ times of Rockstar. She spoke about how important it was that the Leamington cluster received recognition for consistently generating a healthy working environment. She specifically noted the “friendly competition” that occurs between companies, as well as the comfort and ease with which many developers can move from company to company to work on different projects without any questions of loyalty.

She ensured that the event was very much future-facing even when it was looking back at the historical implications of the industry

Being a key part of the aforementioned Totem Learning, she spoke the important developments of gaming being a tool for education. Many of the speakers of the events illustrate this, with a clear focal point being the significance of ‘serious gaming’ in our culture and in our future. She ensured that the event was very much future-facing, even when it was looking back at the historical implications of the industry.

We concluded the interview with a discussion, more generally about gaming. Suzee spoke of the flexibility of mobile gaming and how underrated the creators and app developers are.within the games industry. We continued by talking of the need to demystify the disparity between mobile gaming and mainstreaming gaming culture. Many mobile games are being updated and improved daily with developers and artists alike constantly adding to create content and gameplay that can be enjoyed indefinitely. Returning to the motif of accessibility, we spoke of the overwhelming majority of women playing mobile games and how the genre seems to have been mislabelled as the ‘games for non-gamers’.  She recommended the recently released F1 Mobile Racing game from Codemasters, and reitterated the greater need for an understanding and analysis of the popularity of mobile games, if we want to truly understand how to be accessible to so-called ‘non-gamers’.

Interactive Futures is looking to be a must-see event for anyone interested in games, whether that be playing, designing, writing or studying. It’s certainly penned into my calendar and I have hopes that it will become a spectacle with which the entire local and student community can come together and experience.

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