What’s new for BAF 2014?
The big news this year is that the gaming guests and talks have been incorporated into the programme of events at the museum, so all events, whether they’re related to gaming, animation or visual effects, will be under the same roof.
In previous years delegates have sometimes faced a tricky choice of who they want to see if there’s a big-name crossover. Last year Dave McKean and Brian Horton were speaking at the same time, and I know some people would have loved to have seen both. Even other speakers have said to me they would have liked to have seen another guest who was on at the same time as them.
I personally think it’s great that we’ve now got guests from the gaming industry alongside guests from animation in the same programme and on the same days. Charles Cecil alongside Mark Shapiro reflects how the industries are completely interlinked and also shows how gaming is becoming more and more mainstream.
What’s special about the gaming events at BAF?
The fact it’s organised by the museum shows that gaming is taken seriously and sits alongside an older, more established medium. Huge names such as Ray Harryhausen have been to BAF in the past, and regardless of whether you’re into gaming, animation, or both, the festival has built a great legacy that it’s a pleasure and privilege to be part of.
The festival also reaches a younger audience and speaks to them directly. We have had panels before that have spoken about the UK and how it is important as a country to be involved in the content creation of games, rather than simply content consumption. I have to give credit to the government for incorporating computing into the school curriculum. It shows again that gaming is becoming more mainstream and being taken seriously.
Can you tell us a bit about some of this year’s guests?
I’m expecting Colin Graham to go down a storm this year. Watch_Dogs is one of the best-selling and biggest new gaming franchises, and I can’t wait to hear him talk about it in Bradford. I saw him give a fantastic presentation at another game event, and I just thought ‘I need to get him to BAF’! Watch_Dogs features animation design of the highest quality, and Ubisoft are one of the top 3 or 4 developers in the world who are capable of making these huge games.
We have wanted to get Charles Cecil for a number of years and he has always been incredibly busy, but fortunately this year he’s just finished work on the new Broken Sword title The Serpent’s Curse. He’ll be discussing the animation and art in the new game, but also, and I think this is very interesting, he’ll be talking about the fact it has been partly funded by Kickstarter, and how this led it to have some major art and design decisions influenced by fans. This direct relationship has not really been seen before so it should be fascinating to hear what he’s got to say.
Fee Stewart heads up Formerdroid in Huddersfield—a very exciting new company that has already been BAFTA-nominated for a New Talent award. I’m really looking forward to her talk as although she’s always been passionate about games—Fee got into the industry later in her career and her story is inspiring for people who perhaps may think they have missed their opportunity.
These speakers don’t do this all the time and we are incredibly fortunate to get the names we do. BAF and the museum help in this respect, giving games a great platform and recognising that they are becoming more mainstream.
What are your personal highlights from previous festivals?
Warren Spector (2013) is one of the biggest names in the industry, and although he’s associated with darker themes and games, it was amazing to hear him talk about his passion for Disney.
That said, I think Viktor Antonov (also 2013) has got to be up there as well. He is a mind-blowing artist who created the incredible environments in City 17 (Half-Life 2) and Dunwall (Dishonored). He gave an amazing talk last year and I would love him to come back again.