What does BAFTA mean to you?
If you’re anything like the millions who tune into the glamour-drenched TV and movie awards ceremonies, it probably evokes images of chiselled leading men and Hollywood’s divine ladies, all dressed to kill.
Yet even on those tuxedo-heavy evenings, its mission goes beyond sheer glitz: it reflects a portrait of both industries to the public as universally revered institutions.
And that’s exactly what BAFTA wants to achieve with the games equivalent of its celebrated awards nights – landing at the Park Lane London Hilton next week on Tuesday, March 10th.
"The acknowledgement and acceptance by the media of games as ‘mainstream’ entertainment is happening relatively slowly – and if anyone can change the perception of games it is BAFTA,” explains BAFTA’s head of awards Anne-Marie Flynn.
“Whilst games does not have the ‘star’ attraction of film and television, if we can encourage more and more developers to join the Academy, take part in events and support the Awards, in time we believe that BAFTA can play a major part in attracting that same kind of interest in games.”
BAFTA already provides a vital function in terms of the future health of the entertainment business, presenting the message that – in employment terms – working in TV and film is something for young people to covet.
And with this role as a recruitment driver in its blood, it’s little surprise that BAFTA believes it can do the same for games. The organisation believes its ability to make people want to work in games will be welcome news to a UK development business slowly slipping down the global rankings.
The UK industry can make rendered art look as sexy and as crisp as any country in the world but, as BAFTA committee chairman Ray Maguire points out, it is the people that make the business – and BAFTA can help the public realise it.
“It’s well documented that the development community is growing in areas where financial incentives are ripe – and the UK is suffering,” he says.
“BAFTA can make young people crave to be part of the UK industry and its exciting future.
“Not only that, but the name and famous mask hold such weight, the industry’s association with it makes it seem less insular. It makes it seem more possible for young people to say ‘I want to do that for a living’.”
On the 362 days a year that it isn’t hosting an awards ceremony, BAFTA – a registered charity – is most proud of its position as a place for creative types to come together.
The ‘BAFTA dream’ is for creative workers across film, games and television to network at its events and year-round facilities – lighting the touch paper on the possibility of the UK becoming the world leader in cross-entertainment product.
LEGO Batman developer Traveller’s Tales recently met BBC kids’ programming guru Jocelyn Stevenson at a BAFTA event. After developing ideas together, the two collaborated, with Stevenson using TT’s engine for new children’s show What’s Your News? Maguire attests the programme is “visually stunning”.
“That’s just the sort of wonderful opportunity that BAFTA can provide for all entertainment industries,” he says. “And as more developers sign up to join, the more of them we’ll see.”
By becoming involved with BAFTA, it seems developers stand to benefit from premium networking, publicity and recruitment opportunities – regardless of whether they pick up one of those famous faces come the body’s big night.