WASD keys into careers

Essentially a spiritual successor to Rezzed, the debut of WASD as part of spring’s London Games Fest was considered something of a triumph – so much so that an inaugural careers focused spin-off event will be a feature of the coming autumn. Richie Shoemaker spoke to Roucan founder David Lilley about what we can expect. 

Two events that I regret missing this year were the Women in Games Awards back in March and Roucan’s inaugural WASD event a month later. The first was unavoidable (suspected covid) and the second I could quite easily have attended, since it fell kindly just after a deadline – a rare occurrence, as you can imagine. I’m happy to report that unless the mortal threat of covid rears its ugly head again, there’ll be no tardiness on my part when WASD Careers comes to the Farnborough International Exhibition & Conference Centre for November 17-18.

Despite living there during my teens and not having any desire to return, Farnborough is, as Roucan’s David Lilley points out, a perfect location from which to host a live event to promote the games industry to those pondering their careers. First and foremost it enjoys a central location relative to south and central England and has excellent travel links to the west and north, not least for fleets of coaches looking to dock en masse from colleges and universities across the country. For students unable to afford trains in and out of London, it’s a big deal.

“We’ve done events in Excel, which is terrible for travel,” says Lilley. “We’ve done events at Tobacco Dock, even worse. In Farnborough there’s no traffic apart from coaches, and so it’s just so much easier to do. Plus Farnborough is new and it’s a bloody amazing venue.” Famous of course for the Air Show to which Boris Johnson famously flew to escape the recent record breaking heatwave. “It’s a really, really brilliant venue.”

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

As well as being a relatively bargain bin destination, Lilley is ensuring WASD Careers will be cheap to enter. At the moment tickets start at £7.50, with a discount for group bookings. The price will inevitably creep up over the summer, but not to any eye watering amount. The aim is to give schools and colleges the opportunity to make a late booking when September comes around – assuming their local coach operators still have the capacity to get them to Farnborough, of course. “The spine of the show will be the units, which we’re very famous for making, that we will sell to schools and colleges, but at an extremely reasonable price.

It will look really professional.” Lilley is insistent that WASD Careers will be a showcase for talent equal to how the mainline event is the same for UK games, because when you showcase talent in the right light, with the right branding and design, it creates greater interest. “Because if you bring students showing work, you will then bring trade. And if you bring trade then you’ll bring the hubbub of the video games business.”

FUTURE SKILL

While there’s no definitive talk as to whether WASD Careers will be a regular annual event, the hope is that it will become one. For Lilley however, it’s not about capitalising on the WASD brand (although it surely won’t hurt it), but doing something to address that skills shortfall that is plaguing the UK industry.

“Every developer I talk to has got a 10%, constant, underperformance in terms of personnel. You’ve got someone like Sumo, who employs 750 people, and they’ve got 80 vacancies. Ongoing, constant, always 80 vacancies. There’s a massive problem in terms of those people coming into video games, meeting with those people who are making video games. So, we’re going to try and solve that problem by turning it on its head a little bit. We need educators to meet developers, and then we need government to meet educators. We need everybody who’s involved in games in the room talking about the skills problem.

“It’s hard to see where the revenue is going to come from,” admits Lilley, “but we’re not going to worry about that in the short term. We’re just going to make a brilliant event, and I’m sure it will catch on.”

SAVE THE DATE

This November is becoming a busy month for games industry events. Shameless to mention it here, I know, but IRL is returning for a second year (featuring 30 Under 30), then there’ll be the TIGA Awards, the usual slew of releases that always precede Thanksgiving, and now WASD Careers. However, despite the congestion, Lilley thinks the timing is to the benefit of everyone who’s needing or looking to attend, especially those in education.

“It’s a good time for final year projects coming together. It’s just before Christmas, but not the end of term. We were conscious of doing it pre-summer or late spring, as there’s a hell of a lot of other stuff going on in games around that time, so with the lack of games at retail, November is a less sensitive period.” Shit. I’ve just realised my wife’s cousin in America is getting married early in November. Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to avoid it. I’ve done it before. See you in Farnborough. I hope.

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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