Reflecting on the games I tested yesterday at Dare ProtoPlay as I sit here in my hotel room admiring the breath-taking sight of traffic on four different roads and a construction site outside my window, I feel hugely impressed about what I saw yesterday. Unlike my feelings for this hotel room view.
Having played just over half the games so far, developed for a range of platforms and devices including virtual reality, iPad, PC, Kinect, Android and Windows Phone 7, it was fascinating to see what can be achieved in just nine weeks.
The students who made it to this point had clearly taken the time through the past two months to find their market and tailor a game specifically for that audience, whilst also honing their title’s user interface to make sure they are easily accessible during the short playtime windows, and, most importantly, fun.
I feel it would be unfair of me to name any particular highlights at this point as I’m tasked with being a judge at Dare ProtoPlay, but some games have genuinely astounded me with their creativity and market potential.
A few of these games would not look out of place against much bigger titles on the App Store, PC or console, despite being developed in a far shorter timescale, and that is a testament to the talent on show here. I would pay good money for some of these games.
In fact, don’t be surprised if you see one or two of these games make it big, either through self-publishing or being snapped up by a larger company. A couple of these titles are THAT good.
But despite all the euphoria surrounding the event, and the noticeable pride felt by these young developers' faces as children came in with big bright smiles playing through games these students have put all their efforts and passion into, some of the comments a few of these aspiring developers made to me were cause for concern.
One student based in the UK told me that this event was the only real chance he’d had at making a game, despite having studied games development at university for for two years now.
He expressed his amazement at all the industry veterans that had come in and mentored the Dare teams over the course of the nine weeks, offering sometimes harsh, yet necessary criticisms and bringing their keen insight into the world of development.
Yet during his degree, he’d only seen two industry professionals do talks to students.
And this was not an isolated incident. Other students had similar feelings about their courses, and were very thankful that an event like Dare offered them the chance to not only develop games in teams and bring them to an audience, but also to get the chance to build up industry contacts and really learn their craft outside of a book.
This was not just students from the UK either, members from a team named Nuclear Duck, which created a fun and humorous title for Kinect based on a monkey running through the jungle, said that in Israel there was barely a games industry to speak of, and no specifically tailored courses for them there.
It was to their credit though, that they were hoping appearing at Dare would help convince those back at home to take games more seriously.
Of course, there are many Universitites out there offering fantastic degrees in development, but it’s a shame that some of these clearly extremely talented students need a big event like this to experience their first time at making a game.