Channel 4 Reveals Next Wave Of Games

By Keza MacDonald on November 10th, 2010 at 6:01 pm.

Quite literally a logo, as there's no assets yet.

Today Channel 4 unveiled a new selection of gently educational web gamelets for 2011, funded by its educational division. Like this year’s previous commissions, which included Littleloud’s The Curfew, Zombie Cow’s Privates, and SuperMe – a whole set of games from Preloaded intended to make teenagers “better at life” by mucking about on the internet – they’re all being made by UK indies. What are the titles? Who’s involved? Should we be paying attention?

We probably should be, as Channel 4 is one of the most significant investors in our indie scene right now. It’s not just the money, it’s the attitude. These aren’t prescription educational tools, intended to be forced in front of bored teenagers by reluctant teachers in depressing classrooms; these games are competing with everything else on the internet for young adults’ spare time, necessitating a creative approach from developers that Channel 4 really encourages.

The focus has shifted a wee bit from last year’s commissions, away from responsible citizenship and sex education and towards financial management and ethical retailing (clearly the recession has given teens new preoccupations). There’s also an extra £1 million of provision for games targeted at the neglected tweenaged 10-14 year-old demographic, on top of the usual £4 million for games aimed at 14-19 year-olds.

There’s one citizenship-themed game in the pipeline – Walking City, by Big Robot (I swear I recognise that name from somewhere). It’s a modern city-management sim about social responsibility, based on broken windows theory (briefly: take care of a city and restore vandalised areas, and citizens will behave more respectably rather than escalating to more serious crime).

Littleloud’s new effort is called Sweatshop, and it frames the horrible moral issues involved in the mass production of cheap high-street clothing in a tower-defence game. Commissioning Editor for Education, Alice Taylor, claimed that there’d be actual child labour and awful machinery accidents involved, which is certainly brave, if a little heavy-handed.

Another potential highlight is the cheery-sounding The End, a platform web-game about death and belief, also made by Preloaded and produced by Tom Chatfield (who wrote a book about vidyagames, so he MUST know what he’s doing). It puts players in a sort of suspended time state and encourages them to explore their beliefs about life and death by asking them serious philosophical questions, as if teenagers needed any more encouragement towards gloom, intellectual suffering and existential crisis. Channel 4′s research shows that half of all teenagers are agnostic (and a quarter religious, and a quarter firmly atheistic), incidentally, so helping them work through their notions about death via the magic of running and jumping might actually be more of a public service than you think.

It will be interesting to see what of the 2011 list can match the ambition, budget and cross-media wizardry of The Curfew, or the absurd adolescent giggle factor of attacking sperm with an anti-fungal hose inside someone’s anus. This is just the first wave – there’s more to come. Here’s a full list of the ten newly announced games and their developers:

Footfall (Preloaded): a business management sim based around a chain of shoe shops, with extra emphasis on corporate responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

Vinyltopia (Proper Games): a bit like Footfall, really, but aimed at boys, and so based around a record shop instead.

International Racing Squirrels (Playniac): bit of a weird one, this. Described as “Champ Man with squirrels”, you manage a sports team made up of squirrels. Decidedly non-cutesy squirrels, we’re assured. Just in case you were worried.

Walking City (Big Robot): city management sim based around modern urban life.

The End (Preloaded): atheist and agnostic teens need to think about death too, you know.

Yes Chef! (playerthree): a restaurant game with a healthy eating theme, in which feeding customers bad recipes will make them chuck up everywhere. Good good, we need more bodily fluids in this selection.

Closet Swap (Inensu): not a game as such, but a community-based site and app combo encouraging teens not to chuck out their old clothes, but swap them around instead.

Sweatshop (Littleloud): factory life in Mauritius as told through tower-defence.

Who I Am (Zoe Mode): an exploration of personal identity aimed at 10-14-year-olds.

Truth Specs (working title) (Somethin’ Else): this one’s a bit of a mystery, but it will be a cross-media thing involving video and games designed to help younger kids with the transition through puberty.

This is about two thirds of Channel 4′s planned content for 2011, according to Taylor – we’ll see the first of them in April (beginning with The End, confusingly), then a glut over the summer to take advantage of the time of the year when teenagers might otherwise be outside drinking cider in parks or whatever it is they do now. Obviously we’ve not had the chance to play them yet, but there are a few worth keeping an eye on (especially Walking City – Completely Unbiased Ed). International Racing Squirrels just has me desperate to know what it is.

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36 Comments »

  1. fuggles says:

    Did the Curfew ever get finished? As I recall, last time KG posted about it then his response to bugs was that it was in beta – I’ve been waiting for a post stating it was completed.

    • A-Scale says:

      I’d like to know as well.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      It’s done….the hyperlink leads to a RPS post about the game being done.

      Loading now. Pretty long loading sequence…

    • fuggles says:

      That RPS post is the one about the beta, and how it’s part one of four – check KG’s comment part way down. Guess I’ll just have to look – bow street runner was good.

    • JoeX111 says:

      There was talk of a downloadable version of The Curfew as well. Did that ever happen?

  2. The Hammer says:

    Good luck with Walking City, Jim!

    Glad to see Channel 4 continuing its stride into gaming territory. Good ol’ Channel 4.

  3. jeremypeel says:

    Ha! As if bloody Rossignol got funding from bloody Channel 4! That’s great news, I’m really excited to see what comes out of Big Robot’s Big Metaphorical Mouth.

    All this indie loveliness from Channel 4 has meant my view of them is both warmer and fuzzier by the year.

    • jeremypeel says:

      This is Game 1 then, right?

      Also – the pressure’s now on for the rest of RPS to get a game funded by Channel 4. Looking forward to John’s innovative healer-less MMO.

    • Stu says:

      Something something Quinns something something lack of iron something something TIGHT.

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    Fede says:

    Nice, this means we will see the first of Big Robot’s games in less than a year :)
    Good luck, Jim!

  5. DJ Phantoon says:

    WHO IS THIS KEZA MCGRIDDLE PERSON!?

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    Lambchops says:

    Best of luck Jim.

    I’m looking forward to this next crop of games from 4; there’s bound to be at least a couple of very good ones in there.

  7. Bozzley says:

    Isn’t JJ Abrams’s production company called Big Robot?

    *googles*

    Bad Robot, not Big Robot. Sorry, carry on.

  8. jeremypeel says:

    Hmm, wonder if any of these devs are RPS regulars – the biscuit-distribution incident proved that there are plenty of UK ones hanging about.

    INDIE DEVS, ASSEMBLE!

  9. Jon says:

    Wait a minute, who is this new writer?!

    Is this Keza going to become a permanent member of the RPS hivemind?

    • Keza says:

      Nah, I’m a girl, I’m not allowed in. There’s s sign and everything.

      Bet it smells in there anyway.

    • Jon says:

      Probably does, but I bet there’s gallons of tea and hundreds of biscuits… Ups and downs, swings and roundabouts etc

    • Urael says:

      Perhaps Quinns blew it with his FO: NV WIT that alienated all of the gaming world and some from Home & Gardens, too. Not enough iron in the think-works to retain his position as Official HiveNode Transplant. Now this new chicky is being groomed for the role.

      Kez, I’m pretty sure it does smell in there but, just like cigarettes, once you’ve inhaled a few times you forever-after never notice it. Welcome to RPS!

    • Thants says:

      It’s the No Girls Club; they’re allowed to have one.

    • a says:

      Cool to see RPS is expanding a bit. I for one hope for more interesting freelancers in future! And people are still mad about that NV “review”? God damn. =p

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Well girls are certainly more manipulative and devious than boys, so if she wanted in, she’d already be in.

  10. Amanda says:

    Where the heck is Papa Sangre?

  11. Pijama says:

    Waitwaitwaitwait

    No formal introduction to a new writer? Even more so, a LADY writer?

    BY JOVE, RPS ONCE STOOD FOR PROPER GENTLEMANNE BEHAVIOUR, YOU WANKERS

    • Pijama says:

      And with that being said, welcome ms. MacDonald. Making a good post such as this is a great way to start!

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      The problem was that they still have to get up, while people at Valve don’t need to so they can build even bigger hat-towers of hats. RPS just couldn’t compete, so they gave up.

  12. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    Interesting stuff!
    Hope you guys do remind us again when they are finished!

  13. Sinomatic says:

    “Footfall (Preloaded): a business management sim based around a chain of shoe shops, with extra emphasis on corporate responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

    Vinyltopia (Proper Games): a bit like Footfall, really, but aimed at boys, and so based around a record shop instead.”

    So….shoes for girls, music for boys?

    • jeremypeel says:

      Just be thankful they weren’t posted about in pink and blue fonts, respectively.

      (I’m kidding of course. Blue is for gaylords, RED is a boy’s colour.)

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Though that makes more sense, here it’s blue for boys and pink for girls.

      Honestly I don’t care about color so everything should be brown oh wait

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      Harlander says:

      It swapped over in the ’40s! True fact (maybe)!

    • adonf says:

      Oh, I read “Like football but aimed at boys” and liked it.