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Blocky Boris Announces London Games Festival

Updated to add a bit more about how the funding/investment is expected to filter along with regard to the UK games industry outside London.

The London Games Festival is being revived and will take place in early April. April 1-10 to be precise.

The festival is part of a wider three-year programme and aims “to do for London what Fashion Week has done for the fashion sector”. More on that in a moment but I guess the festival itself will only be guaranteed for those three years then?

The header image is because the programme was announced by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, from a press conference held inside famous London videogame* Minecraft.

Sidenote: Johnson as a Minecraft character looks utterly terrifying. I think I would be more scared of him than of creepers. It’s the blue eyes. It’s like a White Walker got sick of all that Beyond The Wall business and found a job in the City.

ANYWAY. This festival. It encompasses 15 official events across 10 venues in London but only five events have been announced. Some are new and some are pre-existing events which are being pulled together under this festival umbrella like Rezzed, Now Play This and the BAFTA Games Awards**. The point of all this is to attract attention (and thus investment) to the UK games industry.

Here’s one of the new events they’ve listed:

“The brand-new Games Finance Market (5 April – 7 April), a first of its kind event that recreates the successful formula delivered by Film London in matching film finance to film projects during the London Film Festival. The Games Finance Market will connect interactive content talent with global investors and partners from across sectors.”

There’s also mention of trade missions to promote Video Games Tax Relief and training and skills initiatives. Boris’s own statement included in the press release is not very helpful for finding out more but you could use it play a decent round of meaningless buzzphrase bingo:

London is already a star player when it comes to games and interactive entertainment, but international competition is fierce and we need to ensure our city can compete with our global gaming rivals. Through Games London we are supercharging an increasingly important sector for our economy, one that exemplifies the capital’s reputation for creativity and innovation. From design to banking and civil engineering to film, games technology is being used in a host of different sectors. We are investing in a dynamic and constantly evolving industry to take London to another level as a world-leading capital for games and interactive entertainment.

The video is a tiny bit more helpful and involves Boris hanging out with evil spider henchmen in what I assume is a faithful recreation of his office. ADVANCE WARNING it contains the phrase “take London’s gaming industry to the next level” which is awful:

I preferred the programme and festival chair, Andy Payne’s statement which included this bit:

“The London Games Festival with the financial backing of the LEP [London Enterprise Panel] will shine the light on the UK’s talent pool and help the financial community understand the massive commercial and communal opportunities on show. For businesses of all sizes, access to finance is key, and The London Games Festival will deliver these opportunities.”

I think that makes more sense of the project. That said, in the video there’s a lot of focus on the number of studios in London but the other material references the broader UK games scene. As a result I’m not sure what this means in terms of non-London UK games companies being involved or how much the focus is on UK gaming but using London as an investment portal so I’ve emailed to check.

RIGHT so, here’s the response on that front:

The funding will help attract investment in businesses across the UK – specifically, we want some of that return to be seen by London businesses of course (the funds come from a London-based enterprise panel that is chaired by the Mayor of London), but we all see an overall bigger halo effect for all of the UK through this activity.

Here are some screengrabs from the video:

And Blocky Boris at sunset:

*This is a joke.

**Disclosure: RPS are part of the Gamer Network behind Rezzed, I wrote an article about imaginary animals and unreliable narration for the Now Play This zine, and I have previously acted as a judge on a BAFTA Games Award panel. I am renaming the London Games Festival the Festival Of Pip.

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