Game Republic

picture pf panelists Elaine Dowman, Simon Iwaniszak, Bobby Thandi, Jessica Kelham, Andrew Crawshaw

Northern Lights appear at Develop in Brighton!

Game Republic’s Jamie Sefton hosted the Northern Lights panel for the first day of Develop: Brighton on Tuesday 11th July. The panel included Bobby Thandi of XR Games, Simon Iwaniszak from Red Kite Games, Elaine Dowman from Barclays Games, Andrew Crawshaw from Thunkd and Jessica Kelham of Rum Punch Games.

Considering changes in industry over the years, Andrew Crawshaw identified one of the biggest breakthroughs as being the unfettered access to publishers and platform holders – explaining that it was impossible to get games published without agents or specific access when Game Republic first started, but now it was much easier to get a game into the market, encouraging the audience of developers to get games out because “now there is always an in.”

Jessica Kelham, who has worked in many games companies in the region and has now started her own games company, related how the industry had become more diverse. When she started in Team17 in the mid 2000s there was just two women in the company, making it three when she joined. Now she was pleased to see how industry was changing, and at events like GaMaYo she could see new generations and more diversity in the sector.

Bobby Thandi provided insights into how Yorkshire and the North had produced such a strong ecosystem of companies – similarly to Jessica’s own set up after working in studios. Over time Yorkshire and The North has had incredible studios set up like Rockstar Leeds, which began as Mobius Entertainment in 1997, and has spawned new studios as people left to set up on their own, such as Red Kite Games, Double Eleven and Weaseltron – summarising “success in one studio can birth other studios”

Elaine Dowman agreed with the strength of the sector in the region, but also she observed that more widely in the games industry that over the last year, getting funding had been more challenging for indies.

Simon, Elaine and Bobby on panel laughing
Panel sharing insights and some funny insights to about game development in Yorkshire and The North

All the panelists agreed that having Game Republic in the region had made a big difference to opportunities and how companies had worked together. Simon Iwaniszak explained how Game Republic had got him to GDC just two weeks after registering his company, Elaine shared that the great thing about the network was that people had a shared passion for games, which always provided a positive connection.

“statistically you spend more time with the people you work with than your own family, so make sure the studio you are working in is fun!” – Simon Iwaniszak – Red Kite Games

On starting up, all agreed that networking was crucial but Jessica and Bobby focused on knowing the purpose of your mission before you start. Bobby added that also ensuring that your network of peers understood your values and integrity too. For him that had made a big difference when securing investment, when an investor undertook background checks, and his peers had confirmed that Bobby would deliver what he set out to do. Building a good reputation, he believed, was crucial for providing evidence and assurances on success.

All the panellists agreed on the importance of diversity and enabling people from different backgrounds to get into the industry. XR Futures, which has been spun out of XR Games, was providing help in secondary schools and Simon at Red Kite Games said all of the team were encouraged to go to their former schools and do talks about the industry. For Simon, he believed the introduction of games as a viable career option was better if it could be earlier – as was encouraging parents to understand the games industry.

At the end the panellists shared what they believed to be the best part of being in the games industry. Bobby explained the incredible magic of games, that when out and being positively received, “you forget the pain, the problems and challenges and just love those moments. It reminds you that we are here to create art that gives people joy.” For Elaine one of the best bits about the industry was the incredible variety and creativity – “there is a game for everyone out there.” For Andrew it was the ability to constantly be solving challenges and finding new ways of working. He was excited to see what the next generation of developers would create that we can’t yet imagine. For Jessica the best part was “people and the community”. And on a final note, Simon summed up by reminding the audience that “statistically you spend more time with the people you work with than your own family, so make sure the studio you are working in is fun!”


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