Rotherham is to launch the first ever video games festival in Britain, designed to enthuse the next generation of programmers and designers.
Top global companies and leading players from the computer games industry have thrown their weight behind Games Britannia – a week-long video games education and careers festival at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in July.
The festival is targeting hundreds of young people, aged from five to 18, their teachers and their parents.
It is intended to celebrate the strength of the UK industry and inspire the next generation of British videogame talent by encouraging young people to gain the skills the UK games industry needs if it is to maintain its place alongside the US and Japan at the top of what has become the biggest grossing and fastest growing entertainment industry in the world.
Festival organisers also hope to demonstrate how developing successful games requires experts in just about every field covered by the school curriculum – from IT, physics and maths to art and design, music, English and foreign languages.
Backing has come from Sheffield Hallam University, which runs a series of courses leading to degrees in computer games development, Sony Computer Entertainment and games firms like Sheffield-based Sumo.
Other big players in the international games and software industries are expected to announce their support for the initiative as momentum builds up for the event and leading industry players are already predicting Games Britannia is set to be a runaway success that will be repeated in other parts of the country.
Andy Payne, chairman of the UK Association for Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), predicts that Games Britannia will be “a fantastic festival and an inspiration for other regions,”
Launching the event at Sheffield Hallam University, Mr Payne said: “We’re thrilled to be able to announce the launch of Games Britannia hot on the heels of the games industry’s recent success in lobbying for a new computer science curriculum to replace ICT in schools.
“It’s vital to our future economy that the next generation become creators of technology and software, not just consumers of it. And it is exciting events like Games Britannia that will help to lead the way in redressing this imbalance.
“I know it is going to be a success because of the people involved. I think there is going to be a groundswell of support.”
Maria Stukoff, head of academic development for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, highlighted the collaboration involving the University, schools and the private sector to organise Games Britannia.
“You are creating something here that we can champion. It is most exciting.”