Festival hopes to build gaming business in Norwich

Charli Vince

Charli Vince - Credit: Archant

All ages and genders sampled the technological offerings of Microsoft, Nintendo, Sega and Sony at the inaugural Norwich Gaming Festival last week.

Robin Silcock

Robin Silcock - Credit: Archant

The ten-day event at the Forum, Norfolk's largest ever gaming event, was unusual in being aimed at game-users and independent games designers rather than industry professionals.

One of its primary aims was to demonstrate an interest in the games industry in Norwich, to attract more gaming companies and encourage the city to invest in technological industry.

Co-organiser Robin Silcock said: 'Games development won't take off in Norwich unless we can prove there is a demand for it.

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'I wanted this event to happen, and I thought if I don't do it then I don't know who will.'

Robin, 22, is a third-year Games Art and Design student at the Norwich University of the Arts.

She currently lives in Norwich, but fears she will have to leave the city to find work to supplement her freelance income.

'What I have been trying to do is make a place for myself by developing relationships with companies that are already here,' she explained.

'I discovered there is a lot of crossover between what I learn at university and what they look for in their day-to-day businesses.'

Robin praised Norwich as a place for networking and community building.

'The businesses want to help each other. It's a supportive environment and that has been really helpful,' she said.

London-based content manager and games designer Christos Reid, 25, spoke at the event about his experiences in the industry.

'The games industry is not as focused around London as it used to be, people are all over the UK,' he said.

'Events like the Norwich Gaming Festival are awesome, because they're causing people and companies to leave the main cities.'

Christos, who has been making games for nearly two years, believes it would be healthy for the gaming industry to expand.

'The problem with London is it is centralised to the point that moving outward damages your career,' he said.

'An increasing amount of people are complaining that is it impossible to work in the industry without working in London.

'There are always implications for an industry to be centralised to one hub.'

Christos praised the Norwich Indy Game Developers, a society for games designers in the area.

'It shows there is a demand for the industry in the city,' he said.

Robin and fellow Gaming Festival organiser Alastair Atchinson hope the event has demonstrated the city's interest in the industry.

'It's a case of, we don't know if we have managed to spread the word and change people's minds until after the fact, but we hope we have,' Robin said.

'I think Norwich has great potential for starting to build a community of this type, but it will hang in the balance of what the city decides to invest in.

She believes government tax breaks are shining a light on the industry from a business perspective.

'People who are not directly involved with games as an industry may start considering it,' she added.

However, this year's NUA graduates may not reap the benefits of any awareness the festival raises in Norwich.

'A lot of graduates of the course would like to come back and work in the area, but there just isn't the opportunity at the moment,' said Robin.

'There is certainly the interest there, the city just needs the infrastructure to support it.'