SPOnG recently secured an interview with vice president of Electronic Arts in the UK and chairman of the London Games Festival, Keith Ramsdale.
Hi, Keith, thanks for your time today. I was driving back from the BAFTAs in the early hours of the morning today and I noticed the build going up for your stage and ‘Be The One’ event in Trafalgar Square. It’s huge! I’ve never seen anything like it in central London.
Yes, what we’re hearing is that for an entertainment event in its own right – regardless of it being a videogame event – that it’s one of the biggest things that’s ever been put on there. Which scares me a little! (laughs) But it’s all good.
So, the London Games Festival is now in its second year. What’s your own role in the festival?
Well, I’m vice president for UK and Ireland for Electronic Arts, and I’m the Chairman of the London Games Festival. We started last year – when it was embryonic, a toe-in-the water to see how we could do, really.
It seems to have come together this year.
Yes, well we’ve had the benefit of time, we planned much earlier to get most third-party publishers and first-party hardware manufacturers involved. So, there are a lot more events going on. And this Byron Review
really could not have come at a better time really, for the festival.
(Read SPOnG's interview with Dr Tanya Byron right here
EA is doing the ‘Be The One’ event you mentioned at Trafalgar Square
– so we may have taken the opportunity a bit more ‘head on’ than others. But around the capital throughout the fortnight of the festival there are more than 50 events happening.
To say a little more about what’s been happening at BAFTA recently – we’ve had Tanya Byron telling us more about her government-sponsored review into violent games. Additionally, we had a bunch of educators telling us more about ways in which they are using games in the classroom, which is fascinating stuff.
Yes, and we’ve done some work with Stephen Heppell
. What he has identified is that, to kids, videogames are just there
… they are just part of their life. So, for kids talking about games as ‘a media’… well they just don’t understand the fuss around it.
Heppell is finding that for kids to create content and learning experience through videogames – well, even very young primary school children come up with and create some incredible things – this is what is exciting in his research.
Do you have any thoughts about how the games industry might work with Local Education Authorities to promote more of that type of stuff in schools?
Well, what he is doing is testing out what would be appropriate. My understanding of this is that what needs to happen first is that the curriculum needs to be written and then, from that, we figure out as an industry where to go.
To convince entertainment videogame publishers to create educational curriculum software is probably going to be a bridge too far. Is there an opportunity to create stuff for the classroom? Yeah, sure, and there are companies that exist that make a living out of doing that.
So, first we have to see where this goes. But what’s certain – and I saw this myself when I took my seven-year-old daughter to her last school, in every room there were interactive white-boards… and this was probably the first time I’d been in a classroom myself since I was at school, when we all looked at the teacher chalking on a blackboard – so I asked the teacher the question "where do you stand?"
And he looked at me like I had two heads! This shows just what a different world the classroom is to what it was when someone my age, 40 years old, was in school. If you haven’t been in a schoolroom for a while it hits you sideways.