Celebrity couple John Romero and Brenda Romero both gave keynotes at the opening of the UK games industry conference, Develop, detailing their experiences of working in the games industry.
John Romero, whose childhood love of arcades insulated him from a rough upbringing in a poor part of Arizona and propelled him to fame and fortune, is of course one of the two Johns responsible for founding ID (the other being the inimitable tech genius John Carmack), and pioneering the FPS genre with the highly influential Wolfenstein and DOOM. His (sometimes unbelievable) adventures in the nascent games industry, in which he became a kind of Rockstar for nerds, are well catalogued in the awesome biography Masters of Doom by David Kushner.
Brenda’s talk, meanwhile, addressed the burnout that is often the result of working in the tumultuous games industry, and asks why, in spite of this pressure, so many of us stick with it? Brenda is, of course, also a noted designer, whose series of experimental and challenging board games have explored the emotional and social legacy of traumatic historical events such as the Holocaust and The Middle Passage, contributing to the artistic and political credibility of games like few others. It’s highly fitting, then, that Brenda and John Romero should be together named Development Legends at the 2017 Develop Awards.
Its highly fitting, then, that Brenda and John Romero should be together named Development Legends at the 2017 Develop Awards.
While the Develop awards honour the past of two of videogaming’s pioneers, others are looking to protect the future. Two of the UK game’s industry’s biggest trade bodies UKIE and TIGA have teamed up with industry heavy hitters Rick Gibson and Ian Livingstone, as well as over 500 industry signatories, to put pressure on the government to form a British Games Institute.
Following the existing model of the British Film Institute (BFI, whose mandate is to promote, fund and preserve British film) the organisation would fund 40 British games a year of cultural value, provide training and support to the industry, and “Promote the cultural and economic contribution of games to the UK through a new national programme of events and research that celebrate British games culture.” With the games industry such a core part of the UK’s dynamic cultural sector, and Brexit providing a significant risk to its continued health, such an act of consolidation will be vital to not only build on, but to hold on to what we’ve got.