Breakthrough Gaming got the chance to have an exclusive interview with Harvey Elliott in the run up to the 2015 BAFTA Games awards. Harvey has been chair of the games committee since 2009. Since then he has seen the BAFTA Games awards evolve considerably, by getting bigger and better.
Michael: So this is the 11th annual British academy games awards, you’ve been praising the innovation of video games for a while now. Do you think BAFTA games have achieved mainstream recognition to be held within the same prestige as film?
Harvey: Within our respective audiences, yes. I think that the BAFTA Games Awards are the premier awards for the games industry, and well respected and appreciated by developers, publishers and players around the world. That said I think there is still more work to do in building more awareness of games outside of our core audience, and across the public at large. By continuing to show what the games industry is doing, describing the scale of the reach of games and audiences, and highlighting some of the amazing talent that our industry fosters. I’m sure we can achieve the recognition the industry deserves.
Michael: 2014 was a very important year for gaming with the next gen consoles picking up steam. How do the nominations for this year differ from what BAFTA have had before?
Harvey: New consoles always bring a renewed energy and vigour to the market, and now that the new devices have had a little time to bed in, we are starting to see true next-gen experiences for players which push every aspect of the platform. And just as consoles are moving forward apace, we are seeing the mobile market move at an arguably even faster pace with increased performance and innovations happening with every release of hardware. What that means for the awards is that we are seeing a huge cross-section of games vying for the coveted BAFTA in every category and most importantly creativity being rewarded with nominations from every field of the industry.
Michael: What’s the process in deciding which games deserve a nomination?
Harvey: BAFTA is a professional academy. To be eligible to become a BAFTA Games member you need to be at the top of your profession, with many years experience in crafting and creating games. To decide who wins the awards, we ask our membership to review all of the entered titles against each category and from this we generate a short-list of titles for each. The BAFTA games committee, who oversee the BAFTA Games Awards, is comprised of elected and co-opted games practitioners. Each member of the committee must chair a BAFTA Games Awards jury – where we enlist around 10 games experts to review the short-listed titles and through a pretty healthy debate generate a list of nominated titles. Once we have the nominations for Best Game, we return the final nominated six to the membership to select a winner from, and in other categories the jury go on to determine a winner.
Michael: It must be a very difficult process?
Harvey: Yes it is! The hardest part is getting the right jury together for the awards, to ensure that we have a great representation of the expertise in the industry relevant to the category. Our jurors’ names are published on the night of the awards, and we need to ensure we maintain a consistently high standard in how these processes are run.
Michael: Some notable games I’ve noticed have not received nominations, such as a few Wii U titles for example Super Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2. Is there a reason why these games weren’t nominated because they have both received a lot of critical acclaim?
Harvey: You’ve highlighted two excellent titles, but there are hundreds more that are often considered as being worthy of consideration. Because we only have six nominations per category it is often the case that these other great games just miss out on the awards by the narrowest of margins. A number of our awards are given in specific craft areas so to win one of these requires excellence in a specific field e.g. game design or audio excellence so for these are looking out for stand out experiences using these specific areas.
Michael: What is your role in supporting these games?
Harvey: If a game misses out on a nomination, we hope that we can still find a way to showcase it to the public at large, either through master-classes hosted at the BAFTA headquarters where game developers come in and talk about their game and craft to a large audience, or by featuring it online, e.g. on BAFTA Guru.
Michael: Have there been any particular highlights during your time at BAFTA ?
Harvey: When we moved the awards to Tobacco Dock last year was a particular highlight for me the change in venue brought a whole new level of energy to the experience, and gave us an opportunity to include the general public in the proceedings with the day-time event Inside Games this year we are partnering with Rezzed to take this even further and access for the public to the awards in the evening which gave everyone a real buzz. I’ve also loved launching BAFTA Young Games Designers, and seeing the program grow year on year with talent rising through the ranks from Young Games Designers, through Breakthrough Brits, and onto become nominees for the awards.
Michael: What I find that really distinguishes BAFTA games is that it’s very sophisticated and respectful in comparison to some award ceremonies stateside. How important is it for games to get this kind of credibility?
Harvey: Thanks for noticing! We are an entertainment industry, so clearly we have a lot of fun in making our games and want our players to love every moment they spend with our titles but it’s also important to recognise that making games is a career, and winning a BAFTA award is often a
pinnacle moment that needs celebrating and deserves respect. We just want to make sure that our audiences appreciate what it took for someone to get nominated and win an award so we strive for the right balance in our ceremony and events.
Michael: Has there been any consideration to bring BAFTA games to terrestrial audiences or do you think it’s more suited for being watched online?
Harvey: We do consider this from time-to-time and obviously if we were broadcast on a terrestrial channel we could potentially reach a bigger cross-section of the general public. However, with an online broadcast we aren’t constrained by fitting into a network’s schedule and we can focus on getting the ceremony right for our games audience. Personally, I think we are better suited to the online channels for the full ceremony, and that our audiences are more likely to want to access the awards in this way.
Harvey: Overall I’m really proud of our awards program, and equally pleased with how the learning and events activity has built over the past few years to increase the engagement of BAFTA with the games industry and the public at large. There’s always more we can do and the committee challenges itself every year to raise the bar even further across our entire program but it’s great to use the awards each year to take stock of the past 12 months in games, before setting off against the next.