Already established as the largest video game event in Europe, the Fun & Serious Game Festival is holding its 5th edition from 26 November to 1 December, including lots of new developments. During these days, Bilbao will be the meeting point for leading video game gurus, renowned eSports players who will be battling at the Fun Zone, popular YouTubers who will add visibility to the Festival’s activities, participants in start-up competitions, and so on. For there is much more to F&S than just an award gala: for six days, Bilbao will be the European capital of digital entertainment, offering multiple events in iconic venues in town.
F&S stands for a new approach to gaming events, taking video games to a whole new level – the level of art – and granting a series of awards that recognise technical and creative achievements alike.
The Festival has a huge positive impact on the city, as shown by these facts and figures: more than 20,000 visitors, more than 400 hotel rooms booked, more than 100 accredited media from Spain and abroad, and over 1000 participating companies and professionals from the gaming and creative industries (20% from other countries). This gives a glimpse of the importance of F&S and what it means to Bilbao.
Over the past few years, the video game industry has proved itself capable of creating enormous wealth and boosting growth. With total consumption amounting to €996 million in 2014 (according to GfK data published by AEVI), video games have established themselves as the leading sector in the interactive and audio visual entertainment industry. Its growth benefits the business fabric, offering good business opportunities.
Moreover, the Festival reinforces Bilbao’s image as a model in urban transformation. Past editions drew as many as 50 of the most prestigious international speakers. This year, they will include the creators of such iconic games as Tetris, Angry Birds, Assassin’s Creed or Monkey Island. This is just an example of F&S’s level as a major event of the digital entertainment industry.
The Festival’s organising team comprises more than 200 people. In addition, the event has led to the creation of 50 direct jobs and the hiring of up to 26 Basque suppliers offering logistics, catering, lighting, sound and audio visual services, among others.
F&S is also a trade show, which means that, in addition to the recognition of the best games of the year in a gala, it offers business opportunities, promoting networking and strengthening synergies in more than 1000 meetings between trade members, investors and journalists, with 986 projects submitted so far.
|F&S 2015: a festival brimming with news|
The 5th Fun & Serious Game Festival will include several new developments. Most important among them is the new name given to the awards, ‘Titanium’, a reference to the material that symbolises Bilbao’s transformation. Titanium, a key element in the design of the Guggenheim Museum, stands for the city’s rise in the global tourism industry as a result of its transformation from industrial town to modern metropolis.
As to the Museum itself, it is another of the Festival’s additions this year. In an effort to give a boost to the creative and digital industries, the Award Gala on 30 November (one of the Festival’s highlights) is being held for the first time at the atrium of the Guggenheim Museum. This places Bizkaia in the vanguard of Europe’s resort to the creative industries as a cultural and economic driving force. The Guggenheim’s embrace of video games strengthens the Festival’s role in the activation of the Spanish and European digital culture, while turning the Fun & Serious Game Festival into a major cultural event at this time of year, on a par with other big film or music festivals.
Another innovation this year has to do with the Festival’s award categories. In the words of F&S Director Alfonso Gómez, ‘The awards are supposed to mirror the disciplines involved in game development. After much thinking and brainstorming, we decided that the creative and artistic components should be better represented and that categories should move away from impersonal genres, getting closer to the people who make the games.’ The new categories include ‘Best Game Design’, ‘Best Original Idea’ and ‘Best Dubbing Into Spanish’.
Toni Garrido, renowned journalist and founder of Animal Maker – the Spanish division of one of the world’s largest online game producers and distributors: Maker Studios –, is the sponsor of this year’s Festival and will host the Award Gala. As sponsor, he will play a very important role, attending some of the activities and, of course, the gala.
In addition to the Titanium Award winners, the gala will feature other stars. Master game world-builder and storyteller Tim Schafer will scoop the F&S Special Award for his career achievements, which include the design of mythical games like Monkey Island, developed 25 years ago. The F&S Special Award comes as a recognition to Schafer’s brilliant career in the gaming industry, filled with amazing storytelling and the creation of unforgettable characters, such as would-be pirate Guybrush Threepwood of the Monkey Island series.
Also, the Festival will proudly welcome Alexey Pajitnov, creator of the immortal Tetris, who will be in Bilbao for the first time to scoop the Bizkaia Award. This award acknowledges Pajitnov’s fundamental role in the development of the entertainment industry with the creation of a game that revolutionised the way we play and laid the foundations of modern entertainment. Tetris’s popularity as both a name and a trademark paved the way for many other games that came after it and are now part of the imagination of any game lover.
And there is more. This year, there will not be just one gala but two. For the first time in the history of F&S, the gala will be open to the general public. The hosts of the side gala will be two popular YouTubers, Chincheto and Tonacho, chosen in a campaign through the F&S social media channels. For the F&S Wild Gala, the Festival’s followers were asked to suggest possible hosts. In addition to being aired through the two YouTubers’ channels, the gala will be held at the auditorium of the Guggenheim Museum, where 300 guests will be able to enjoy it live.
|Iberdrola VIT Talks: ‘The Art of Innovation’|
In its 5th edition, F&S will add a new event: Iberdrola VIT Talks, a series of inspiring 20-minute lectures in which the most important men and women in the gaming industry will share their experiences with the general public.
Iberdrola VIT Talks will take place at Azkuna Zentroa (Alhóndiga Bilbao) on 30 November from 9am to 6pm. Keynote speakers will include the likes of Tim Schafer, Alexey Pajitnov, Peter Vesterbacka, one of the developers of Angry Birds; Pepe Larraz, comics artist for Marvel; Luke Crane, Community Manager for Games at Kickstarter; Stephanie Peterson, VP of Marketing and Strategic Communications at Runtastic; and Patrice Désilets, creator of the Assassin’s Creed franchise and co-founder/Creative Director of Panache Digital Games.
The video-sharing platform YouTube will be one of the major topics at this year’s Festival. It will play a special role at Iberdrola VIT Talks as well. The event will be hosted by popular tech YouTuber Carolina Denia, who will introduce speakers and be part of the panel ‘We, Girl YouTubers’, along with three other YouTube stars who are also women. Besides, the Festival’s sponsor, Toni Garrido, will talk with Antonio Castelo about going from TV to YouTube.
Innovation is a form of art in the creative industries – not only in entertainment, where it is the strongest sector, but in such areas as marketing, communication, training and healthy lifestyles too. At Iberdrola VIT Talks, speakers will discuss the coveted, complex art of innovation, unveiling the secrets that have turned video games into a key contemporary industry with bright future prospects.
|Indie games: the reservoir of the gaming industry|
Video game development keeps growing in Spain. Last year, the industry’s turnover was 34% higher than in 2013. F&S has always supported indie games, a sector that will have a strong presence this year with AZ Play, an international independent game competition whose 6th edition will for the first time be part of the Festival.
AZ Play is a leading international competition promoting new indie games and rewarding the most original, creative and innovative of them with cash. It will be held on 26 November at Azkuna Zentroa, marking the beginning of the 5th Fun & Serious Game Festival.
Attendees will be able to take a look at the best indie games of 2015 and meet the leading figures of the independent game industry, who will share their experiences in transforming an idea into a game.
Meanwhile, at Talent Day (Azkuna Zentroa, 27 November), there will be master classes and panels with company representatives to discuss the leading indie projects being currently carried out. Talent Day is a meeting point for local and Spanish independent game studios, start-ups and developers to contact publishers and investors. It is also an event to answer the questions and solve the problems faced by independent studios, offering a series of training workshops for youngsters who want to enter this labour market.
Conducted by gaming pros and training experts, the activities will show the variety of career opportunities on offer and focus on practical issues in video game art and programming, with the aim of kindling young people’s interest in them. Moreover, game developers wanting to show their games at F&S will be able to do so at the Fun Zone, where they can spot business opportunities and share their projects with the thousands of visitors who will come to the Euskalduna Conference Centre (the Festival’s third venue) in three days.
|Fun Zone: largest online gaming event of the season|
The F&S Fun Zone will draw thousands of eSports lovers to the biggest event of its kind in Northern Spain. With the help of ESL, the world’s leading electronic sports league, the Fun Zone will unfold at the iconic Euskalduna Conference Centre in Bilbao from 27 to 29 November.
ESL will take eSports tournaments to the next level, bringing in some of most popular Spanish pros and teams, who will fight for victory in two different auditoriums in two of the most exciting eSports games: League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
In addition, there will be several gaming arenas for general visitors to challenge their friends and other gamers on PCs or consoles at some of the most popular games, like Rainbow Six Siege. There will be 40 Minecraft stations and more than 100 stations for other popular games: FIFA 16, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6, the above-mentioned Rainbow Six Siege and the traditional League of Legends and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, among others. Besides, Europe’s most popular community event, based on the massively multiplayer online game World of Tanks, will also be at the F&S Fun Zone. The music and ambiance at the Fun Zone will be in the hands of the Euskadi Gaztea DJs.
The Fun Zone will also feature the latest indie game projects, exhibitions, talks and workshops where both businesses and users will share their experiences in the gaming industry. Last but not least, at the Fun Zone Academy, universities and educational centres like U-tad, La Salle Campus Barcelona or DigiPen will share their video game development secrets with the audience. In addition, there will be workshops on artistic design, podcasts, virtual reality, eSports schools, and so on.
Also, this year’s F&S Fun Zone will include a special section on YouTube and YouTubers, including an information workshop on the YouTube Partner Programme and its benefits, explaining how to make the most of YouTube channels. The workshop, to take place on 27 November, will be conducted by Maruchi García, Senior YouTube Strategic Partner Manager for Spain.
|Finland: guest country at the industry forum|
Every year, F&S pays tribute to one country in particular, thus emphasising the Festival’s international flair. This year’s country is Finland, one of the global leaders in the gaming and tech sectors. In 2013, the Finnish gaming industry accounted for more than 2000 direct jobs – a high number for a country with a population of a little over 5 million. By 2020, there will be an estimated 5000 jobs in this industry.
This is but one way of illustrating the increasingly important role the gaming industry plays in Finland’s economy. Conversely, in Finland, video game creation has the support of public institutions, which makes the country one of the most profitable places to invest in game development. Companies like Ubisoft, EA or Unity have recently established themselves in the country.
On the institutional side, there will be a reception at Bilbao Town Hall on 1 December, followed by a meeting between the Mayor of Bilbao, members of the local gaming industry and the Finnish visitors to discuss the benefits of digital entertainment as a driving force for local development in cities. This forum will be attended by José María Moreno, Chairman of the Spanish Video Game Association (AEVI), and KooPee Hiltunen, Director of Neogames Finland, who will discuss the current situation of the gaming industry in Finland and the policies implemented in one of the powers of the global gaming industry, with revenues for €900 million in 2013 and an impact on the national economy of €2150 million.