Anton, Dan and myself were invited along to BAFTA HQ on Saturday! We were to present at an event aimed at 7 to 11 year olds, entitled “Meet the makers in LittleBigPlanet”. I would have preferred “LittleBigPlanet : Meet your maker” but that might have been considered slightly too apocalyptic for the under-tens. About 25 kids, parents in tow, attended and it was a wonderful experience.
People turned up at half ten (or ten for the mega-keen) and were promptly plonked in front of some rather opulent biscuits and 3 PlayStations with LittleBigPlanet running, each with a highly trained ward to guide them through. Everyone managed to get a go (I think there were only two children who had played the game before, so this was A Good Thing!) and then at around eleven, they were ushered next door to hear whatever thrilling things we had prepared.
Anton opened the proceedings with a brief bit about what programming is, and a child-friendly history of the company (e.g. “Here is a picture of Kareem, he is Egyptian” and “This is Alex and Dave, they like pink”). He included a code sample from the game to illustrate his first point (“This page of code makes the character jump”), so if you are keen to learn what goes on under the hood consider attending about 50,000 similar presentations, and maybe you’ll be able to view the entire codebase!
I then continued with a bit about the Create aspect of the game, and admitted that I hadn’t been allowed to show the photo of me peeing my name in the snow. I talked about the world the game is set in, and the kinds of things you can make - and how cool it is to be able to share what you created in your living room with 1000s of people around the world.
Danny finished off with a brief talk about level design, and introduced the task they were to perform - design their own game! The children had 45 minutes for this, and namely they needed to come up with a title for the game, a lead character and perhaps a nemesis, and a description of what you would do. At the end they would have 1 minute to pitch their concept to the rest of us. So off they went and got busy with paper, paint, felt, glue and glitter to make something amazing!
And amazing they were! It was inspirational to see so many young kids really get into game design, and really put a lot of thought and effort into their creations. We had prizes for everyone taking part - they got a knitted sackboy ( You wish you were there now! ) and a t-shirt or a Brady Games guide. Additionally we had framed pictures signed by the team which we were able to give away to our three favourites!
While the kids were getting creative, I got the opportunity to play the game with some slightly bemused parents, each of which would start out with “Oh no I don’t think I should have a go”, but when pressed would panic and try to get out of it with “Well only if there’s a spare controller…”, which of course there was. One mum came up to me and proudly proclaimed “We got the game last week but my son won’t tell me what the controls are to hit him back!”
At the end there was more time to play, and each child had their photo taken and stuck in a level in the game (published version forthcoming, we hope). Everyone seemed to depart grateful and happy - parents included! So there you have it- a fun, creative day, where 3 occasionally jaded game developers (Actually 2, and Dan, the most enthusiastic man in the world) got to be inspired by some really bright young minds, and ate a nice lunch.
Many thanks to Corinna at BAFTA for organising the event and inviting us along, and thanks to Marc Hoberman for the most excellent photos!