On Wednesday 13 July, we welcomed school pupils and their teachers to the first ever Festival of Play, a fun-filled conference packed with workshops, talks, games and activities aimed at developing STEAM skills and offering careers advice. Produced by Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse programme in association with Electronic Arts, the event was held at tech and innovation hub HOST Salford and brought together seven school groups with games companies and industry professionals to learn and network.
The day kicked off to an energetic start with a keynote from Content Creator and Streamer Dean Leander, better known to his followers as Wolfy, who spoke to the star-struck students about his journey into games. His inspirational talk covered his work with Electronic Arts and Chelsea Football Club and left the children with the valuable message that whatever they enjoy studying at school, there’s a job for them in games!
There were a range of workshops on offer at the Festival of Play, each led by professionals in the industry who are experts in their fields. Peter Field from Media Molecule demonstrated how to build a game from scratch at home using the video game Dreams. One student commented that they loved ‘creating a hilarious character’ in the PlayStation platform. Host and Commentator Bowie Alexander led the pupils in an active session on the basics of shoutcasting, challenging them to try their hand at commenting on the action in gameplay clips from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
There were also some brilliant unplugged sessions, which engaged with computing and careers without the use of technology. Creative brand mayamada delivered a fantastic Game Design Jam, which got the students creating their own table-top games simply using dice, paper and other household materials. Tech company EVERFI gave the students a feel for their Play to Learn course in collaboration with Electronic Arts in a session called ‘What’s Your Play?’, which got participants building skill trees for careers through the lens of FIFA 22.
The Festival of Play showcase was packed with exceptional exhibitors demonstrating their games or educational outreach. Team members from studios including Tt Games, Team17 and Kwalee also took the opportunity to speak with the students about their jobs and what they do whilst battling it out in Overcooked or LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
3D 360 brought an eye-popping display of 3D-printed items, from beautifully intricate figurines to keychains and fidget toys, and also gave the children the opportunity to try out some 3D modelling. Alongside the showcase, HOST Salford’s own Immersive Lab was a huge hit, inviting the students to get kitted out and have a go at some VR games.
For some students, the day concluded with an insightful careers panel, chaired by Nigel Twumasi of mayamada. The panel featured Carl Anka, Journalist and Broadcaster at The Athletic, Bailey and Harrison Barber-Scargill (both alumni of the Digital Schoolhouse Esports Tournament who are now working in the games industry), and Erika Cope and Hannah McAdam from exhibiting game studios Team17 and Kwalee respectively. Their fascinating conversation covered their diverse paths into games, their career highlights and challenges and their first ever games console, which ranged from the SEGA Mega Drive to the Nintendo Wii. When asked to offer one final piece of advice, Carl told the students about the power of writing everything down, emphasising that sometimes you don’t realise the significance of something until much later on.
The inaugural Festival of Play was a huge success. We are delighted that the students and teachers had a fantastic time and learned so much. We are hugely grateful to Electronic Arts, HOST Salford and all the games companies and industry professionals who took part in the Festival of Play. They not only made it possible, they made it an invaluable and memorable day for everyone. We can’t wait for the next Festival!