Games developer group sets up Irish chapter

9 Jan 2004

The International Games Developers Association (IGDA) has established its first Irish chapter, which is being hailed as a key turning point for the Irish digital media industry.

IGDA is an independent, non-profit professional association established by games developers to foster the creation of a worldwide game development community. Its membership is made up of designers, artists, producers and other professionals who make up the multi-layered computer game industry.

It is understood that the establishment of IGDA in Ireland is being supported by The Digital Hub, the Liberties Learning Initiative, Enterprise Ireland and, a new community site established for Irish game developers backed by the Centre for Society Technology and Media (STeM), a university research centre based in the School of Communications, Dublin City University, headed by Dr Aphra Kerr.

The Irish chapter of IGDA was launched by games veteran and IGDA founder Ernest Adams, who spent 14 years as a lead designer, producer and software engineer in the games industry, working with well-known games houses Electronic Arts and Bullfrog Productions. The co-ordinator of the Irish chapter is Tony Kelly, a senior producer with the IT Innovation Centre in Intel.

According to Dr Kerr the launch of IGDA sends out an important message to the international games community about Ireland’s growing importance in the games development world. She said: “This says we have professional game developers working in Ireland and they are going to contribute to both the development of the profession and the development of games as an art form. Within Ireland, it means there is now a professional body that can be consulted on a range of issues from industrial development policy to education and training. It is a highly significant moment in the development of the industry in Ireland.”

Commenting on the establishment of the Irish chapter of IGDA, the manager of the Informatics Directorate at Enterprise Ireland, Seamus Gallen, said: “Gaming in Ireland has been identified as a potential area for major commercial growth, and Enterprise Ireland is delighted to partner with The Digital Hub through its Liberties Learning Initiative to help foster this development and further the Irish gaming sector.”

Much has been made of Ireland’s potential to succeed in the computer games industry, based on the strong software development sector in Ireland as well as the international success of software makers such as Havok. However, games publishing houses in Ireland are so far virtually non-existent and the Minister for Communications, Dermot Ahern TD, said that if the country got its act together as many as 3,500 jobs could be created in the games industry in Ireland.

In Ireland last month was Dr Jim Terkeurst, research and business development manager at IC Cave, the International Centre for Computer Games and Virtual Entertainment at the University of Abertay Dundee, who reckoned Ireland has a strong chance to succeed in the games business so long as it gets its infrastructure in order. He told “Games development will become very expensive and only the well funded and well organised will survive. There will be a need to create a strong value chain between developers, programmers, publishers, designers, directors and producers where everybody thrives and does well. Major shifts are under way. From being a predominantly male environment where games are focused on male-oriented video games, the industry is now evolving to being a lot more female-oriented as a result of more female participation in games development and that is being reflected in new genres. Half the production team for Electronic Arts’ The Sims game are female, for example.

“At present the big game development centres of the world are London and LA, but Ireland is well placed. The trick is to direct the potential and create the underpinning infrastructure and supports. Ireland has a tradition of the creative arts and as entertainment and games converge there is the potential for the country to become a major player,” Dr Terkeurst said.

By John Kennedy