Creative industries, especially the gaming development industry, are a strong area of trade between the United States and New Zealand. To promote this trade, U.S. Embassy New Zealand through the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Arts Envoy Program has co-hosted a series of American creative industry experts to do training with aspiring game developers throughout 2020. This guest blog from Tim Ponting reflects on the game developers program created with Centre of Digital Excellence.
Guest Blog by Tim Ponting, Establishment Director, Centre of Digital Excellence.
Often we struggle in our little corner of the globe to access training opportunities with talented creatives from further afield. For those hungry to learn, the cost of attending overseas conferences can be out of reach. Conversely, New Zealand is a wonderful place to visit, but it’s a long way for someone to travel just to share their professional knowledge and passion.
The opportunities afforded by the Arts Envoy Program can make a huge difference to growing New Zealand creative businesses such as those in the computer games industry – and on many different levels. The program grants access to industry leaders with whom we have no contact; funds their presence in NZ, either physically or in today’s COVID world, virtually; and helps nurture longer term collaboration which can be beneficial to both US and New Zealand creative businesses.
With the assistance of the NZ Game Developers Association and the NZ Centre of Digital Excellence in Dunedin, the U.S. Embassy organised a series of events under the Arts Envoy banner with one of the world’s leading experts in the field of Games for Impact – that is, games that foster learning, health, environmental or positive social impact outcomes.
Alan Gershenfeld, president and co-founder of E-Line Media, delivered a detailed and compelling public lecture as part of New Zealand’s Techweek. The talk, available for all to view on YouTube (see below), outlines his journey from being a key player in the foundation of modern day Activision to delivering acclaimed Alaskan indigenous game Never Alone. It also explores his more recent work on Beyond Blue, developed in conjunction with multiple partners including BBC Studios and inspired by the TV series Blue Planet II.
Additionally, Alan ran a Masterclass for New Zealand developers making impact games, sharing deep knowledge of the methodologies employed by E-Line Media and other successful impact businesses to ensure the best possible chance of receiving funding and subsequent success. This was followed by a chance to present to Alan and receive advice on honing and refining that pitch.
It’s been a fabulous experience for all involved, and if you have the opportunity to engage with any aspect of the Arts Envoy Program I heartily recommend you embrace it! We look forward to staying in touch with Alan and developing the relationship further. Once travel permits, we would love to host him in Aotearoa. Thanks to the staff of the U.S. Embassy and Consulate General in NZ for all their help and to Alan for sharing his expertise so generously.
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