I was lucky enough to be invited to the Games Fleadh (pronounced Fla) ’08 event being held in Thurles, Ireland on the 13th March. While there were other events being run at the same time at the festival, I was there as a member of the XNA Ireland judging panel, which was based around the 30th Anniversary of the original Space Invaders game by Taito.
As the event was primarily in conjunction with Microsoft the event was tied to XNA, with all entries being required to base their work on a given XNA Framework while being asked to expand on the original concept of Space Invaders. Many Universities from all over the country were in attendance, with 7 teams (of 1-3 people) up for the main prize and there were some excellent projects on show. The eventual winner, Finn Krewer, who is only 17 and worked on his own, managed to show a real passion for programming and game development, and I only hope that he eventually makes his way into the industry to take what is a real ability and develop it as far as it can go.
Now before I say anything else, I just want to cover what some people will already be thinking. With my previous posts in the suitability of XNA and University Courses, how can I being on an XNA judging panel be anything other than hypocrisy?
Unless you are involved in events like this, looking at work that is being produced by the students on Game Development courses, discussing the courses that are being taught and talking to the students about what they are learning, you simply cannot comment with any authority on the subject of games education. The competition was also open to Universities that do not teach XNA as a primary tool and the groups had to use this (possibly new to them) API in ways they may have not used it before. Whether this is XNA or any other development API, experiencing a situation like this can only benefit the students who are participating in the competition.
I was also excellent to hear some the new (or future) Game Development courses acknowledging and teaching C++ as their primary programming language. This can only benefit the Games Industry, and hopefully other courses will see how successful these Universities are and begin to follow suite.
It was an excellent event, and the people contributing and competing in the whole festival were obviously having a great time. The organisers did a great job of bringing so many people of different ages and interests together for a day dedicated to games and programming and hopefully sparked interest in the games industry that may not have been there before.