TechRadar caught up with Kevin to find out more about this increasingly popular event in the games industry calendar, as well as a little more about the future of the 'out-of-home' interactive entertainment industry.
TechRadar: What is different and useful about the Edinburgh Interactive Festival, compared to other games events?
Kevin Williams: I present mainly at trade conferences internationally; the difference for me about the Edinburgh Interactive Festival is that I will be able to present about the aspects of interactive development and design shared between two unique industries; presenting to an audience built-up of those that both buy the product as well as those that develop them
TechRadar: Do you think (some) games can be considered as art? Or as culturally significant as movies and TV?
Kevin Williams: The social impact of the interactive narrative and gaming is such that I think that it can be seen as more than just culturally significant – though it is like ranking oranges against apples, I still feel that amusement and consumer games have their place in the entertainment history landscape.
I would like to use an arcade game as a case in point – we see a product like House Of The Dead that goes from a influential and popular gun game, to a number of sequels and finally it receives motion picture treatment.
A number of amusement properties have been taken from the arcades and placed on the big screen in live action spectaculars. For many in the conventional television, music and motion picture business the need to embrace interactive entertainment in their editing techniques, special effects and now in their storyline, clearly cites the impact that this medium has on other entertainment genres.
The popularity of charting players' favorites can be seen clearly in Dipity's innovative online video arcade timeline.
TechRadar: What are you speaking about at Edinburgh this year?
Kevin Williams: I have been given the honor by the EIF committee to be the first executive from the video amusement industry to present the value and future trends of amusement to this auspicious audience. I will be looking at what the Out-of-Home interactive entertainment industry represents to the creative culture of games and interactive entertainment.
I will cover the broad church of video amusement, interactive attractions and the new technologies in the public space such as touchscreen hospitality systems, gaming and 'exergaming'. We are even lucky enough to have the latest hospitality game system from Cosmic Video Amusement in the display area for attendees to try out for themselves.
The presentation will focus on the three areas of development including 'Immersive' technology that offers a unique opportunity for the player to be sucked into the game experience; 'Physicality', the actual movements of the player represented in the virtual environment, and 'Connectivity', how the amusement scene talks directly to their audience and the unique incentives that have allowed amusement to attract a higher female player-base than its consumer counterpart.
The presentation will have some surprises for the audience, as we correct the misconception on what is the most innovative industry, and some of the future trends in development that will allow the Out-of-Home sector to entertain a new audience.
TechRadar: What were your thoughts on E3 this year?
Kevin Williams: I will give this (obviously) an amusement spin – I wonder if you were aware at E3 this year there were a number of amusement machines on display. The most noticeable was a back room presentation on the Capcom USA booth that saw three Street Fighter IV coin-op machines operated (and constantly in use by hungry players).
There was also a number of new brawlers from smaller Japanese studios shown towards getting a port onto PS3, XB360 and even Wii
The importance of consumer feeding off of popular amusement titles can be seen in the efforts that Sega and Namco are placing into their respective 'Tekken 6' and new 'Virtua Fighter' fighting title launches.
From the members of our amusement industry, and correspondents to our e-news service that walked the hotel and show floors, the feeling was that Nintendo paid the most, but Microsoft won the momentum battle to dominate E3 2008 – but it was the poor state of the once influential exhibition that received the most commentary.
I was personally also surprised by how we in amusement are once again ahead in the graphic quality battle with consumer. The Next-Gen consoles have still to make their mark with their promised graphic performance, while the PC GCi states has allowed amusement to make headway.
One example is the differences in the actual PS3 performance of Tekken 6, against the dedicated amusement hardware version. With the possibility of no new console hardware till at least 2013 the opportunity for amusement to push the envelope with performance is obvious.
TechRadar: Don't arcades still have the stigma attached to them of being places of 'ill repute'?
Kevin Williams: I agree that some media can not shake that perception of dark, smoke filled arcades. This outdated misconception is tinged with a little bit of disdain about the closed-shop nature of video amusement – and how hard it is to get information on this market.
I know a number of writers in the console sector who were shocked by the explosion in fan interest in 'Street Fighter IV's' appearance, and that attempts to write the arcade scene off as dead fell flat in the avalanche of player interest to play this coin-op (as well as with 'Tekken 6').
The reality is that the dedicated 'arcade' game site is long gone, replaced by players playing amusement in bowling centers, cinemas, inland and seaside family entertainment sites and theme parks (this does not touch the vast playing audience of arcade sports games for tournament prizes in local pubs and bars across the country).
The strength of amusement to still stir the player's blood is a factor in all the ports of amusement titles we see across all the consoles, mobile phone and online game sites. And, of course, some players are taking their love affair one step further by building home arcade cabinets of their own.
As you may be aware, the slowdown in players wanting to play 30-hour game experiences in consoles is seeing a move towards 'casual gaming'.
Amusement, the originator of this genre, is also seeing a return in interest in the Pay-to-Play model, and current economical issues, linked to social networking that amusement excels at, could see the revenue opportunities for coin-op reinvigorate interest in a wider deployment of Out-of-Home entertainment.