From your perspective as a media scholar and your years of experience in the Berlin games scene, what are the strong points and advantages of the Berlin-Brandenburg region as a games location?
Berlin is a highly international location winning people over with its unique scene. AAA studios such as Ubisoft Bluebyte as well as internationally successful indie studios are present in the capital region and the industry keeps growing. The concentration of indie studios is unique, and the number of educational institutions for game design is unparalleled. Also, once a year Berlin hosts “gamesweekberlin”, the largest joint event of the German industry, which is unrivalled in terms of the number of events. International conferences such as “EGX Berlin”, “White Nights” or Paradox Entertainment’s own fair “PDXCON” have also found their way into the German capital. Add to that renowned, free-of-charge meet-ups such as “Talk & Play” or “Game Creators Hangout” where especially young developers or freshly relocated companies can connect directly to the local scene. There is also an interface to other industries thanks to the region’s infrastructure. For example, the first European volumetric studio or the MediaTech Hub Potsdam – the first media technology hub in the Federal Republic – are both located right in Berlin’s urban sprawl. Compared to other European metropolises, Berlin has comparatively low costs of living, which makes establishing locations especially attractive.
How did the idea of the Medienboard evolve that led to its establishment in 2004? Was the support of games included from the beginning or added later on?
Games and so-called “innovative audiovisual content” have been funded by Medienboard since 2006, making it the first German funding institution to take on this subject. New media are gaining importance in society, which translates to one in three Germans gaming at this point in time. The potential of the medium, which is culturally relevant as well as enormously economically promising, is beyond doubt. For this reason, Medienboard not only supports the local developers’ scene through content funding and funding of gaming events and networks, but also serves as a consultant to the industry. The responsibility for created results of course remains with the developers themselves, and we can be very proud of the capital region’s scene which is in continuous exchange with us and releases wonderful projects. Beyond that, Medienboard supports digital content co-productions and co-developments by Canadian and German producers from the region through its “Canada Germany Digital Media Incentive”. The funding department also advocates for the games location Germany both domestically and abroad in the “Games Germany” association, which consists of German funding institutions and networks. The institution particularly cares for topics such as the promotion of young talent and diversity. We represent an interface between policymakers and developers who are advocating for themselves and have achieved great things for the region.
You probably have gained a good overview over the games landscape in the capital region. How important are funding and support institutions like the Medienboard? How many submissions do you receive on average?
Local funding institutions such as the Medienboard as well as networks (games:net berlinbrandenburg) or the games association “game – Verband der deutschen Games-Branche e.V.” are, of course, important industry contact points. They connect people and companies and provide important viewpoints to policymakers. Naturally, a lot revolves around the mission to support the local industry in order to drive forward economic growth or to support culturally relevant content. The number of studios submitting projects varies, but the demand is so great that we have scheduled four funding meetings instead of three for this year. Last year, we funded a total of 38 innovative audiovisual content projects; this year – as of July – we are already at another 17 projects. What is certain is the fact that our funding has helped realise a number of projects successfully which could not have been realised without funding, or only with great difficulty. This includes titles such as “The Curious Expedition” (Maschinen-Mensch), “Sea of Solitude” (Jo-Mei Games) or “Trüberbrook” (bildundtonfabrik). We take great care to ensure that the funding is flexible enough to adapt it to the various market developments. This is why our institution is increasingly funding new technologies such as VR, in reaction to Berlin’s growing scene. We also noted increasing synergy with other industry branches such as the use of games engines in film or automotive.
How do you think game development and games events will evolve in the next years? Is Berlin the place to be or what would need to change for it to be that?
The city of Berlin as a location provides several advantages: it is a popular travel destination, a place rich in history, and Berlin has a very young, international creative scene. The proximity to the film industry for instance gives rise to another type of new, innovative projects. All these reasons combined result in an attractive location for general and specialist visitors. Especially the increase in international events over the years 2018/19 shows Berlin’s enormous potential. It would be desirable for the industry to establish a so-called “Games Hub” for various companies and developers to quarter together. Such a hub would also make computer games accessible to visitors as a cultural asset, for example in the shape of the “Deutsche Computerspielsammlung”, which is the largest games collection in the world, or the “Computerspielemuseum”. Such a hub could act as an important interface between games as a cultural asset and games as an economic factor, connect the industry and thus form an aggregate of industry knowledge, and become an important contact point for the orientation and future of the local industry.
Games have a firm place in the media landscape of Berlin and continue to grow. What is your prediction for the development of your games department in the next years and what role do Virtual/Augmented/Mixed Reality applications play?
The next important milestone is ensuring a link to federal funding, even though funding initiatives can already be combined today. The media landscape is undergoing a period of transformation and it is our mission to discover the latest trends and to weigh the potential for the location. Many virtual reality and augmented reality companies have established quarters in Berlin and developed impressively over the past years. By sponsoring “MediaTech Hub Conference”, which includes “VR NOW con & Awards”, our institution supports growth and exchange in this new industry. It is important for the location Berlin-Brandenburg to react to this industry growth and to use the potential, expanding it with all stakeholders and staying ahead of the game.
Thank you, Jenni!