Blind Burners Brighton: Develop 2023

Blind Burners’ delegation to Develop: Brighton stand on the pebbled Brighton Beach in front of a fenced off Lifeguard tower, cloudy sky and calm sea in the background. L-R Leena, Chris, Jonny, Craig, Matt aka “The Wobbly Gamer”, Marilin, Shawny, and Blind Burners’ ambassador, The Rev Be Atwell.

Develop: Brighton

Each year in July, the UK games industry and international friends gather in the seaside town of Brighton. Develop:Brighton prides itself on bringing together the entire game-making industry, ‘from global superstars to micro indies, to learn from each other, share ideas and experiences, network and do business in a friendly and inclusive environment’. Blind Burners is doing its bit to bring its own brand of warm inclusive hospitality to the party.

Blind Burners Welcome Reception. Members of Blind Burners delegation sit at a long wooden dining table with glasses of water and cups of coffee and hot chocolare. A sign behind the table reads ‘The Copper Clam’.

Creative Industries Access

A career in the creative industries is highly desirable, and also highly competitive. For those starting out, it can be a challenge to understand the range of roles available, to uncover entry points. Knowledge, relationships, and confidence are key.

The video game industry is generally a supportive place. Game devs have abundant positivity towards each other and to helping new entrants. Many schemes exist to support people from diverse backgrounds. Blind Burners’ delegations have been kindly supported by senior games industry leaders such as Liz Prince of Amiqus Recruitment. We hope over time to develop links with existing mentoring schemes such as Limit Break and Into Games.

Chris Molleson and Liz Prince of Amiqus Recuitment with Mat ‘The Wobbly Gamer’ Alcock smiling at us from the Brighton Seafront.

How To Network When You Can’t See Who Is In The Room

Events like Develop:Brighton are critical in offering new entrants the opportunity to meet with fellow developers, share lessons learned, and perhaps attract the attention of hiring managers and senior game devs on the look out for new talent. The knowledge gained in conference track sessions can be extremely valuable. Round table sessions offer an opportunity to share our own perspectives. Networking events provide great ways to build out our networks.

But how does this all work when you can’t see?

Members of Blind Burners delegation networking in the busy bar of the Hilton hotel. Audio designer/guide Paul Shelley smiles at the camera.

Blind Burners Delegations

Blind Burners Delegations are based on a simple goal – to facilitate blind and low vision folks interested in a career in game development to access leading industry events and fully participate according to their interests.

We recruit five sighted game devs or game dev students to act as guides, and we work with the fantastic folks at the Royal National Institute for the Blind’s gaming networks to connect with five passionate folks from the UK’s blind and low vision gaming communities. We aim to make sure that people’s access needs are reliably met, from arrival at the train station, to bathroom breaks on demand. Our participants should be free to walk in and out of conference sessions. Moreover, our participants should have the opportunity to benefit from the serendipitous meetings that provide the standout moments in early stage careers.

Shehriyar Kamal of Lahore-based FRAG Games pictured with Harsha Balasubramanian, PhD Candidate at UCL and also of Blind Burners. They sit in a spacious courtyard in large whicker chairs. White teapots, cups and saucers, and a plant pot containing a lavender plant.

What The Future Holds

Blind Burners mission centres on the celebration of visually impaired creativity. Our goals extend ultimately to all forms of artistic creativity. Digital tools have democratised creativity for so many, yet the technology industries have frequently failed to ensure that these tools work for all users.

Why would anyone even consider a career as a software engineer in game development if the leadership and investors of a leading game engine, Unity, do not care enough about vast new markets of blind and low vision gamers, to bother making their tools accessible to screen reader users?

Blind Burners exists to show a better way.

On our agenda for the year ahead: the fabulous Scottish Games Week; leading international conference Pocketgamer Connects, and the holy grail, GDC.

We aim to continue supporting our participants with mentoring and connections.

Whether an individual wants to work as a software engineer pushing the boundaries of the latest consoles and chipsets, as a game designer bringing their encyclopaedic knowledge of game industry culture, as an HR executive bringing their expertise in empowering teams to learn and develop, a sound designer pioneering immersive soundscapes, or a visual artist creating never-seen before visual delights, there should be no barriers to visually impaired talent, creativity and innovation.