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Radio 1's Big Gaming Weekend

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Hugh Garry | 15:25 UK time, Tuesday, 2 June 2009

One of the most amazing things about working at the BBC is being privileged enough to be involved in 'firsts' and the first ever Big Gaming Weekend on Radio 1 (22-25 May) ranks highly amongst my favourites.

Games have become such a huge part of our audiences' lives and I've been looking at how they can fit into what we do in Audio & Music Interactive. A key thing I found is we need to know more about how to talk about gaming on-air.

I'll be honest, it's not been easy - there are concerns about isolating the non-gaming audience. But the UK gaming community is huge and hugely popular amongst Radio 1's target audience. For me, not talking about games is like not talking about what was on TV last night or what films are on in the cinema. It's a no brainer for Radio 1.

Thankfully recent changes in gaming have allowed DJs to engage the audience in ways that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago. There's been a dramatic changes in the demographics of gamers due to the rise in casual gaming. The growth in online gaming, UGC and the rise of 'self improvement' games offer lots of opportunities.

The Big Gaming Weekend was packed with great moments. Edith Bowman challenged Steve Coogan to a few verses of 'Knowing Me Knowing You' on SingStar. Vernon got on the Xbox in the Games Lounge and played what seemed like half his listeners online. Annie Mac and Nick Grimshaw encouraged their audience to download the assets pack from the website and make a 'Switch' level in LittleBIGPlanet. And to finish off the weekend, Fearne Cotton brought the nation together for an online version of 'Knights of Cydonia' by Muse on Guitar Hero (listeners without Guitar Hero we invited to join in on air guitar).

We ran an online poll to find the Greatest Game Ever; Radio 1 listeners voted Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare their number one. You could check the leaderboard to see how all our DJs and guests were doing in the Games Challenge, then check out the BBC's first ever games blog 'Get Your Game On' written by 1Xtra's Rampage.

The long tail of our Big Gaming Weekend has excited me most. The weekend was a great opportunity for us to make our mark in the gaming world and reach out to non-listening game players. The ideas were fairly small scale but did allow us to drop bits of Radio 1 into the online world for players to stumble across via their consoles. We did this by introducing our DJs into the homes of many online gameplayers, creating a Radio 1 round in the game Buzz and encouraging our audience to download assets to create their own levels in LittleBIGPlanet or create machinima. All great stuff.

So what next for games? Well, when I first joined the BBC in 1996 I had to convince our DJs to talk about the first ever Radio 1 website. There were similar concerns then about isolating the non web audience. Rather than look ahead to the next Big Gaming Weekend, I hope the success of this weekend means that productions teams will be inspired to introduce games into the everyday language of their shows.

Hugh Garry is Senior Content Producer, Radio 1 Interactive



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