Rossa in BAFTA competition final

Rossa Smallman.
Rossa Smallman.

A young Derry man has been chosen as a finalist for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) nationwide competition to find the game designers of the future.

Rossa Smallman (18) beat off competition to become one of the 53 finalists who have worked individually or in teams to submit one of the 40 entries.

Young people aged 10-18 years submitted game designs and concepts addressing a wide range of issues including mental health, climate change, conservation, disability, bereavement, and transgender rights.

A number of these entries strived to educate players of all ages on the social issues they address, hoping to prompt real change in people’s lives.

Rossa’s game concept, ‘Pax Hibernia’, is a management and political strategy game based around the process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The player must ensure the balance of power within the 11 district areas in order to achieve some form of relative peace.

Rossa, who is delighted to have been selected, said: “It’s clear to see that Northern Ireland is underfunded and underrepresented compared to rest of the UK, a fact only emphasised by the Brexit negotiations and even recent violence within my own hometown.

“I created this project with the goal of removing ignorance and informing those who are unaware of the difficulties with peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland through intuitive game mechanics and player agency; I wanted to emphasise the importance of democratic values (such as diversity) to promote perspective thought and civic engagement. I only hope that people can learn from my game and respect the processes and necessities involved in improving my home country.”

This year the 40 entries from the 53 finalists have an overwhelming social purpose to them. Dr. Jo Twist OBE, Chair of Games Committee at BAFTA, said: “Games are a fantastic art form for creators to express themselves, and I am delighted to see young people tackling important topics through their design and concept entries this year. Their creativity and ambition for social change through the medium of games is inspiring. A very well deserved congratulations and good luck to all the 2019 finalists!”

Finalists will be competing for the Game Concept Award, which recognises a paper-based written game idea, and the Game Making Award for those who have developed their coding skills and submitted a prototype game made using freely available software.

The winners, chosen by a panel of industry professionals, will be revealed at a special awards ceremony at BAFTA’s headquarters at Piccadilly in London, on Saturday 29 June.

Previous winners of the awards, which are partnered by Creative Assembly (SEGA), Criterion (EA), Jagex, King, PlayStation, Ubisoft, and WB Games, have gone on to have successful careers within the industry.