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Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 05:11 GMT


UK Interactive industry comes of age

Lord Puttnam: The night the dinner jacket met the anorak

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
Computer games, edutainment CD Roms and Websites were finally given recognition as art forms equal to film and television in a ground-breaking awards ceremony in London on Thursday night.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta), which hosts the UK equivalents of the Oscars and Emmys, staged its first Interactive Entertainment awards ceremony - with BBC News Online winning in the News and Magazine category.

A leading light in the British film industry, David Puttnam, said the ceremony marked a coming of age. "Tonight the dinner jacket at last meets the anorak," he said.

Interactive pioneers like those of early cinema

Lord Puttnam, who is Vice President of Bafta and conceived the idea for the new awards, compared the acceptance of CD Rom and Website designers by the academy with the incorporation of television 40 years ago.

Some had been upset then that the young medium was being viewed as art, he said, and the same might be felt about the new interactive entertainment medium now. But Bafta intends to make the ceremony an annual event alongside its film and television awards

Lord Puttnam also drew parallels with the early days of cinema: "Cinema was very much the child of inventors and scientists. But it was the imaginative genius of men like Georges Méliès, D.W.Griffith and Sergei Eisenstein, whom by a process nothing much less than creative alchemy were able to build on the basic technology and turn it into a sophisticated means of telling stories using moving images," he said.

"Now here we are again dependent on a generation of innovators, who have the energy, the confidence and the talent to carry these new technologies forward."

[ image: Fry: The I word is overused]
Fry: The I word is overused
The satirist Stephen Fry, who was hosting the awards, had a more cynical view of interactivity. "Interactivity is about as popular as a Viagra salesman at a Munich beer festival, a word more misapplied than hydrocortisone, a word as inexplicable in its movements, implications and motives as the actions of a Labour Welsh MP, " he said, referring to the mysterious resignation of the Welsh Secretary Ron Davies this week.

[ image: Virtual Berners-Lee at Baftas]
Virtual Berners-Lee at Baftas
The ceremony featured a video appearance from the United States by the Briton regarded as the founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He introduced a special industry award for Best Personal Contribution By a British Individual.

It went to Peter Kindersley, the founder of Dorling Kindersley who pushed the book publisher into the multimedia business in 1991 and has overseen the production of a string of successful interactive titles.

News Online wins first-ever Website Bafta

In the News and Magazine section, BBC News Online beat off competition from its more established rivals, CNN and the Electronic Telegraph, to win the first ever Bafta award for a Website.

After accepting the famous bronze mask trophy from Lord Puttnam, News Online's Executive Editor Mike Smartt said: "We will be one year old next week and the Bafta award is a recognition of the dedication and innovation of the best team of journalists, developers and designers in the Web news business."

Fionnula Duggan, who chaired the News & Magazine section, said the overall standard had been very high.

She said the 40 entries had been whittled down to three nominees but she said BBC News Online pipped the others because it exuded "energy and innovation".

Ms Duggan, Director of Multimedia with EMI, said: "The great thing about the BBC site is that it has the content, ease of use, navigation and design but it also has an intuitiveness and an added flavour."

She also applauded its interactivity, accessibility, graphic design and depth of archives.

Ms Duggan said interactive media was becoming more popular because it fitted in with many people's hectic lifestyles and allows them to dip in and out when they want to.

But she said: "News Websites are being launched all the time and the competition will be even fiercer next year."

There was a special mention by the judges for the Need To Know Website and its weekly newsletter, a manic must-read account of events relevant to the UK's Internet community.

Stephen Fry said it deserved a commendation for its "refreshingly witty commentary on the new medium which demonstrates the way in which the Internet has enabled small publishers to address specialist markets in a perfectly tailored way" .

AudioRom were banging their own drums even before they won the Design Award for Shift Control. In their last live event of the year, they provided the multimedia entertainment for the evening - four drummers beating out an accompaniment to images and video triggered on screens behind them.

And the winners were....

The judging panel included Ms Duggan, games designer Pete Molyneux, multimedia expert Frank Boyd and British Board of Film Classification president Andreas Whittam Smith.

The British Academy of Film and Television recently changed its membership criteria to allow the interactive media industry into its ranks. This came 40 years after the academy accepted the new television industry.

In total, 534 English-language sites, CD-Roms and enhanced CDs were nominated but there could only be one winner in each category.

The full list of winners at the ICL-sponsored ceremony were:

  • The News & Magazine Award: BBC News Online (BBC News)

  • The Berners-Lee Award for Best Personal Contribution By A British Individual: Peter Kindersley

  • Best UK Developer: RARE

  • The Comedy Award: MindGym (Marshall Media)

  • The Factual Award: RedShift 3 (DK Interactive Learning)

  • The Games Award: GoldenEye, 007 (Nintendo N64/RARE)

  • The Children's Award: Star Wars, DroidWorks (Lucas Learning Ltd)

  • The Learning Award: Lifting the Weight (Jubilee Arts Ltd)

  • The Moving Images Award: Ceremony of Innocence (Real World MultiMedia Ltd)

  • The Sound Award: Ceremony of Innocence (Real World MultiMedia Ltd)

  • The Interactive Treatment Award: StageStruck (National Institute of Dramatic Art, University of Wollongong, Australia)

  • The Design Award: ShiftControl (AudioRom Ltd)

  • The Computer Programming Award: Gran Turismo (SCEE PSX game)

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