Flash Focus

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E4.com, the digital branch of U.K. station Channel 4, has urged bedroom Flash/game developers to compete for the new Grand Master Flash prize at the 26th annual, gaming-focused Golden Joystick Awards. Regarding the peculiar name of the prize, which is instantly recognizable to any musicologist, E4's new media marketing manager Steve Forde says the choice was simple. "We were doing a Flash game upload online so it seemed like an obvious choice. The post-rationalization was that it did sound very much like a hip-hop reference but we all loved it and wanted to go with it. We could get in trouble for this, but I think [our audience] is grown up enough to know that it has an entirely different feel. I just hope [the real Grandmaster Flash] is playing the games."

A shortlist has already been created for the ten finalists, which includes Kevin Powis and his video-based version of Connect Four called Four in a Row, Gaumina's 3D-enhanced Stickman Madness and Luther Chan's bloody Strawhat Samurai fighting game. While E4.com is largely a portal that complements Channel 4 itself, Forde says videogames presented a new outlet for entertainment. "We approached the Golden Joystick [people] this year and said we wanted to do something in gaming. We though it would be quite funny to have a 'bedroom developer' rubbing shoulders with someone who's become [established]. So, we came up with the name for it and then went to the gaming communities and told them all about it."

E4 tapped into both U.K. and U.S.-based gaming blogs and sites including B3ta, Newgrounds.com, Congregate and Playfire. In fact, the judging panel consists of B3ta creator Rob Manuel, The Guardian's Aleks Krotoski, PlayFire.com's Kieran O'Neill and E4.com editor Jody Smith."We've specifically picked the big players and we've worked with them to bring this event to life and get the message out there," Forde says. The E4 brass, according to the exec, gave simple criteria to enter. "The main criteria was that it needed to be a game that was developed in the past year. It couldn't be a game that was developed for commercial reasons. It couldn't be developed for commercial reasons or if they put ads on it. It had to be a Flash game. We developed a rosette that they could use on their own site and seed the games themselves then vote on the E4 site. It wasn't about getting traffic for us; it was about reaching out to new talent across the web."

E4.com is also accepting fan votes until October 27th. One can not only vote for their favorite at the Golden Joystick website, but they can also play the ten games in the running at the E4 finalists page. "Our main aim is to honor these bedroom developers as we call them," Forde concludes. "It's got to have various animations, very simple gameplay, etc. For a veteran developer, it's also a large kudos for them. We were really pleased with the quality of the games."
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