Why we need the British Games Institute

by Ian Livingstone and Rick Gibson.

The government has announced its new Industrial Strategy, indicating it will increase support for key UK industries. We as an industry have been working hard to be counted amongst world-leading British industries vital for our country’s future economic success. Today, we, together with UKIE’s Jo Twist and TIGA’s Richard Wilson, are calling for the British Games Institute to be founded with new government money to fund UK games production, culture and education.

There’s never been a better time for us all to shout out about our sector. Games are played across British society, from children to Prime Ministers to OAPs, even astronauts on the International Space Station. Over half of British adults and almost all children play games regularly. Games have wide impact, helping patients recover from surgery, teaching valuable skills to children, employing 12,000 creative technologists and delivering billions in economic impact, as part of a global market that’s growing to over $100bn.

We’re already a world-class digital industry growing at speed in every corner of the country but we face intractable problems. A BGI could help plug the finance gap that can hinder or damage our fledgling studios and put significant new money into funding the production of nearly 40 cultural games every year, some of them up to £500,000. Games play to the core strengths of the UK, creativity and technology, and now we need more funding to trigger more jobs, growth and more global blockbusters. We must encourage more games investment by structuring the funding so it widens the investment circle and helps safeguard success by providing mentoring.

A BGI should champion games’ cultural impact on British life, and negate the continual scapegoating of our industry. Let’s launch a national British Games Week to celebrate games culture around the country. Let’s fund games competitions with grant prizes, hackathons, cultural projects and a high tech red carpet event. Let’s promote the important curation and cultural contribution of the National Videogame Arcade.

We want games to be at the heart of educational policy and would fund games that teach British children STEM subjects. In time, our vision for the BGI is to help tackle the industry’s skills problems, and work with universities and studios to capture best practice and train staff online in the latest techniques.

Both games industry trade bodies have fought hard on initiatives that have benefitted the sector as a whole. We’ve seen long term wins from PEGI, NextGen Skills, Video Game Tax Relief, Games London, university accreditation, migration policy, improved R&D tax credits, Digital Schoolhouse, the Prototype and Skills Investment Fund. The BGI is an opportunity for our sector to take a big step forward. We want to build upon the trade bodies’ initiatives and we’re delighted that both are backing our call for a new British Games Institute:

Dr Jo Twist OBE, CEO UkieWe know games are an economic success story, but games are also a key part of culture and an important form of expression, not just entertainment. We have long supported the call for a dedicated and coordinated approach to supporting and funding content, talent and new ideas, to give our sector and businesses the cultural capital to innovate. In my own commissioning experience at the BBC and Channel 4, as well as the success Ukie has seen through our initiatives such as Games London and Digital Schoolhouse, the need to fund and celebrate the diversity of games as a key part of culture brings enormous longer term economic benefits.”

Dr Richard Wilson, CEO of TIGA “TIGA stands for games developers and digital publishers and our objective is to strengthen the games industry. We should introduce a British Games Institute to drive the sector forward. We would welcome the BGI implementing TIGA’s long standing proposal for a Games Investment Fund, increasing productivity in the industry by working with leading universities – particularly TIGA Accredited universities – to promote best practice, and promoting British games culture with a new national games week filled with events, hackathons and competitions around the UK.”

Theresa May has identified the Creative Industries as one of 5 sectors to assist. Games are one of the least well-funded. Games’ economic impact was worth 23% of the UK’s combined screen sector, compared to 60% for film and the remainder for TV and animation. But film compares favourably to games, getting £170m per annum compared to just £5m for games. That’s 30 times more public funding.

The BFI is a remarkable organisation doing valuable work funding commercial film production, research and educational projects as well as heritage and training projects. We want to use the BFI as a template for a new agency funded by new government money to deliver long term impact for the video games industry.

We believe that games should receive the same recognition and status as other British Creative Content sectors. It should win funding in proportion with its achievements and its massive potential for growth.

Now is the time to get behind this call for significant new public funding and place games at the heart of the UK’s economic and cultural future, where we belong.

 

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