OPINION: The time to build a second Golden Age is now

Working with Alex Hope of Double Negative since July last year, I’ve had the privilege of leading the largest quantitative research study to date on skills in the video games industry and visual effects. We’ve conducted seven different research strands which covered children, parents, teachers, schools, colleges, universities, employers, employees and recruiters and we have spoken to over half of all video games and visual effects employers.

The findings of the review have been well publicised. But it’s worth reminding ourselves of the critical importance of this review, what it means for our industry and for the wider economy and why we must act now to implement its findings.

The UK has a rich heritage in producing innovative, world-class video games. From the early days with Elite, Populous and Lemmings to the ‘Golden Age’ of gaming with international blockbusters such as Grand Theft Auto, LittleBigPlanet and Fable, to online successes like RuneScape and Moshi Monsters, UK developers were, and still are, revered at home and abroad.


But markets continue to evolve. An ever-increasing number of games are being delivered and played online. Products are turning into services. We must adapt quickly to the changing world and not let our heritage become a ‘golden era’ that we fondly look back upon.

Our research shows that if the UK industry overcomes existing barriers to growth and keeps up with its global competitors, it stands to generate 1 billion more sales by 2014. It is a hugely important industry to the UK.

What’s more, the talent and skills needed for games are also vital to other industries in the high-tech creative sector, which continue to grow beyond the rate of the rest of the economy.

In order to do this, we need the best talent with the hard skills to produce games: world-class computer scientists, artists and animators to realise the creative genius of our designers. But to put it simply, there just aren’t enough people in the UK with these skills. There is clear evidence that the education system – from schools to universities – is not equipping students with the skills needed by industry. It is madness that at a time of high graduate unemployment our development studios are telling us they can’t hire the right talent.

But it’s not all bad news. In fact a picture of great possibilities is emerging. There are pockets of excellence in schools and universities across the country which we must learn from and recreate across the UK.


And I want to stress that by ‘we’, I mean a collective effort from industry, education and Government. This is not just down to educational institutions; we all have a role to play.

The Skills Review is just the beginning. It’s not intended to be a glorious piece of research which gathers dust on a bookshelf. It is intended to be a blueprint for change by setting out 20 practical steps for the whole spectrum of players in this industry – government, educators, industry, trade associations and sector skills councils – to take the necessary collaborative steps now to ensure we enjoy a second ‘Golden Age’ of video games production in the UK.

* The Livingstone-Hope Review was delivered by Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope, working with NESTA in collaboration with Skillset and with support from e-skills UK. To read the full report, visit www.nesta.org.uk

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