Ukie’s Jo Twist on Brexit, diversity and how the trade body can help

Dr Jo Twist, OBE rarely needs an introduction as head of gaming trade body Ukie. 

She’ll be fronting our Women in Games awards on May 11th, and was our Final Boss for the May issue of MCV. Here, she talks the big challenges facing games, 

What are the biggest challenges facing the UK games industry in 2018?

We are going from strength to strength as a sector. We are recognised economically and culturally and supported now by government (local and national) as an industry which is at the cutting edge of innovation and creativity, who export to the world, with a growing and increasingly demanding domestic consumer market. We cannot be complacent however, and need to be able to not only attract more diversity of people into the industry across all job roles, but also retain the excellent talent we already have.

What should games businesses be doing to ensure diversity in the industry?

There is plenty of guidance about how to recruit to reach more diverse candidates, which all businesses should adopt. We need to continue to build those bridges between education and the industry, ensuring that we have diverse role models talking about the wide range of rewarding jobs in the industry and giving the right skills, careers advice and confidence to all kinds of young people at an early age.

As part of the London Games Festival we had the grand final of the Digital Schoolhouse Esports Tournament. What was so incredible to see was how much interest there was from the pupils about the different jobs in the industry – and competitive games are a great vehicle to build all sorts of soft and hard skills as well as to inspire the next generation.

We also encourage businesses to look at other good practice in studios around mental health and the workplace and to adopt the new anti-bullying and harassment guidelines that BAFTA and BFI published at the start of the year. Companies like Media Molecule, SpaceApe and Jagex are just some fantastic examples of how to take workplace culture seriously, and how to give the support staff might need in demanding, creative jobs. The Digital Schoolhouse programme powered by PlayStation is also working hard to demystify computational thinking and games are generally excellent at growing critical thinking skills. We need these skills to navigate an increasingly data rich, algorithmic society.

How will Brexit impact the industry?

The industry’s three main concerns that we have fed into numerous government fora are around the ability to have a flexible, friction-free immigration system so that we can bring the best talent in the world to the UK, as well as maintaining market access and ensuring the free flow of data across borders. We also believe it is now the time to look at how more experimental, risky games can be supported through cultural funding. Games as interactive art have the power to help us understand ourselves, others, our place in the world, and to express some seriously deep themes. Games such as these need to be made.

What is Ukie doing to help with these concerns?

Ukie is actively lobbying to put in place the right conditions needed to make the UK the best place to make and sell games. We are vocal members of organisations such as the Creative Industries Council, working alongside members of the wider creative industries to ensure opportunities like the government’s recent industrial strategy sector deal are fully taken advantage of.

We work hard to represent our members and the wider games sector through engagement with Ministers, Members of Parliament and government officials and we never miss the opportunity to promote our sector’s interests in responding to consultations, enquiries and papers. We are also part of an active global coalition sharing intelligence, best practice and initiatives to promote the sector.

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