'We’re fighting to be taken seriously as an industry and to do that we need data'

Why Creative Skillset’s Workforce Survey is important to the UK game industry

Creative Skillset recently launched its cross-sector Workforce Survey for the games, TV, radio, film, animation, VFX and digital media industries. The results are used to inform where funding is needed in each sector to develop skills and train up staff.

Despite receiving a good response rate from the VFX and animation sectors, the game industry has submitted the fewest responses, according to SGN founder and Creative Skillset games partnership manager Brian Baglow. This means it’s difficult to obtain important data on the makeup of the sector and find where funding is needed most, and at worst it gives a distorted view of the industry.

We asked Baglow why people in games should take the survey seriously, and the consequences of not taking part at all.

Why should developers get involved, what’s the benefit?
The games sector suffers from a lack of hard data and research until Develop (big shout out to Develop) released it’s company directory, we didn’t even know how many game studios there were in the UK. Given the rapid evolution of the market in the last few years, with the rise of mobile, casual, social and online gaming, the whole industry has changed. Probably. We think. But again, we don’t actually know.

When it comes to people getting into the games industry, we don’t know where they’re coming from. Is it the growing number of games courses? Are they coming from different degrees? Are the large studios still the major employers, or is it the micro studios now taking on the most people? Where do freelancers fit into this? What about people starting their own companies?

We have no idea about any of this. We cannot state with confidence that the old methods of getting into the industry – QA for example – still even exist, and as for diversity within the industry, very few surveys in the past have looked at these issues and certainly none of them can provide the context against the rest of the creative industries in the UK.

We can’t keep pointing to GTA and Minecraft and then ask for more funding at the same time.

Brian Baglow

Without this hard data we cannot go to government and ask for more funding, or point to skills gaps, or show where training is needed on an industry wide basis. We cannot make informed policy decisions, or build a strategy as an industry without more insight into and knowledge of how the game industry is evolving.

While surveys are not the most exciting thing in the world, without the industry’s input we as a sector remain wandering in the dark, making guesses about how things are changing, without gathering any evidence or proof.

We need everybody’s help. Employers, employees, freelancers, trainees, developers, publishers, distributors, journalists, business providers, tools, tech and engine providers. Everyone.

What are the consequences of not participating?
The other creative industries are not evolving as quickly as the game sector. The explosive growth in new companies, the new platforms, routes to market and business models which are fundamentally altering the games industry haven’t hit film or TV quite as hard. Even animation and VFX are a little less volatile, as they can be seen as part of the larger film and TV industries. Games is still very much the new kid on the block. We don’t have 50+ years of existing data to draw upon. We don’t have the major industry bodies that film and TV do, so we’re fighting to be taken seriously as an industry and to do that we need data.

We can’t keep pointing to GTA and Minecraft and then ask for more funding at the same time. We need to show government and the public sector – and the other creative industries – that the game sector is growing and evolving and has awesome skills. Otherwise we risk being side-lined and ignored and treated as a hobby. Or worse, letting the industry be defined by small special interest groups.

How will this survey represent the game industry more accurately?
This survey is one of the first that’s focused on the entire workforce. Everyone. Employers, employees, freelancers, trainees – everyone. Many other surveys are focused on the companies and employers only. Which can miss a huge range of people and give a false impression of the industry (as it’s usually the larger companies who respond). As such, it will provide incredibly useful details of the sort of people who work in the games sector in the UK.

It will show where they come from. How they got into the industry, the skills they have and the skills they want to have. It will highlight the issue of diversity and let the industry make informed decisions on the future in terms of where funding is required, where we’re strongest and the areas we could really use more help with.

To take part in the Creative Skillset Workforce Survey, visit the official website.

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