OKRE Development Rooms

OKRE – A new charity from Wellcome – ‘to enable the creative industries to pool knowledge with other disciplines’

Jo Twist, CEO of UKIE will host the upcoming OKRE Development Rooms, ‘Urban Worlds: Lives and Landscapes’, at 4pm GMT on Wednesday 27 January 2021. 

If there is one thing that the team at Ukie knows about games, it’s that our industry benefits enormously from drawing on a wide range of perspectives.

The first UK Games Industry Census, published in February 2020, demonstrated the growing diversity of games and found it to be a workforce that is highly international, youthful and particularly welcoming to the LGBTQ+ members. 

Dr Jo Twist OBE, Ukie

But while data like this is important in explaining some of our successes, we also know there is much to do to broaden our reach further. Being surrounded by people of different backgrounds, expertise and outlooks makes our thinking more varied and our approach more dynamic in an industry that depends on these qualities. Put simply, diversifying the workforce isn’t just something businesses should be doing; it’s a necessity for running a successful business with more reach. 

There is plenty that we, as an industry, are doing to diversify the field. The #RaiseTheGame pledge is helping games businesses enact meaningful change today; our outreach to schools and colleges is going further than ever to reach others. And the plethora of groups dedicated to raising up different communities is making a major positive impact on our sector.

But we can go further by reaching beyond our own corner of the creative industries to pool our knowledge with people working across the screen industries and other disciplines.

Games are the product of collaboration between people with diverse expertise. Games made in the UK, or around the world, benefit as much from great programmers as they do from brilliant performances, from having the best artists to provide a meaningful visual identity and the best storytellers to bring a narrative alive. Yet meaningful collaboration between different sectors and industries has often been lacking, meaning we’re not always benefiting from insights gained from the diverse creative and research communities. 

So how do we take these ideas and use them to inspire people across the industry? As is often the case with innovation, it starts by having the right conversation with the right people at the right time. And as we’ve learned through much of our work with #raisethegame, we need to put in place welcoming spaces to ensure those conversations can happen and we can learn from them.

That’s why we’re supporting the work of OKRE: Opening Knowledge Across Research and Entertainment to facilitate these conversations. The goal of this new charity, an offshoot of Wellcome, is to enable those in games, the wider screen industries, the breadth of social and scientific research, and the diversity of global lived experiences to build on one another’s strengths through the exchange of ideas, expertise and perspectives.  

Later this month I’ll be hosting the OKRE Development Rooms, an opportunity to connect and get a creative boost at a time when many of us need it during these winter months. The theme is Urban Worlds: Lives and Landscapes, offering a lateral look at our changing cities and the communities within them.  

As a geographer by training, I have always been drawn to games that visualise or represent urban environments and how these environments are shaped by and through humans. These are rich and complex systems that can be fertile settings for compelling interactive entertainment. It’s exciting then to be working with the OKRE Development Rooms to delve deeper into this theme and be inspired and stimulated by fresh, diverse perspectives and expertise from around the world.

With each year that passes, our expectations of games seem to grow exponentially, and 2020 demanded different things from our games to satisfy an even more diverse audience. Whether it’s innovation on technical, narrative or gameplay levels, this is an industry defined by its ambition but one that is also deeply aware of its responsibilities to its players and broader society. 

As an incredibly powerful ideas and communications medium, the way games handle representation and deal with subjects of societal importance both within games themselves and the industry as a whole will be examined with ever more scrutiny. Over the last year, we’ve built great momentum for games by meeting such challenges head on.

We must, however, use every tool at our disposal to ensure that we maintain that. Embracing true cross-sector collaboration, and the exchange of ideas with others to enhance our work, our ideas, and our ambitions, can only make us even better. 

Jo Twist, CEO of UKIE will host the upcoming OKRE Development Rooms, ‘Urban Worlds: Lives and Landscapes’, at 4pm GMT on Wednesday 27 January 2021. 

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