As part of PCGamesInsider.biz's 2018 Review and UK Special, the CEO of UK video games trade body UKIE Dr Jo Twist OBE shares the state of play in one of the global industry's most important markets.
The UK games industry is one to be proud of, and despite the current challenges facing it, the UK continues to be a world-leader in making and selling what billions enjoy globally.
Our economic contribution is to be celebrated, with recent figures showing that in 2016, our sector supported 47,000 jobs across development, publishing, esports, events, retail, contributing £2.87bn to the economy.
The Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR) remains an important incentive for UK-based development and continues to be a key driver for locating creativity here as well as enabling businesses to open up new routes to financing with confidence. No matter what your budget size, team size, whatever your business model or platform of choice, the VGTR is designed to be flexible and accessible so that anyone making their game in the UK with British or European themes can benefit.
In the last year alone over £100m in VGTR was paid out to over 345 UK games companies. Every £1 invested into the games industry via VGTR generated an additional £4 back into the economy.
New government backing and investment in clusters across the UK, research and development in what future audiences might be enjoying in immersive, cross reality experiences, as well as the continued government support in helping small and medium-sized companies access international marketplaces are all healthy signs for growth and our continued competitiveness.
We have also seen a rise in co-working hubs and spaces where small companies across the country can learn from each other and access critical support networks as well as talent, which all makes for a positive foundation for our ecosystem. Workplace culture, diversity done right, mental health, have all been front and centre of UKIE’s minds over the last 12 months too.
But with great success comes greater responsibility. It is almost exactly a year since we heard from the World Health Organisation that it was planning to create a “gaming disorder”. Since then, we have been working with global colleagues and experts to bring more clarity to the situation, highlighting the contested nature of the evidence, the un-transparent process through which this was arrived at, and the fuzziness of this disorder – taken straight out of gambling addiction.
The games industry is a responsive one because we are nothing without our player community. Companies have self-regulated and changed their practices where and when it has been necessary without being forced to.
The PEGI age ratings and parental controls across platforms are robust and parents and carers are aware of them – but there are inconsistencies in how they adopt and enforce them. They are also constantly reviewed by a committee of experts. Resources such as askaboutgames.com guide parents and carers through genres, break out hits, and answers critical questions they might have. The whole industry needs to shout about the protective measures we deploy, and any games company can use the AAG logo or link to the site – or do their own.
We are seeing increased scrutiny across all parts of society, not just in the UK, of screen time, and as society tries to understand how to navigate a world which is digital by default, it’s more crucial than ever that we guide everyone towards the tools, techniques, and the language they need, to equip a new generation without impeding the enjoyment they get.
It’s worth reminding ourselves of the sophistication of our technologies and game design measures, as well as the investment many companies make in community management and player safety.
We should not allow ourselves to become collateral damage in policies or measures that are designed for companies and platforms who may not take consumer or community protection as seriously as the games industry does.
Most importantly, we cannot and will not be able to continue to innovate, create and bring joy to 2.6 billion global players without people. We are getting better at investing in diverse homegrown talent – but we will need to do more as we stand on the brink of Brexit.
UKIE estimates through its research that at least 61 per cent of the sector relies on global talent. The importance of international talent can't be emphasised enough, because it is people across a diverse set of skills - skillsets which very often cannot be measured by conventional means - who make and sell games and create the support businesses and services within our ecosystem - not machines.
Just as we need a united industry to help guide everyone in society towards safe and responsible play, we need a united industry to tell us what job roles you are finding it hard to fill. As we hurtle towards the holidays (for some) UKIE is collecting evidence from all of you that will be so important in whatever immigration system we will have in the future – with or without Brexit.
The Shortage Occupation List is a list of jobs of which the Government recognises there are not enough UK or EEA (European Economic Area) workers to fill. What makes this list vital is that employers, when employing for these positions outside the European Economic Area, get to quicken the visa process and save money when hiring abroad.
UKIE will be submitting a response on behalf of the sector to the Government in early January and we need more of the industry to indicate where their needs are. The survey is here.
These are unprecedented times for all of us in so many ways – but what an industry to part of to ride through it.
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