Industry steps up as National Videogame Museum fights for survival

Sheffield 1000 28/04/2020: After launching a fundraising campaign when lockdown began, games companies joined members of the public to help save the National Videogame Museum (NVM). The fundraising campaign is still open but this gives renewed hope that the museum can re-open beyond the global pandemic.

Rockstar Games, Boneloaf, Jagex, Fusebox, THQ Nordic/Embracer Group, Ukie, Sumo, Craig Fletcher, Kelly Sumner and Thumbfood and others have stepped in to help the charity outlast lockdown. The Museum is now safe until July, although it may face further challenges if it cannot re-open in the summer.

Ian Livingstone, Chair of the BGI: “We are so grateful to some of our finest games companies and industry leaders for helping us in our hour of need. With no end to the lockdown in sight and without significant public funding, every donation gets us closer to securing our future in these uncertain times”.

The BGI launched an emergency appeal to save its museum in Sheffield a week after closing to safeguard the public and their staff from Coronavirus in mid-March. The NVM was facing permanent closure following the complete loss of income from the visiting public. The BGI’s trustees decided to ask the public and the industry for help in an emergency appeal that has so far raised over £130,000. 

As the pandemic continues, and the museum anticipates further delays to reopening, the museum is continuing to fundraise while launching online services and workshops, such as its successful NVM At Home programme, which is teaching children the basics in videogame development and helping parents choose educational videogames.

Sam Houser, Founder of Rockstar Games, said: “It’s so important that this unique and wonderful Museum, the only one in the UK dedicated to celebrating the rich and diverse culture of videogames, should be able to continue to excite and educate visitors, whilst hopefully inspiring future generations of talented game makers.”

Boneloaf said: “Boneloaf backed the NVM’s JustGiving campaign to support the museum’s work: engaging new audiences with fun, playful, and informative content spanning the history and culture of arcade, Alt.Ctrl, computer and console games; game interfaces and hardware (and because we want to play more Vib Ribbon when we can visit the museum safely).”

Phil Mansell, Jagex CEO said: “For the past four years, the National Videogame Museum has been a living celebration of the UK’s videogame heritage and culture. Even through the current pandemic, when its doors are closed to the public, they’ve continued online engagement thanks to the Play The Museum at Home initiative which is great to see. However, we all want the museum’s doors to be open again – that’s why Jagex, as one of the UK’s longest-standing developers and publishers of living games, is very proud to support its fundraising and become patrons to ensure it can continue its important cultural and educational work.”

No room at the inn 

Can the National Videogame Museum survive exclusion from public funding schemes during lockdown?

[An opinion piece from the BGI’s CEO, Rick Gibson]

We closed the National Videogame Museum a few days before Government locked down the country due to Coronavirus. This tragic pandemic ravaging communities across the country is also a serious threat to many organisations who underpin the cultural fabric of our country, especially the newest ones like ours that have struggled to persuade arts funders we’re worthy of support.

What we do
The National Videogame Museum welcomed 40,000 visitors to our unique playable galleries in Sheffield and other programmes last year. We educated over 1,000 children whose schools visited to learn about the STEAM skills used to make videogames. Over 4,000 people discovered career pathways into the UK’s fastest-growing creative industry using our online training. We encouraged everyone, whatever their background or skills level, to make games, working with Islamic Relief to help launch a ground-breaking new game about international development made by one of our inspirational advisory board members.

Our team has 15 years’ experience of research and publication on how to curate, preserve and interpret videogames culture so we created the UK’s first digital Subject Specialist Network about videogames preservation. This now supports over 20 museums and many collectors. Our 5,000 object Collection is now housed with the University of Nottingham and we’ve built on an international research profile by publishing 2 white papers with Japanese colleagues and working with 3 different universities. We’re 9 months down the pathway towards formal accreditation of the Museum.

Public funding has been largely inaccessible
What’s remarkable about this list of achievements is that we did it with less than 5% of our 2019 income coming from public sources. Not by choice – most of them ruled us ineligible for significant grants. Arts Council England (ACE) no longer funds museums like ours that are mid-accreditation and Heritage Fund won’t fund new charities without annual accounts. So we have built our new charity almost entirely on ticket, education and donation income,  as well as a couple of very welcome small grants for the Arts for non-Museum projects from ACE and a Hallmark Grant from the Association of Independent Museums.

Then Coronavirus happened and like everyone, we were knocked for six, closing down a week before Government locked down venues like ours, furloughing half our permanent staff and all our temporary crew a few weeks’ later.

Frozen out
We waited for Government and Arts funders to deliver much-trailed assistance to our sector and then watched in astonishment as a succession of schemes passed us by. ACE announced a generous scheme to assist the arts sector, including £50m for non-National Portfolio Organisations like us. In the small print, however, they noted that if you’re not an accredited Museum or even working towards accreditation, you cannot apply. We’ve asked but were told emphatically that there is no flexibility to the rules.

Heritage Fund’s emergency fund for the entire sector is in fact designed only for previous grantees. As a new charity, we were discouraged from applying. The emergency fund for charities announced by the Chancellor is designed, rightly, to help charities offering frontline services during the pandemic. The Business Interruption Loan scheme is helping only the most viable businesses, but it won’t help a new charity like ours still finding its feet. Our business interruption insurance explicitly rules out closure due to viruses. Only the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant will help and it won’t last long.

Ironically, we were doing exactly what the Arts Council and Government wanted us to do – minimising our reliance on public funding. So just as almost all our commercial income evaporated, that very quality is why we’re being explicitly ruled out of publicly-funded arts bodies’ emergency funding streams. Over 100 museums are in the accreditation pipeline, which has now been halted for 12 months. All are cut off by this arbitrary decision, the only significant exclusion in a scheme that welcomes any art collective, dance group and theatre, but excludes non-accredited museums. ACE appear unmoved by the fact that Scottish and Welsh museums can win emergency funding whether accredited or not.

So how bad is it?
Covid-19 is a Darwinian threat to our very existence. Our ticket, school, event, hire, education and shop income streams do not exist under lockdown whilst patronage and commercial sampling are seriously reduced. Covid-19 leaves a six figure hole in the finances of a brand new charity with almost no reserves. We were on a roll earlier this year with a record breaking half-term, school visits increasing, new exhibitions being created and new patrons supporting the charity. Now we are going to have to work hard just to keep the charity afloat.

What are we doing about it?
We saw this coming a little earlier than some and started an emergency appeal 3 weeks ago, which has raised around £40,000. It’s a fantastic start (Thank you Boneloaf, Ukie, Sumo, Yogscast, Kelly Sumner, Craig Fletcher, First Touch Games, Auroch Digital and many more) but we’ve some way to go to survive such a prolonged shutdown.

This week we launched the first in a series of online courses, in response to people asking us what we advise them to do with their kids during lockdown. We’re streaming free courses inside YouTube and, soon, Twitch to teach young people games art, design and writing skills. More will come, if we survive.

We are appealing again to games companies, but they are moving quite slowly. Some are being overwhelmed with requests for local support from charities in the frontline and are being incredibly generous. Some are helping out the indie community. All are adapting to working and decision-making from home.

Behind the scenes, we are bidding for a range of grants from foundations and trusts such as CAF to reach some of our most disadvantaged communities and help them use the creative and educational value of games to survive the lockdown.

And we are delighted that the Yogscast crew have been helping us keep the emergency appeal in the limelight all week and streamed a long session yesterday about our emergency appeal.

Will we survive?
To be honest, it’s touch and go. We really don’t know whether we will make it into the summer right now. We’ve specialised in falling between the cracks of most of the public funding schemes, and it’s clear that so far only the games industry and our visitors are responding.

Videogames are one of the most treasured, fastest-growing, social and creative art forms in all of contemporary culture, although you have to work hard to find that acknowledged in the better funded corners of the Arts world. Just as more people than ever turn to them for entertainment, social connection and creative expression, the home of videogames in the UK has so far been frozen out by the cultural funding establishment.

There’s never been a National Videogame Museum before. It’s been a back-breaking, pioneering effort to breathe life into this one over fifteen years. This is just one of thousands of important cultural causes under threat at the moment, but we think we deserve a chance of survival.

As we fight to outlast the pandemic, our tiny team has taken heart from what the public say our museum means to them. Perhaps Government and Arts funders will listen to them instead:

The NVM is everything good about video games, constantly evolving and changing like the medium it celebrates. Alasdair

Lovely atmosphere. I came with my 12 year old grandson and felt the museum was welcoming for all ages. Well done! Joan

Great place for the whole family. We could have stayed there all day. Incredibly friendly, helpful staff & very informative exhibits. Tom

It would be heartbreaking for you to permanently close. Caspar

We’ve loved visiting the NVM (or NVA as it was when we started coming) for years. Good luck with the campaign. Nick Parkhouse

Why has the UK government not supported this brilliant museum? John Donne

Really enjoyed my visit last year and hard to believe you’re the only proper permanent exhibition of such a huge cultural medium now. Good luck and hope to visit again soon. Anonymous

NVM launches livestreaming service for families during lockdown

Following the BGI trustees’ decision to temporarily close the National Videogame Museum to protect the public and staff from Coronavirus, the charity is launching a new series of livestreams and materials for families to access at home.

The NVM will begin livestreaming workshops and programmes on YouTube and Twitch in mid-April, bringing a range of the NVM’s popular workshops to the public, as well as a new range of magazine shows.

In a series of weekly livestreams, museum staff will start teaching families how to create art and games narratives using free software packages such as Piskel, Twine and Scratch. Staff will also review and play through educational games sites, conduct live discussions with games studios near Sheffield, and start sharing its expertise in videogame perservation and curation in a forthcoming series designed for museums and enthusiasts in its recent Videogame Heritage Society.

The charity’s initiative was triggered by thousands of requests for materials on its NVM at Home page, which it launched in March in response to its closure.

 

 

Emergency Appeal: Save the National Videogame Museum

The BGI charity is launching an urgent appeal to the public to protect the future of the National Videogame Museum, following its closure last week to protect visitors and staff.

 

The National Videogame Museum is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to the collection and preservation of videogame culture, and one of the world’s leading institutions in this field.

Operated by the BGI, the educational charity dedicated to educating the public about videogames, the NVM hosted over 40,000 visitors in 2019, including thousands of schoolchildren and scores of school visits. The Museum recently enjoyed its busiest week ever and had been planning an ambitious programme celebrating games studios and games culture in 2020/21, including Key Stage workshops, an international videogames preservation network and new exhibitions including Great British Studios.

Ian Livingstone CBE, Chair of the BGI and NVM founding patron, said “Coronavirus threatens the very existence of this unique place. The UK’s only museum dedicated to videogames is now under threat. As a new charity which uses videogames to inspire the next generation, we have no safety net to help the Museum weather the storm. We’ve had the support of some patrons and companies, without visitors the museum is in grave danger. If you care about videogames, please donate in any way you can”

Companies are urged to contact the charity to become permanent patrons of the Museum.

National Videogame Museum closes to protect visitors and staff 

Museum shuts temporarily as Coronavirus outbreak worsens

Sheffield 1200 16/03/2020: The BGI, which operates the National Videogame Museum, announced it was temporarily closing the Museum with immediate effect in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Ian Livingstone CBE, Chair of the BGI and NVM founder patron, said: “We are immensely proud to run one of the most interactive museums in the country and we take great care over hygiene standards, but we owe a duty of care to our visitors and staff during the current Coronavirus outbreak. Before the Museum records its first case, the charity’s trustees have taken the difficult decision to temporarily close the National Videogame Museum to protect our community and our people. The National Videogame Museum is now under threat. As a new charity, we have no safety net of public funding to support us through the Coronavirus outbreak. We call on the government to help support at-risk organisations like ours now.”

The National Videogame Museum hosted over 40,000 visitors including scores of schools in 2019. It runs exhibitions, events, workshops and other school sessions linked to the national curriculum. Its mission statement is to create unique playable exhibitions about videogames; inspire children about what games mean and how they are made; reveal career paths into the UK’s fastest growing creative industry; and encourage everyone, whatever their background, to play, understand and make games.

The BGI’s Director of Culture Iain Simons said “Our decision to suspend the Museum will protect our visitor community and our staff until it’s safe to reopen. This is a particularly difficult decision for us, coming just after a record half term with over 2,500 visitors in 10 days and before a full programme of events, workshops and new exhibitions rolling into the Summer”.

The NVM is the only museum in the UK solely dedicated to the collection and preservation of videogame culture and is one of the leading institutions in the world in this field. The charity is mostly funded by visitor ticket sales, with additional patronage from some games companies and individuals, and grants from private trusts and foundations. It currently receives no public funding for running the Museum.

“Like many independent museums, our funding has always been tight, so we are hugely grateful to those individuals, companies and trusts that have stepped up and supported us as we launched our Museum in Sheffield. Despite videogames being one of the most loved and consumed cultural forms in the world, public funding to support them is minimal. The BGI, an educational charity, is working to change that through the NVM and other programmes, but the risk with Coronavirus is that a whole class of cultural institutions like ours could disappear if funding is prioritised towards bigger, better known and already well-funded organisations.” said Rick Gibson, BGI CEO.

The charity announced the decision as other organisations voluntarily suspended public spaces. The charity hopes to raise sufficient funds to re-open after the Coronavirus has peaked later this year.

Notes to Editors
A press pack including images and video of the galleries is available here.

Interviews

If you would like to interview BGI trustees and staff, please contact Conor Clarke on conor@thenvm.org or 07939 465667.

Interviewees

Ian Livingstone CBE
Ian is one of the founding fathers of the UK games industry and has a long track record of working to support the growth of the sector. He co-founded iconic games company Games Workshop in 1975, and co-created the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in 1982 which have sold over 17 million copies to date. He designed Eureka, the first computer game published by Domark in 1984, and joined the company in 1992 as a major investor and director, overseeing a merger that created Eidos plc in 1995, where he served as Executive Chairman until 2002. At Eidos he launched major franchises including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. He co-authored the Next Gen review in 2011 published by Nesta, recommending changes in ICT education policy to bring computer science into the national curriculum as an essential discipline. He is a serial angel investor in multiple UK games studios, chair of Playdemic and PlayMob, and Member of the Creative Industries Council and Creative Industries Federation. He was appointed OBE in 2006, and has also received a BAFTA Special Award, a British Inspiration Award, the Develop Legend Award, an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Bournemouth University and an Honorary Doctorate of Technology by Abertay University, Dundee for his contribution to the UK computer and video games industry. He was appointed CBE in the 2013 New Year Honours list.

Iain Simons, Culture Director, the BGI
Iain co-founded the National Videogame Archive of the UK in 2008, directs the GameCity festival, which he founded in 2006, and founded the National Videogame Arcade which became the National Videogame Museum and moved to Sheffield in 2018. As well as developing curatorial and interpretive strategies for the BGI and the National Videogame Museum, he speaks about videogame culture internationally for a wide variety of audiences and has written for both the popular and academic press, as well as several books including Difficult Questions About Videogames (Suppose, 2004), Inside Game Design (Lawrence King, 2007) and a History of Videogames (Carlton, 2018) with Professor James Newman.

Rick Gibson, Founder and CEO, The BGI
A games strategist for 20 years, Rick founded 2 pan-industry campaigns: Games Up?, which successfully campaigned for the introduction of Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR), a relief that has paid out over £500m to UK games companies since it began in 2014; and for the foundation of the BGI itself, which won the support of over 560 games and cultural organisations and he founded in 2019.

 

About the National Videogame Museum
The NVM is run by the BGI, a registered charity number 1183530 that educates the public about the art, science, history and technology of videogames. The NVM celebrates videogame culture and allows the public to play most of its exhibits, which include games consoles, arcade machines and other interactive experiences, including games designed exclusively for the Museum. The Museum displays the UK’s only permanently accessible collection of over 100 videogames as well as a large collection of game memorabilia and ephemera. Formerly the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, the Museum has welcomed over 120,000 visitors, including hundreds of school visits, since it opened in 2016. The Museum presents a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions that are scheduled up to 2 years in advance, some of which tour the UK. For more details about the NVM, please visit: http://www.thenvm.org

Hutch Games become new patrons of the National Videogame Museum

The BGI is super excited to announce Hutch Games as the newest patrons of the National Videogame Museum. Hutch Games are one of the most innovative british game developers over the past decade, and have worked on mobile titles such as F1 Manager, Rebel Racing and Top Drives. 

Hutch Games join other patrons such as Andy Payne OBE, Carl Cavers, Ian Livingstone CBE and developers such as Sumo Digital, Rebellion and many more. Just last month, the NVM welcomed SuperSonic Software as new patrons to help the National Videogame Museum grow

The National Videogame Museum is a museum ran by the charity the BGI that is leading the preservation of British videogames history and culture. It recently celebrated its first event of 2020, with a February celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog. This event saw record numbers visit the museum, including over 350 students and schoolchildren engaging with educational activities such as workshops and training. Last year, the museum welcomed 40,000 visitors to its central Sheffield location.

The NVM recently launched the UK Collection, an initiative to preserve the heritage of British games studios. This was launched alongside Rebellion Developments, who will be the first studio to share their history in the Great British Studios exhibition in the Spring.

For more information, visit www.thenvm.org.

Games Education Summit moves to September

The BGI announced today that the GamesEd20 Summit is moving back to September 7th and 8th at the same venue in Sheffield Hallam University. The Coronavirus has impacted the availability of delegates and key contributors to attend in April, and therefore the charity and the Summit’s steering committee has taken the difficult decision to move the Summit to later in the year.

Tickets are still available at gamesed20.eventbrite.com/.

The BGI wins significant grant from Ian Livingstone Foundation to further Education Programmes

Sheffield, 06/03/20: The BGI has won a significant grant from the Ian Livingstone Foundation to augment its learning programme, which has been piloted in public and school workshops at the National Videogame Museum and in its Pixelheads clubs in Nottingham and Sheffield. 

The grant will be used to expand the charity’s Learning Programmes, assist in the creation of Key Stage workshops, and develop workshops for more visiting schools.

Ian Livingstone CBE said: “The Foundation is delighted to provide this grant towards the important work that the BGI is doing at the National Videogame Museum and further afield. The NVM is a unique asset not just for the UK games sector but for the country as a whole. We want to see the learning programme flourish and encourage the wider industry to assist with patronage and support.”

Vice-Chair of the BGI, Claire Boissiere, said “We are so grateful to the Livingstone Foundation for this generous grant, which will enable our Learning Programme to reach and educate thousands more young people. We’re finding new ways to help young people access the skills they need to thrive in this rapidly changing world. We’re opening new windows onto the artistic, design and technical skills used to make games, making these skills fun and easy for anyone to access.”

The BGI is a new educational charity that, alongside a number of training and research programmes, aims to teach young people STEM and Arts skills through our National Videogame Museum (NVM) in Sheffield. The BGI aims to use videogames as a way to unlock the creative computing potential of children across the UK. At the NVM, we create unique playable exhibitions for 40,000 annual visitors about videogames, inspire families and schoolchildren about what games mean and how they are made, reveal career paths into the UK’s fastest growing creative industry and encourage everyone, whatever their background, to play, understand and make games.

Later this year sees the BGI hold its annual Games Education Summit, which brings together leading games studios and universities to discuss the future of UK games education. Continue reading “The BGI wins significant grant from Ian Livingstone Foundation to further Education Programmes”

National Videogame Museum Launches Videogames Preservation Network

Before It’s Too Late: Saving Videogames.

National Videogame Museum Launches Videogames Preservation Network

 Sheffield, 25/02/2020: The National Videogame Museum is launching a new initiative today at BFI Southbank, leading a network of museums and independent collectors who are engaged in videogame preservation. The Videogame Heritage Society (VHS) includes the Science and Media Museum, Bath Spa University, British Library and Museum of London as well as many independent collectors. It will develop best practice and share knowledge across the museum sector and beyond about preserving and exhibiting videogames.

Ian Livingstone, chair of the BGI (the charity which governs the NVM) commented, “This group is for anyone who cares about or works in videogame preservation. We recognise that in the UK and around the world, the expertise in this field isn’t just locked inside museums and heritage institutions, but also inside a wide range of dedicated and passionate private collectors. The VHS will bring everyone together to preserve the important heritage of videogames in our country.”

The event today will also mark the launch of a new White Paper: ‘Time Extend’, on video game history, heritage and preservation. There will also be a special address from legendary Nintendo console designer Masayuki Uemura. The National Videogame Museum has worked closely alongside Uemura, who is a professor at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and is giving a talk at the NVM on 26th February.

The NVM preserves the history of UK development through its UK Collection, a special collection within the Museum that focuses on the story of British videogames creation. This was recently launched with Rebellion, the first studio to formally collaborate with the NVM on the project.

Gina Jackson, Trustee for the BGI, said “In order to develop as an art form, to become more diverse and reflect all kinds of areas of our lives, and to build a cultural confidence that is sometimes absent, we need to be able to learn about videogames. In order to learn about them, we need to be able to access them and make sense of them. The work we’re doing at the NVM and BGI isn’t out of nostalgia. It’s out of a concern for the future. We want to be able to inspire and educate new kinds of game-makers to make new kinds of games.”

Notes to Editors

Interviews

If you would like to interview BGI trustees or NVM staff, please contact Conor Clarke on conor@thenvm.org or 0114 321 0299.

About the National Videogame Museum

The NVM is a museum in Sheffield run by the charity the BGI that educates the public on the art, science, history and technology of videogames. The NVM celebrates videogame culture and allows the public to play most of its exhibits, which include games consoles, arcade machines and other interactive experiences, including games designed exclusively for the Museum. The Museum displays the UK’s only permanently accessible collection of videogames as well as a large collection of game memorabilia and ephemera. Formerly the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, the Museum has welcomed over 140,000 visitors, including hundreds of school visits, since it opened in 2016. The Museum presents a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions, some of which tour the UK. For more details about the NVM, please visit: http://www.thenvm.org

SuperSonic Software Become Patrons of the National Videogame Museum

The BGI is thrilled to announce that SuperSonic Software have become the latest patron of the National Videogame Museum. SuperSonic are a longstanding British game developer based in Royal Leamington Spa, who have worked on high profile titles such as the Micro Machines series.

SuperSonic join other patrons such as Andy Payne OBE, Carl Cavers, Ian Livingstone CBE and developers such as Sumo Digital, Rebellion and many more.

The National Videogame Museum is a museum ran by the charity the BGI that is leading the preservation of British videogames history and culture. It recently celebrated its first event of 2020, with a February celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog. This event saw record numbers visit the museum, including over 350 students and schoolchildren engaging with educational activities such as workshops and training. Last year, the museum welcomed 40,000 visitors to its central Sheffield location.

The NVM recently launched the UK Collection, an initiative to preserve the heritage of British games studios. This was launched alongside Rebellion Developments, who will be the first studio to share their history in the Great British Studios exhibition in the Spring.

For more information, visit www.thenvm.org.