The Culture Programme
Videogames are one of the most popular forms of media in the world today. 94% of under 25s play in the UK, which means that young people are playing games in every community and every part of the country. 5 generations have grown up with videogames as an integral part of their media consumption and players now stretch well into their 70s.
Videogames are one of the few examples of truly mass market culture that merges high art with cutting edge creative technologies.
A uniquely British medium
Britain is particularly good at making videogames, with a 40 year track record in creating games, including the best selling entertainment product of all time, Grand Theft Auto V, made in Edinburgh by Rockstar Games.
They’re made right across the country, not in a few postcodes in the capital. Their roots stretch back to the dawn of computing when Alan Turing wrote the first videogame programme (Chess) in 1949 before a computer existed to play it on. The first video game (with a screen) was created in Cambridge in 1952, 9 years before the commercial games industry was born in America.
Why videogames matter
We and millions across the country believe that videogames are important. They matter to everyone. They are part of our country’s cultural identity, influencing us and other art forms as well as deeply reflecting our society and our values. They are made using Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics skills which our young people need to thrive in the modern world. They are software but also hardware, ephemera, merchandise and art, objects which need preserving and protecting for future generations.
Our charity is the only institution in the country that focuses exclusively on preserving our rich heritage in videogames.
Find out more about what we do
- Events and festivals: We host events and talks bringing luminaries from the games industry to talk to the public. Most recently, we invited Masayuki Uemura, one of the lead designers of Nintendo NES, to the Museum to talk about his work with the seminal games console in the 1970s-1990s. The BGI’s culture team has been responsible for running the Gamecity festival for many years in Nottingham. This city-wide festival celebrates and educates the public about games culture. The last festival in 2016 was attended by 20,000 people and featured talks, performances, events, cosplay and games played on the streets of the city.
- Research: Our research team has published extensively on games culture and the preservation, interpretation and curation of videogames in museums. We most recently worked on an Economic and Social Research Council-funded research programme on game preservation with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and Bath Spa University. We collaborate with universities such as the University of Nottingham, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield and the Norwich University of the Arts on new primary research including research impact in the Galleries.
Challenges facing games culture
The cultural importance of videogames is not widely recognised amongst policy-makers, funding sources and the media:
- There is little reliable, up-to-date data on the cultural impact of games on British society.
- Focus, funding and research into games as culture by most arts bodies has been limited to date, and what data there is on diversity in games is unreliable
- The media often mishandles or misrepresents games as negative, rather than covering games like other equally complex cultural media such as film and television.
- Games culture festivals struggle to reach scale due to a lack of support from Arts funders, in contrast to other cultural media.
- There is little public funding for the preservation of nearly 40 years of games heritage in the UK, although we are delighted with Art Fund’s groundbreaking support for the Videogame Heritage Society SSN.
- The public has low awareness of the impact, history and value of British-made games.
Support for the BGI’s Culture programme
Games are one of the most important bridges between technology and the arts. Although the UK games sector is at the cutting edge of a rapidly growing global industry, it faces significant challenges in access to finance and skills, and low awareness of just how deeply games are embedded in our culture. The British Games Institute represents a unique opportunity for government to address these challenges with support from a very wide range of arts, education, finance and games organisations. I’m proud to lend my support. Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook, Co-chair of Creative Industries Council
The UK has a formidable reputation for delivering original, outstanding and unique games titles. In 2009 I suggested to the government that they recognise the tremendous potential harnessed within the games industry to contribute socially, educationally and economically to contemporary culture. Just as the BFI has for long championed film culture, it’s time for games to have a national agency to promote its own specific cultural contribution. That’s why I’m joining the call to government to help underwrite a British Games Institute. Lord David Puttnam
Having spent over a decade at the coalface of videogames and culture and witnessed the extraordinary growth of games as part of people’s cultural lives, it’s breath-taking that an effective centre of gravity for the support of this activity hasn’t emerged before now. The central, vital pledge of the BGI to develop and deliver a strategy to nurture and support the rich set of existing, brilliant, diverse activities all around the UK, fills a conspicuous vacuum in the current support landscape. The NVF looks forward to working with the BGI, continuing to play its role in developing videogame culture internationally. Iain Simons, CEO, The National Videogame Foundation
The UK’s sustained global presence in cultural forms as wide as film, TV, theatre and art reflects in no small part the support of publicly-backed industry institutions. The evidence shows that video games now play an essential role in the UK’s cultural as well as economic wellbeing. It’s high time we matched this reality with a lottery-backed British Games Institute. Hasan Bakhshi, Executive Director, Creative Economy and Data Analytics, Nesta
We’re happy to be advising the BGI team embed diversity and inclusion into this exciting new agency’s programmes. We believe that ambitious national initiatives which garner broad support right across the games sector can, through strategic interventions, accelerate the pace of change to build a competitive and diverse industry, and we call on the government to back it. Marie-Claire Isaaman, CEO, Women in Games
At QUAD we believe in the power of art, film and digital media to change people’s lives for the better. Increasingly we work with artists and film makers interested in using gaming technology and techniques in their practice. The establishment and development of the BGI is something we wholeheartedly support. We see the growth of the BGI, bringing together cultural, industrial, educational and artistic development in a coherent and symbiotic way as being a key future development across all artforms. We look forward to seeing the BGI’s continued development and would fully support a formalised relationship between other existing bodies. Adam Buss, CEO, QUAD