Opportunities and challenges
Games are an important cultural force in the UK today. 60% of the adult population plays games, and 94% of under 24s. Just as Britons have invented some of the world’s most popular traditional games and sports, the UK has invented many games genres. The first ever computer game was created in Cambridge in 1952, 9 years before the commercial games industry was born in America. With nearly 40 years’ legacy of making games on these shores, games are now deeply enmeshed in the fabric of our society, and gamers have been shown to be more likely to engage in other cultural activities than non-gamers.
However, this is not widely recognised amongst policy-makers, funding sources and the media:
- There is no national strategy for promoting the cultural and economic importance of games from the patchwork of important but small-scale games initiatives funded by public money.
- There is little data on the cultural and economic impact of games on British society.
- Funding, focus and research into games as culture by other arts bodies has been limited to date, and there is little data on diversity in the games workforce.
- The media often mishandles or misrepresents games as bad, instead of covering it like other more mature, complex cultural media.
- A growing games festival scene well-supported by public funding in other sectors is struggling to reach scale.
- There is little public funding for nearly 40 years of games heritage in the UK.
- The public has low awareness of British-made games due to the lack of a British games brand, which impacts sales of homegrown games.
When film faced very similar challenges, the government tasked the British Film Institute to address them. Games lacks this centre of gravity and strategic vision for how British games must develop as Art.
How can the BGI address this?
The BGI is proposing a £1.2m annual programme to celebrate the creativity and diversity of British games culture to the public by funding a range of new and existing initiatives.
- Research the economic and cultural impact of games.
- Fund games festivals nationwide and fund a different cluster each year to create a British City of Games festival to champion local games culture.
- Fund residencies for games artists in arts organisations.
- Support the protection and preservation of video games heritage via a national games heritage collection.
- Promote diverse talent in the sector by researching diversity, pioneering diversity standards, building and implementing new diversity partnerships and programmes, advocacy and education.
- Fund ‘games as culture’ projects that promote games’ wider impact
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