Opportunities and challenges
The UK games development market is growing its heacount at over 7% per annum with no signs of slowing down. A major challenge to a knowledge economy sector such as games development is keeping pace with change, especially in such a rapidly growing market. The quality of raw recruits into games companies has been steadily increasing thanks to 2 accreditation schemes and the great work done by the NextGen Skills Academy. We also have the inspirational work of Digital Schoolhouse in nearly 50 schools around the country and the wonderful work of Grads in Games and Search for Star from Aardvark Swift. To retain its position as a world-leading games development sector, the UK needs to keep its highly skilled, highly educated, highly paid workforce up to date with the latest technological, production and commercial skills, taught using cutting-edge techniques.
Public support for games has not been keeping pace with the sector’s requirements, which exacerbates these long-term challenges to the games development sector:
- Companies have repeatedly said they want to train their staff more, but thousands of games developers require training each year, and many companies struggle to keep pace.
- The government’s matched funding for the Skills Investment Fund for games companies ended in 2017.
- There is a lack of online training to augment workplace training undertaken by many companies. This blended learning approach has consistently been shown to deliver stronger results.
- There are very few games-specific apprenticeships schemes in operation in the games sector, due to the cost, time consumption and difficulty of coordinating employers.
How is the BGI addressing this?
The BGI’s skills programme is delivering a range of services across the skills pipeline that delivers talent into games studios:
- Pixelheads is an after-school programme teaching primary and secondary schoolchildren the meaning and value of games and how they are made.
- A training programme for games start-ups that includes expert training and mentorship.
- An employer-led programme to research, acquire and catalogue the latest best practice games production and commercialisation techniques from leading games studios with the help of top UK universities.
- Partner with the Open University’s FutureLearn course to train a diverse workforce online in best practice games development and commercialisation skills.
- Catalyse a more diverse workforce through apprenticeship programmes in games development and commercialisation, in partnership with leading skills organisations and universities.
Support for the BGI’s Skills programme
The BGI is an important and timely initiative to recognise excellence, support innovation and promote the UK games industry at a global level. Further, the BGI can act as a crucial link between industry, research and education; keeping the UK at the heart of cutting edge game development. Dr Mark Eyles, Animation, Games and Enterprise Section Lead, University of Portsmouth
The BGI’s skills programme sounds like it will have real impact both for games universities like ours but also for the games sector. We welcome this kind of creative collaboration between industry and universities and look forward to being a part of the initiative. Chris Owen, Head of Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University.
The UK games industry goes from strength to strength but its studios struggle to stay up to date with the latest skills. At FutureLearn we’ve been developing the Open University’s social learning platform for precisely the kind of skills programme being proposed by the BGI team and we’re strong supporters of the initiative, not least due to the breadth of support the BGI is winning from universities as well as hundreds of games companies. Simon Nelson, CEO, FutureLearn.
As the National Center of Excellence for Computer Games Education, Abertay University supports the creation of a nationwide organisation to deliver training and continuing development for games professionals as part of a broad spectrum of support for the whole sector. Professor Gregor White, Head of School of Design & Informatics, Abertay University
My work on Gradsingames.com and cat.alyst.io initiatives has shown that the games industry needs an organisation that can channel the efforts of the many, pull together disparate groups, identify and support impactful projects and ensure that industry and academia are working in synergy to tackle the skills crisis. A central organisation with a strong voice like the BGI, with games at its heart, the right financial backing and the correct organisations involved, is required to help achieve the real change required. Ian Goodall, MD, Aardvark Swift
The UK games industry changes rapidly to stay at the forefront of technology, so sharing best practice amongst developers is a key goal in optimising that process. Universities running high quality computer science for games courses are ideally positioned to work with industry and gather the latest intel, with the BGI acting as a hub for disseminating that critical information widely. Mark Featherstone, Course Leader, Computer Science for Games, Sheffield Hallam University
NextGen would welcome a partnership with an organisation that will deliver the shared goals of supporting new talent, increasing the diversity of our workforce and upskilling those already in the industry. These are key if we are to retain our global position. Marcia Deakin, NextGen Skills Academy
I fully support the formation of the BGI. Games have become an essential part of both our economy and culture and the UK needs to do all it can to support a thriving sector it should be proud of. The BGI offers the potential beyond other agencies to form an organisation across industry, academia, and other groups to provide high impact collaboration. It will also address significant fundamental challenges in education and maintaining our skill sets, as well as fostering new talent in this important sector. Charlie Hargood, Senior Lecturer in Games Technology, Bournemouth University
We’re keen to support the BGI campaign which is a very timely proposition. As one of the largest games Schools in the country, many of our highly skilled graduates are working for innovative games and VR companies here and overseas. The BGI could greatly benefit the growth of our creative digital industries in the North East and potentially support our well established Animex festival. Siobhan Fenton, Associate Dean, School of Computing, Media and the Arts, Teesside University
Having worked closely with the games and animation industries on a number of projects it has become very apparent to me that there needs to be a stronger voice and purpose when it comes to representation of the Games industry within the UK. For this reason I think that the proposal for a BGI is very welcome and, from my perspective, will facilitate the collaboration between games and related industries in areas such as skills development and the promotion of digital content companies to the public. Amy Smith, Head of Talent, Framestore