Trading places â?? part 2

Trading places â?? part 2

By Develop

April 1st 2008 at 8:00AM

In the second part of our interview with new Tiga CEO Richard Wilson, we discuss the organisationâ??s plans for better knowledge transfer in the industry, why game developers should get closer to educators and the value of strong studio managementâ?¦

Knowledge transfer and education have been key topics for Tiga previously – how do you plan to develop them further?

In terms of knowledge transfer there are some things Tiga can do on a very practical level – and it’s classic trade association stuff, but networking events and ways for members to meet are important. If members have an opportunity to get together, partly on a socialising level, but also you never know what kind of creative relationships may occur. And while a lot of Tiga members are competing with each other, it’s friendly competition in a sense. So I think we can help knowledge share in that sense.

We are also strengthening our ties with educational organisations, universities and organisations like the Technology Strategy Board. Areas like that are a real priority for us.

In terms of the skills and education issue, it’s another priority – partly because it’s key to encourage developers to have ties with universities. I know that there a large number of universities which offer some elements of video games – and I know a lot of them are criticised by the games industry. It’s worth saying that most sectors complain about the quality of graduates – that’s just a general complaint, but also there is some truth in that. The key is not to grumble, but work out how we can improve qualifications, and pass on best practices to the universities themselves.

Everyone says that the industry moves so fast – and it does – but that makes it vital that we have a dialogue with universities so they know what skills are needed.

And I suppose every game developer should be aware that people at universities aren’t preparing for one industry or another – we shouldn’t be expecting students to graduate and be ‘industry ready’. I think they should be capable of being employed in the industry – but we’ve got to bear in mind that anyone who comes out of a course requires additional training to get them up to par. That’s something we just have to accept.

So I suppose another great part of our working with Government means we can help tackle that perceived downfall in those studying maths and sciences in addition to making sure the quality of computer science degrees are up to scratch.

It seems like that the industry has to get past that phase of complaining about the quality of education and start doing something about it…

Yes. Of course for a lot of small businesses their ability to provide training and the like is quite hard in that it costs money and means time out of schedules. But bigger companies should be in a strong position to do it. One of the things I want to look into is to what extent courses that are be subsidised by, for instance, the Skills Council are relevant to the games industry. Because it may well be that there could be opportunities for subsidised training that helps the people in our industry.
What others things, as a fresh eye on the games industry, are the business issues that studios need to be tackling better?

I think management and quality of management is crucial. And I generally don’t know at this stage what management is like in the games sector – is it above the national average or not? I really don’t know but will look into it, because the quality of management skills and management training have a massive impact on the success of businesses.

Managing people is a huge challenge – it’s not just something you solve, it’s a continual process of understanding them and incentivising them. And companies often go out of business or collapse not through any major fault of their own, but because their management isn’t as strong as it could be. Team work is obviously crucial to games development and that places a further emphasis on the quality of management so they can ensure people are pleased and keep turnover down. I think there are some people, in any industry, who can be a manager without any training. But I think the majority of people benefit do benefit from training.

So the solution, which could be tailor-made courses for the games industry’s management, could be really radical. And there are a number of institutions out there that offer that kind of training who may be able to offer something bespoke to our industry.

When Tiga was founded, it was specifically for independent studios. At that time, there was a clear division between what in-house studio was versus and independent, but now the marketplace has changed – and Tiga lets studios like those owned by Sony or Codemasters for instance, or middleware companies, contribute to the organisation. As a new comer, are you finding that ‘them vs us’ style separation doesn’t exist?

There clearly is a blurring in the membership of Tiga – and other organisations – I don’t have a problem with that and am very relaxed about it. I think Tiga should be ‘Catholic’ in its approach to encouraging people to join the organisation not least because, again, it’s a way of transferring knowledge. If Tiga can get big companies or technology firms as members then I think we are serving the interests of games developers – and vice versa. I’m cosmopolitan in my approach to Tiga membership. I’m happy to have a wide variety of members.

Do you think you could widen the remit even further to provide a home so to speak to those firms working in games who so far feel they don’t have an organisation that supports them?

I’d be delighted if they did turn to us. Of course it’s my job to make the organisation attractive to them, but I think we really can provide something good to happen between companies – again, share information and best practice, provide a unified voice to the Government, and make for a great, diverse organisation.