Why the video games sector in Scotland doesnâ??t exist

Why the video games sector in Scotland doesnâ??t exist

By Brian Baglow

September 6th 2012 at 4:40PM

Brian Baglow of Scottishgames.net reacts to a new government report that seems to misrepresent the status of Scotland's games sector

This article originally appeared on Scottishgames.net.

Yesterday we reported that the digital media and interactive sectors had been inexplicably omitted from the 2012 Year of Creative Scotland awards. Today the reason may have become a little clearer.

The games industry in Scotland does not exist in any significant way. It contributes nothing to the economy, there are only 200 people working in the games sector and there appear to be no students and no games courses.

Allow us to explain.

A new report, examining the contribution of the creative industries to Scotland’s economy was released in June this year. Created by DC Research, with input from CogentSI and Pirnie Ltd, the report was commissioned by Creative Scotland in conjunction with Scottish Enterprise.

The study uses publicly available information and statistics from 2010, to explore the sixteen industries which comprise the creative sector in Scotland.

One of these industries is ‘computer games’ and is covered in the report alongside film and video, television and radio, writing and publishing etc.

According to the report, in 2010, the industry in Scotland employed 200 people and had a gross value add of £0 (allowing for rounding).

The report does note that many companies may have been missed out thanks to the use of different industry categorisations, or may be part of larger organisations who’s primary focus is not video games (name two!)

Even so, the figures given – 200 employees and value add of £0 are ridiculously inaccurate. Rockstar North alone has well over 200 employees. There are over 120 games-related companies in Scotland, most of which have more than 1-2 people.

The problem is that this is an official report created by two Scottish government organisations which oversee the cultural and enterprise elements of the Scottish economy. Moving forward policy decisions, funding allocations etc. will all be made based on the information in this document.

If ‘computer games’ is seen as small, insignificant and of little economic value then the sector will treated as such.  As it stands in this report, computer games is only creative industry – of sixteen – which creates no value. It is shown as having less direct employment (200) than music (400), cultural education (400) or visual art (800) or photography (900).

In the same table however, Software/Electronic publishing is shown as having the largest direct employment (19,100), though there’s no research into whether any of the companies in this category are involved in games.

This radically affects the distribution of creative industries jobs geographically. Without the games sector, Dundee is shown as lagging far behind Edinburgh and Glasgow in terms of creative industries employment.

The good news is that when the report looks at employment growth rates from 1971-to-2010, computer games is by far the largest growth area with a whopping 9.0 per cent up to the 200 people who worked in gaming in 2010.

Again, the report notes that there are probably a LOT more than 200 people working in computer games, but they’re damned if they can find them. Fingers crossed the politicians, public servants, policy makers and heads of cultural/enterprise organisations all read through the footnotes and pick this handy information up.

The financial picture is just as depressing. The gross value added table showing the sixteen creative industries in Scotland, shows computer games lagging behind photography, music, cultural education, etc. with a rounded down value of £0, giving the games sector 0.1 per cent of the total contribution to the economy.  The footnotes once more highlight that there is an actual value there, but since it’s below £10M, this has been rounded down to zero.

Even the economic contribution study, which explores the benefit to the wider economy from the various industries up through the supply chain places computer games at the bottom of the list. Only ‘other crafts’ contributes less to Scotland.

Finally, the breakdown of students in Scotland doesn’t list any games-specific students at all.  Software engineering and computer science has several thousand, but there’s no mention of gaming. Even the ‘others in computer science’ category, which might covers game development/design lists only 25 students in the whole country. Of course, the complete list of creative industries and arts courses doesn’t mention games either…

We should also note while we’re at it, that the PDF of the report is locked and you’re not allowed to copy elements.

You can find the whole report online.

So congratulations. If you’re reading this, unless you’re one of the lucky 200, then you don’t have a job in an industry which for all practical purposes doesn’t exist and contributes no value to the country you’re in.

What do we do now? We – the games industry as a whole, not Tiga, not UKIE, not Dundee – need to speak, collectively to the research companies and to the organisations which commissioned the report. We need to gather and provide more accurate information and data to all of these organisations.

We also need to decide exactly how companies creating, publishing or otherwise working with games are categorised, defined and discovered.

If this means working together, then we’re going to have to grit our teeth, get out of the offices and actually do something. Otherwise we run the risk of being sidelined, overlooked and isolated from the wider creative industries. Seen as a curiosity and a hobby, rather than part of the most significant new creative industry in the world today.

How we respond to this will show the rest of Scotland and the rest of the world what we’re made of. Let’s do it properly.

If you’re interested in helping to create an ‘official’ response to this report, contact Scottishgames.net directly.

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This feature originally appeared on Scottishgames.net here. Develop is hugely greatful to Brain Baglow for allowing us to publish this feature.