Why the game education revolution won't cost a penny

Why the game education revolution won't cost a penny
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

February 1st 2011 at 2:10PM

EDUCATION WEEK: Expecting a fat government cheque won't get us anywhere, says Vaizey

Implementing the drastic changes to games education required in the UK need not put strain on the country's stretched economy.

That's according to those behind NESTA's new report on the skills shortage many claim is currently afflicting the UK games industry.

The report – launched today in central London – makes 20 recommendations aimed at educational institutions of every level, in an attempt to foster an ecosystem that better provides the games and visual effects with top quality home grown talent.

Concerns were raised at the event that the current economic climate in the UK would make realistic implementation of the recommendations very difficult, if not impossible. However, the report's curators are confident that this is not the case.

"We were very conscious that there was not much money left in the kitty, and we're looking for solutions that are workable," said Ian Livingstone, life president of Eidos and report co-author. "Therefore we're not asking for particularly new resource. We're looking at redirecting existing resource."

Livingstone pointed to examples of affordable change such as re-focusing the training of teachers to embrace games development teaching, which ties in with the report's recommendation of bringing computer science into the National Curriculum.

"We do recognise that funding is very, very limited," confirmed Alex Hope of visual effects outfit Double Negative, who also co-authored the report. "What we're suggesting is that what is there is directed at the right places. Cources such as the one at Bournemouth, and such as the ones that many people here today run are very expensive to run."

According to Hope, getting the right balance between the arts and sciences is absolutely essential to the success of both the games and effects sectors.

"The strategically important and vulnerable subjects need to receive support from the various funding councils, until we get to a point where market forces take over," he said, concluding: "We're not there yet".

"The key point in this report is that it's not about resource; it's about focus," added Ed Vaisey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, who commissioned the report. "There's a lot that we can do together as and industry and education.

"We've got to get away from the debate about resources. If we're talking about changing this country, and changing focus, and asking 'how big is the checque from the Government going to be?', we're not going to get to get anywhere."

The report is filled with ways the industry can do that, insisted Vaizey, who said that the key is to work with the existing organisations that have funding.

Also on stage at the launch was John Hayes, Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Life Long Learning. Hayes said that while he agrees resources aren't the whole story, money is available to help implement the recommendations.

"I would point out on the resources issue that the Government have put into place the Growth and Innovation Fund from the Department for Business, Industry and Skills," said Hayes. "That fund is designed to identify those sectors where there is real capacity for growth, but there might be barriers that need to overcome."