As the editor in chief of the Scottishgames.net blog, I try to keep an eye on the recognition and support which the games industry receives in a small country, hovering on the edge of independence (or not). Earlier this week I questioned why the Year of Creative Scotland awards recognised film, television, music and the performing arts, while technology, digital media and interactivity weren't included in any way.
Yesterday I found out why.
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 me 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. These are the organisations concerned with the cultural sector and business and enterprise respectively.
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 (go on, name me 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.
GTA would, you might think, as one of the world's best-selling games franchises, would contribute something, right?
No. Apparently not. (Oh and bonus points if you knew GTA has been developed in Scotland from day one...)
The real problem here 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. may well 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 - long noted as the hub of the gaming sector - 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 1971-2010, computer games is by far the largest growth area with a whopping 9.0% 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% 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…
You can find the whole report online.
What does Scotland do now? We – the Scottish 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 the world what we’re made of. We need to do it properly.
Until then, you probably didn't read this, as I don't exist.