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by Tom Freeman
23 January 2015
Digital first: supporting the games industry

Digital first: supporting the games industry

The digital technology industry contributes more than £3bn to the Scottish economy with around 73,000 employees, according to industry body ScotlandIS. Last year Scottish ICT businesses reported in their annual survey growing confidence too, with business and employment growth expected to rise. Skills Development Scotland worked with ScotlandIS to develop a Skills Investment Plan for Scotland, which predicts a shortage of qualified employees in the sector, despite endeavours by industry and government alike. 

What is often overlooked is the contribution of video games, a sector which also has one foot in the creative industries. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee is currently looking at the sector as part of its work into the creative industries, and Dundee MSP Jenny Marra, who convenes the Cross-Party Group on Video Games Technology, welcomes the recognition. “I think the inquiry is very important because I think it will give us the focus. The last few meetings of the Cross-Party Group have been really looking at how we can work with government and how we can work with industry to actually develop an agenda. My hope for this inquiry is that it really gets to the nub of where the industry needs to go, what kind of support it needs, and really give us some pointers to take the agenda forward,” she said.

Industry representative Brian Baglow told a reception at the parliament it was a volatile industry. “It’s constantly changing, constantly evolving, and constantly being pushed forward by new devices introduced to market, new business models, and as such the sector is almost in some ways schizophrenic. Everybody has heard about Grand Theft Auto. Grand Theft Auto V in its first month made more money than the global music industry. It broke seven world records, making a billion dollars in a few days. Everybody has heard about Minecraft, parents have heard about it, and it’s a phenomenon. These are global phenomena which are coming out of Scotland,” he said.
Grand Theft Auto creators Rockstar North are moving their Edinburgh office to the old Scotsman building right next to the Scottish Parliament, so the games industry’s visibility among MSPs is only likely to increase. 
Baglow insists the sector shouldn’t be looked at in isolation. “Interactive media is truly a transformative technology. Games are now being used in areas like education, healthcare, training, fitness and sports, they can help people engage with politics, they can be used in so many ways. Games are informing so many different things. Everything is becoming a little more playful,” he says.

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