Daily Archives: January 3, 2011

#oneaday 2: Time Bandits

So I have signed up to the #oneaday project, thus meaning that I will have a monkey on my back forcing me to write a  blog post each and every day in 2011. Already I am late. Late to sign up (late on the evening of New Year’s Day) and only got my first posting in today, which ended up being a rambling mess yet again focused on the woes of our national sport, Association Football or soccer, depending on how you refer to it.

So this is post #2 of 2011 and I thought I would give some context to my love of computer and video games, or more specifically for the industry that is computer and video games, now broadening into interactive entertainment and beyond. I onne of my day jobs, I work with some very talented people ( I work with talented people in all my jobs, ahem) who are responsible for running the UK, or sometimes a bigger clutch of  ‘territories’,  of many of the world’s finest computer and video games companies. I have worked within this group on a purely voluntary basis without any sort of financial reward  for 10 years now  and I must say I have loved every single day of it. I reckon I put in a day or two a week for this organisation and cause, so it adds up to about 500 days work thus far. That feels like a lot, yet does not really seem to add up. I mean 500 days??? What did we do and where did the time go?

In short, this job revolves around a good deal of politics, dealing with politicians and those who serve them. Trying to define this task I would say it is sort of   ‘dealing with industry needs within a political context and ensuring proper representation and understanding of what we do amongst those who are chosen to govern us’. Snappy eh? Even the definition is clumsy and rambling, which kind of gives you a clue as to the monumental task we all face. Basically, the computer and video games industry makes games (and more) that millions of UK citizens, buy, borrow, rent (legally or otherwise)  and above all enjoy. But just like other creative industries before us, such as film, TV and recorded music, we just don’t get taken that seriously. Time and time again we are seen to be facile  by the media and government alike. We have been and to some extent, still are, a great British success story. We combine art and science in a pretty unique way and welcome scholars of English, design, graphics, music, physics and mathematics equally. In a ever more globalised and competitive market place, our elected leaders are flapping around wondering what Britain (or the UK depending on what moniker you prefer) will do for a  living as we head into a new decade.

Fascination with financial services seemed to have infected and  influenced policy in the last 20 years, indeed much of our best mathematical and scientific talent were recruited by the investment banking industry to the detriment of our engineering, software, technical and creative industries. The whole rotten game proved to have a fatal bug a couple of years back, and there was much talk of diversification spouted by the poiticians of all colours and ideologies. Indeed the investment banking industry bore a quirky little sideline in the noughties, one which many of us never really understood. Hedge funds. I remember thinking that these companies seemed to relish and profit from failure. Failure of other companies, currencies, commodities and in some cases nation states. Indeed some of us would question if  this industry was creative at all or simply destructive. It felt like the global financial crisis of 2008 was the wake up call for the capitalist world. At last those that governed started to talk about the creative industries with some passion.

But the allure of the filthy lucre seems to have prevailed yet again. Just as the endemic and short term greed present within some parts of the financial services industry, was outed, we seemeed to have lurched back into that dark, smelly place. Arts funding is slashed, tax breaks for the video games industry were withdrawn without a shot being fired either way and now we have to start all over again and figure out how and if the UK is a good place to make interactive entertainmen, after all it seems to be a place that loves to consume it.

Sometimes you forget the treacle. It is sweet , dark, uber rich and above all prevents you moving very  fast anywhere. No wonder that this treacle can kill. It killed at least 500 days of my life and counting.

Leave a comment

Filed under Premier League

#oneaday 1: The decline of auotcracy, in the national interest…?

 Given the generally depressed outlook all the way back in dark old days of 2010, I would like to think that 2011 would be a year where things started to get a little bit  better? On a personal front 2010 was as good as any year, but as a West Ham and England supporter it was absolutely dire. Mind you, if you are a Chelsea or a Liverpool supporter, it has also been pretty dire and in Chelsea’s case this is a major change in fortunes twelve months on.  A bright start to the year for the England national team soon faded and hopes of glory ended in a seedy and bloated fashion in South Africa.  Money it seems, can’t buy you love, or indeed sustained success and certainly not the right to host a World Cup.   However, behind the easy headlines though perhaps we are getting a glimpse of a different and possibly a better way of getting collective success. 

2011 saw the slow but significant decline of the’ autocracy’. Gordon Brown, a famed autocrat, led the way in politics by losing an election, all be it narrowly, to a couple of jolly decent chaps who days before were at each other’s throats but seemingly had no choice but to bury their hatchets and work together ‘in the national interest’. We hailed the ‘New Politics’ and even the most cynical of commentators have had to admit that coalition politics is a reality which will be with us for some time, who knows may be for the next 4 1/2 years. We have already seen the compromises and ‘breaking of promises’, but that surely is a sign that change is upon us and one party ideology over another is surely too 20th century. In any case, good or bad it is a change and change can be as a good as a rest.

Moving sideways into sport and specifically football, we have seen the cracks appearing at the top, namely at Liverpool, Chelsea and to some extent at Manchester United. The debacle at Anfield has been a long time coming, but it has torn a once invicible and hugely proud club apart at the seams. A couple of ‘no nothing (about football) ‘ Americans – Gillette and Hicks –  basically borrowed unfeasible amounts of cash to buy a ‘business opportunity’ which they could not resist. The rest is history, except that history is still being written – Americans still own the club, all be it different ones, and Roy Hodgson, the critics’ chocie to replace Capello post South Africa, is on the thinest of thin ice, after only 5 months. The fans are calling for control.

Over at Old Trafford, the fans have been vocal ever since Mr Glazer and his sons and/or brothers took over, again leveraging the cash  debt against the assets of the club. Only Alec Ferguson could steady the ship, bringing an errant Rooney to heel and deliver continued success, seemingly. What will happen when Sir Alex eventually decides to press his stopwatch for the last time?  Again the fans are calling for control, via various business consortia.

However, the biggest  surprise has been in the softie South, in West London, the home of millionaires, billionaires and those who govern us. Chelsea. The absolute reign of Roman Abramovic rolls on,  but the cracks are starting to appear and the water is flooding into the ship. The Mighty Roman is almost like a latter day Captain Smith on the bridge of the Titanic. Chelsea, the unsinkable machine, have hit an iceberg and now need to change course, and make repairs fast. Ray Wilkins was sacked and no one knew why. Ancelotti is living by a thread and their players, used to winning, are getting older and their ambition is blunted. The murmurs from the fans have started and if the bad run continues, those whispers become taunts, which become boos, which become protest and leads to a boycott. The Roman is under pressure and you have to wonder how he will deal with it, given his meteoric rise to fortune and lack of experience in the ‘old’ country. I personally think that he will simply fire and forget, but time will be my judge, and those Chelsea fans may well be demanding control before 2011 is too much older.

So these autocratic club owners may be facing up to the reality of managing people, highly paid ones, who just don’t follow the script. Who knows if there will be more fan democracy at play in 2011, I personally hope so, but what other country allows their prize business assets to be sold to anyone who raises the money? After all, this was the year that Cadbury’s was sold to Kraft and promises made pre-sale, were soon broken once the paperwork had gone through. We operate in a free market, and it allegedly produces the best ‘product’, the dear old Premier League is the best in the world, we are told,  but in the national interest? From the England football team’s perspective, that will never happen.

Meanwhile over in Geneva, one autocratic organisation that is totally self interested and is not showing any signs of changing  soon has announced that they are setting up an anti corruption committee.  FIFA and corruption are words that seem to travel all over the world together on expenses. Let’s see how this one develops in 2011.

Leave a comment

Filed under Premier League