Category Archives: Video games

Publishing 3.0 – The Art of Discovery

I wrote a series of 4 articles for Develop back in June 2015. Seems a long time ago, and much has changed. But some of this is still relevant in my book.

Want or need? This is something I often ask myself about many things that come up in my daily life, business or otherwise. So often we mix the two words up contextually. We all really do need to breathe, although we may think we just want to. Do I need a game or do I just want it? Indeed, does any games developer really need a publisher? No, but some may choose to want to work with one.

Making games has never been easier – or at least the barriers to entry for game makers have never been lower. There is no guarantee that all of the games made will be good, let alone great, but lining up on the grid has never been so democratically accessible. The downside is that it is the same for everyone and the sheer number of games being made today is far higher than it has ever been.

Indeed, I would argue that the number of truly great games being made by super talented developers has never been so high and so diverse. Next week will see a load more great games being made available digitally from a variety of places to work on a myriad of devices. And the week after that, we will see more.

Even though the market is growing, it is becoming more and more difficult to get our games discovered and therefore actually played.
The market for digital games is growing all the time, with mobile and tablet sales off the scale selling a mere 45m units or so every single quarter. There are 125m gamers in the Steam community and over 150m consoles from two generations that could connect to the internet and thus buy and stream games. But even though the market is growing, it is becoming more and more difficult to get our games discovered and therefore actually played.

A quick disclaimer: I am going to focus on premium games, games that I will define as those sold for money. My work with free-to-play games for mobile and tablet at AppyNation is a whole different story. In a nutshell, the same problem faces everyone who makes games, namely how can you get gamers to want or even need your game?

The problem has always been there of course, even when we had only traditional retailers to sell our games. Aside from the assumption that the game is both of high quality and good value for money, you always needed to make sure your game was known about and wanted, or needed, by gamers.

REFLECTION BEFORE RELEASE

So tip number one is to start at the beginning. Assuming that you have worked out what type of game you are making, and who you are actually making it for, you will have decided what platform you will make it for. You then need to ask yourself a number of questions in order to set some objectives and targets for you and your game.

First up, you will need to produce a communications plan. As much as you may not want to, face up to it because without a plan, your chances of success will probably reduce a fair bit. So bite the bullet and get weaving.

Ask yourself ‘what makes my game different and why would gamers want (or indeed need) it?’. You will need to research and analyse what other games that could be similar to yours are on, or are due to be on, the market. You may want to build an analysis detailing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats around your game. This requires you and your team to be frank and honest with yourselves. Do not shy away from the hard facts, but equally don’t beat your team and your game up. Having strong competition is actually a good thing and it should drive you to produce excellence. Never put your head in the sand: you get sand in your eyes!

You will also need to think hard about:

How are you going to build a community of gamers who want to play, support and buy your game?
Can you persuade the platform holders that your game is special and thus in need of some highlight, featuring or focus?
How exactly are you going to get Streamers and YouTubers to play your game, hopefully in a way that is kind to your game?
How do you reach out to what is left of the traditional games media, and encourage them to even read your news release?
What assets do you need to create and when you have created them, how and when do you release them into the big wide world?
How many languages do you set out to support and how do you get coverage on a global basis?
And when that is all done, how and how long do you support the game and your community post release?
All that and more will need to be considered in due course.

THE PERKS OF PERSONALITY

And then there is YOU. Gamers love to know more about the people behind the games. Whilst this may feel counter intuitive to many games developers, believe me, your personality, values, attitude and ambitions will define you and your studio’s brand. Whilst it may sound like corporate spiel, it is actually very important and is a vital part of your communications strategy over time. So think about that and ensure that you do try your best to communicate all of your values to your potential fans, community and industry peers. And anyone else who cares to watch, listen, or even read about you and your game.

Clear and consistent communication is essential at all stages. You may want to do this yourself or you may want to work with a professional communications agency. There are plenty of great people who can help you, and many of them no longer work for big corporations, wholly independent and super motivated. And motivated is key. You must work with people who are passionate about your games, just like you. Any other approach is second best. Whichever route you take, and I would advise anyone to work with great people, you have to figure out what makes your game special, indeed what is the game’s special stuff or X factor?

Gamers love to know more about the people behind the games. Believe me, your personality, values, attitude and ambitions will define you and your studio’s brand
What is the core gameplay, and how are you going to get that message into the right media, so that they understand and more importantly become supporters of you and your game? How do you focus on the benefits of your game, rather than just the features? This is something all of us can fall foul of. We all love features, but unless there is a pay-off, or a benefit to players, they will not move the needle on the sales to justify the time it takes to make those features in the first place. So you must ensure features become benefits; if they don’t, don’t waste your time putting them into your game.

Once you have created your communications messaging, ensure that you get other eyes on it for a sanity check. Keep the message succinct and simple. No one wants waffle anyway and no one has the time to even read it, let alone take it in and write or broadcast about it. Try and get inside the heads of the people you are trying to reach. What do they actually need in order to cover your game or your studio? Research and confer with industry experts and your peers. If you are going to put a quote out to the media, what sort of quote should it be and is it both appropriate and interesting, to the target audience?

MEDIA FRIENDLY

Make sure you make things as easy for the media as possible. Like you, they are over busy all of the time and simply don’t have time to dissect a jumbled set of random information. Be tidy. Produce materials that are appropriate and targeted. Decide on the tone of voice that you want to adopt, if you are unsure, simply be yourself, be natural and don’t try and fake it.

If you are working with an agency or agencies if you are covering multiple territories, make sure that you take the time to brief them clearly about the game and importantly tell them what you are trying to achieve. Positively encourage and listen to their feedback. Your partners should not only be experienced, but they should also be a great sounding board offering vital feedback and advice before you go public with your campaign.

Think also about your timings around asset distribution and the phasing of their release. For any of you who have run Kickstarter campaigns, you will know that it is wise to map out your strategy and tactics before you unleash your campaign video an start that clock ticking down. You will know that engagement is essential and for that to work there has to be great content that is shareable. It is the same with a game launch. You must work out or take advice as to your timings. Too much communication and it is spam, too little and no one actually knows anything about your game and importantly, why it is important.

Anyone that has run Kickstarter campaigns will know that engagement is essential and for that to work there has to be great content that is shareable. It is the same with a game launch.
Walk through your plans time and time again and discuss and refine them until you and your team are convinced it will work. Then get ready for the real world to react, or not. Not everything will be clockwork and your assumptions may be wide of the mark or just plain wrong. When you launch the campaign, via social media and/or more traditional media, you must have at least one person on top of the campaign at all times.

It can be very disheartening if you don’t get the media pick up you were hoping for. Don’t worry, that happens. What is important is how you react and re-arm the campaign. Ensure your team is aligned, keep them motivated and above all communicate lots try to do regular face to face meetings, and ensure you are in touch over Skype or Hangout. When you get coverage, make sure it is shared amongst your team so everyone is aware of the progress at all time. Good news is a motivator. This is all part of the measuring process that is essential. Measure your results in real time, track your progress against your plan and remember to be agile. If the plan is not working, change it.

There are plenty more aspects to think about and cover off when trying to get your game discovered, so expect some more thoughts on those very soon. In the meantime, be clear, consistent and confident. There are no shortcuts: you have to work hard and smart.

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This really is a Special Effect

It was June 2008 when I first met Mick Donegan. Mick had started a charity called SpecialEffect which had a very simple aim. To help disabled people play games and in so doing enhance their quality of life through play. There was a big official launch and at that event, Mick demonstrated eye control technology that allowed a severely disabled, quadriplegic England U21 Rugby player, Matt Hampson to use his eyes to move a cursor around a screen thus controlling a racing car around a track in a video game. It was quite literally amazing.

From that day, myself and Kirsty, decided that we simply had to help the small team at SpecialEffect and do what we could to get them support and awareness within the video games industry. We both became VPs of the charity and I was also honoured to be there when the Prime Minister, David Cameron opened the SpecialEffect’s fully accessible games centre, the first in the UK, and I even had to make a speech addressed to him, standing about three feet away!

And you know what? It has been relatively easy to help spread the word about the good that SpecialEffect do for disabled people over these last seven years. Seeing people become connected with their friends and siblings through play is just brilliant. And seeing the same people not being judged when they plan online with their friends is simply awe inspiring. SpecialEffect’s work, in one word, is transformational.

SpecialEffect never refuse to help anyone who has a need. Quite the reverse, they actively meet those needs, every single time, no exceptions. As the word gets out there, so the demands on SpecialEffect grow. In short saying no is simply not in SpecialEffect’s DNA.

With demand for their work rising exponentially as awareness goes viral, so SpecialEffect needs to increase its capacity to respond. This takes time, resources and of course, it takes money. Add this to the care, kindness and love that SpecialEffect show all those they help, and you can see why SpecialEffect is truly special for all of us in the games industry.

Without going all Bob Geldof on you, we do need more support, yes that comes in many ways, but money helps. So please, don’t forget that every penny and cent counts. Spread the word, offer your time and above all do what you can to help SpecialEffect this very special charity. And yes, if you are a GamesAid member, please consider voting for them in the annual GamesAid charity vote which opens at noon on Monday, 7th September until noon, Monday 14th September 2015. You can join GamesAid and get your vote here

This video sums it all up really,

and if you want to donate cash, please dig deep hereHelp Special Effect

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Tell me why….

Another rare day working from the relative peace of home. Sometimes it just gets a bit meh though. Mondays can be good or bad. Today was neither. With one week left before I take a short break, followed by a business trip to the Middle East, I had a ton to do. And as usual an incoming came in and needed dealing with. That involved an hour long conversation, trying to persuade and enlighten a very dear work colleague of the benefits of something important we are all bound into. I think it worked, but time will be my judge. And of course, that achievement simply lined up a load more tasks off the back off it, none of which were on the to do list at 8am when I started my day. A short visit to a more local dentist was a relief in so many ways!

More on the slate for GamesAid getting ready for the Trustees meeting this week, followed by some BAFTA Children’s Jury prep including going through all the games to be judged meant the day job needed to be done either side of the England football match. A ton of follow up to investor meetings has started and now we need to start closing down the options and prospects. A shareholder communication and meeting with the landlord of our building in Huntingdon also all needed follow up. And there was more work on behalf of ‘From Bedrooms to Billions’.

Today, Tuesday is set to be a very busy day in London. That to do list needs to get shorter, that’s for sure!

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Good Friday

I thought it would be handy to try and record, briefly, some of the work I do, given all of the events of the last few months.Well what a day. Again. A rare ‘working from home day’ kicked off with an early morning visit to the doctors. That was to have a blood test. In 10 days time I will know what is right or wrong with me. Meantime I have a ‘to do ‘ list as long as my arm and an inbox which runs to about 1500m long. As always, you prioritise in your head. Then the world comes online and all hell breaks loose.

First up, I had to confirm what we are going to do at EGX in London in September, given the turbulence of recent months, all plans had been on hold. We decided to show Dream from Hypersloth and Tango Fiesta from Spilt Milk, both games which will have a full release this year and ensure we got the PC gamers attending the show to know we were there. The dev teams are awesome and up for working the four grueling days which is a tribute to their commitment and passion.

We had more deals and promotions to consider for Train Fever, which launched on Steam yesterday and now is wanted by other digital platforms. That game has done well for Gambitious (the rev share games specialist crowdfunding platform) and Urban Games (the developer) and is the culmination of 18 months of hard work and effort. Alongside all of this, over at AppyNation we are getting closer to the launch of our free to play game, Dr Quizington which will launch in a couple of weeks and there were assets to sign off and launch plans to make.

I also spent some of the day on Skype with Anthony and Nicola Caulfield, from Gracious Films, the makers of the hotly anticipated, ‘From Bedrooms to Billions’. There’s some exciting stuff coming down the line, and everyone is pleased that both screenings at EGX are sold out, within 48 hours of going on sale.

Finally, I spent a fair bit of the day helping out with the GamesAid voting campaign, and planning the cheque presentation ceremony on the 25th of September. There is loads more to do, which is always out of hours so to speak, so the weekend will be needed to get myself up to speed.

I even had time for a cup of tea and a read of this week’s MCV. It was nice to see Martyn Gibbs CEO of GAME Digital referencing the trial that Just Flight ran for their GAME Wallet recently. Our tech team worked hard to make that happen, another project which is breaking new ground. Tomorrow is Saturday and I am hoping to get a bit of the to do list knocked off. And confirm flights to the Middle East.

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Video Games and Art

Here’s a speech I gave at London’s City Hall on Thursday 25th October 2012, during the London Games  Festival http://www.londongamesart.com .  It was about why I thought games and interactive entertainment were a key part of the growth in tech based business, what part they could play in the UK’s economic growth and importantly what the Mayor and the Government could do to kick start the much needed economic and social growth we need right now.

That night the assembled guests marveled at the fantastic examples of video game art hanging on the walls of City Hall. Now, anyone can buy these wonderful pieces in an exclusive auction running right now. The great thing is that EVERY SINGLE PENNY raised will go to the wonderful video games charity, SpecialEffect. You can see what’s on sale here http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/specialeffect2012/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686

I would like to thank the Mayor and deputy of Mayor London for allowing the video games industry such a prestigious space to show some of our most creative visual art to the public. I would also like to thank Kirsty Payne, Nadia Lawlor and Adam Cooper who have worked tirelessly to bring these wonderful creations to you.  This exhibition showcases games that are now part of our culture from Mario to Sackboy to Sonic and beyond. This is a first for London and a first for the video games industry and shows that London can and will continue set the pace within the digitally connected global economy.

London’s games sector is part of a national success story that contributes over £3bn to the UK economy a number which is set to rise and rise in the coming years.

London is the home to gold standard business success stories such as Mind Candy, with their 60 million registered players, Rocksteady Studios, creators of BAFTA winning Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Sports Interactive creators of BAFTA winning Football Manager, Splash Damage and Mediatonic whose games have been played by over 300 million people. Add to this the vibrant indie PC mobile and social games and App developers based in London such as, AppyNation, Future Games of London, We are Interactive, Ustwo, Hoopla, Honey Slug, Hotgen, Hand Circus, Playmob, Preloaded and many more.

 Alongside the games developers we also have a vibrant publishing and technology scene which is growing all the time. Sega, Square Enix, Capcom, Namco Bandai, Microsoft Studios, Konami, GREE, Sony Computer Entertainment, Mastertronic and many more  have their European headquarters here, along with household technology names like Facebook, Twitter and Google. Of course The UK Association for Interactive Entertainment, who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the whole industry to put this wonderful exhibition together, are also based right here in London. All of these companies employ thousands of skilled designers, marketeers, finance, legal and logistics professionals. London employs 24% of all UK jobs in computing and related activities.

An historic world trading centre, London is sat bang in between mainland Europe, Asia and the Americas. Historically, we used our technical prowess and innovation combined with our spirit of endeavour to build our great businesses and institutions. The old River Thames and the Oceans which were the arteries of trade, have now been complemented by the thing we call the Internet. Our ships and sailors have been replaced by our agile tech companies skippered by intrepid digital entrepreneurs. We are in a new Golden Age and the stakes are high.  London continues to lead the way in digital trade and exchange of ideas with an evolving culture fostered through a spirit of collaboration and disruptive  business models.

 In short London is at the epicentre of this digital world economy culture. But we are in a global race, and some may even say that this country is at economic war, either way the stakes are the highest they can be.

The UK and London have some of the most creative and innovative hi-tech businesses around.  We are growing and a success story but could grow faster and employ more Londoners if we could solve our talent shortages.

Simply put, we don’t train enough people, early enough in their education, in the right things – chiefly computer programming – and we need to address this.   

The Mayor’s Education Inquiry recognised the challenge for London set out by Next Gen Skills’ evidence. 

In 2011 there were just 382 A level computing and computer studies entries across London out of 98,027 entries in all subjects – 0.4% of all A-levels taken in the city.  We know that this is down to poor curriculum, low numbers of schools offering the subject, low numbers of qualified teachers and poorly articulated career horizons.

The Ukie-backed Next Gen Skills campaign was launched last year to solve skills shortages not just in the video games industry, but across digital creative and hi-tech businesses.

Since then the Government has committed to reforming the outdated ICT course students study at GCSE and create space in the curriculum for Computer Science to be taught in our schools. 

On 19 October the Government has also made clear its support for Computer Science teachers, by providing £20,000 bursaries  akin to Physics teachers to attract bright new talent.

This is welcomed – at the moment 2/3 of ICT teachers in London are not qualified to teacher even the outgoing ICT curriculum. 

Now we need a new strategic look across London’s 32 Boroughs at the quality of our provision and the quality of our teaching.

We believe the Mayor could play a major role in improving partnerships between business, universities and schools for the study of STEM subjects, and promote effective routes into STEM-related professions like ours.

So we have challenges, of course we do. All new and innovative industries will have these, but we know what we have to do and if we are in any doubt about the power of games, just draw on the inspiration around here  at City Hall. The video games and Interactive Entertainment is the new rock ‘n’ roll and the movies rolled up in one. Our games, our play and our communities will shape and define our culture and create our wealth.

Enjoy these wonderful images.

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GamesAid gets pretty vocal

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It was back in April at the MCV Awards  that Ian Chambers mentioned to Ian Livingstone and I that he had the idea of assembling a choir and performing a live concert, in front of real people, entirely made up of people from the games industry. Without really thinking it through, Ian and I said we were in and it would not be a problem to get 25 fellow games industry people together. To make things even ‘better’ we would do it as a fund raiser for GamesAid and set a target to raise £10,000 and a load of awareness to boot.

Then it dawned on me. It’s not often that one really does take oneself out of one’s comfort zone. [Or indeed refer to yourself as ‘one’ Ed ].  Yes we all talk about it and some of us do it, but usually we know that we can and will achieve the goal. But this choir lark means some of us i.e. me, were truly going to a new place.

So on the 19th of September this year, a few souls from the games industry assembled at the wonderful Neville Mariner rehearsal room deep in the crypt area of St Martin’s, just off Trafalgar Square in central London on the start of our journey. Could we be blended into a functioning choir?

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Ian was very clear from the start. We needed to both believe we could do it and enjoy the experience. If we did that, then the hard work or the ‘note crunching‘ would become secondary and thus easier.

It turned out that we did have some ‘form’ in the gathering. Rich Keen, Becca Roberts, Harry Holmwood, Ombelline Wallon, Katie Brooks and Rob Cooper all have great voices. Ian of course is an accomplished musician and singer, although as a choir we would not have the benefit of his Alto on the night!

The overriding lessons of the early sessions were geared around the act of breathing which is vital, obviously. I was struck by just how hard this can be and how exhausting one is after just one number! We were told to stand up straight and put our weight on our toes. Look forward, head up and smile. We did as we were told. We always do.

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The curve ball outside of all the physical effort and technique needed is that the songs are not always as I remembered them as a kid. Because many of them are different ‘arrangements’ we are effectively learning new songs. Without giving the game away too much, harmonies can lead us all into temptation. Temptation to sing the versions or arrangements we all know and have come to love. Unlearning can be as hard as learning especially after all these years!

Despite all of this, Ian has managed to drill us into a semblance of a harmonised unit. The 2 months have flown by, we have had 6 rehearsals which have all been well attended, given everyone is always mega busy, it’s a tribute to the dedication of the choir members (I am loathe to use choristers just yet) that we have come so far. But with less than a month to go now, we have to up our game. A lot.

So more single practice at home, in the shower or walking along the street, more rehearsals and more belief are needed. As our choir master keeps telling us there is no substitute for the hard hours we all need to put in to make sure we deliver on the night of the 19th of December.

The venue is booked, and it is stunning the wonderful St Stephen’s in Rosslyn Hil, London, NW3.

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We have even got  the mince pies, mulled wine, film crew, sheet music, venue, ticketing all sponsored by the wonderful people at EA, IGN, Sega, Indigo Pearl, Ubisoft, OnLive, Mastertronic and Fink Creative.

If you would like to come along and lend your support on the night, sing along, enjoy the festive fancies and support the wonderful charity that is GamesAid www.gamesaid.org then you can buy at ticket at http://www.justgiving.com/christmasconcert .

Every single penny of your entrance fee goes to GamesAid. It’s only £20 for adults and only a tenner £10 for under-16s. 6.45pm on Thursday 19th December 2012, mark your diary now.

Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas!

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oneaday#52: The day I asked the Prime Minister for computer science

I should have written this up at the time, I drafted it, half finished, half dusty.

Having just read Eric Schmidt’s MacTaggart lecture from the Edinburgh Festival today, it took me back to a brisk winter morning in Oxfordshire. It was Thursday 1oth March 2011. It turned out that this was a very special day for Kirsty and I. We had been invited to the opening of the UK’s first National Accessible Games Centre in Charlbury, and I was to address the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron no less. On the way to the opening, our hearts sank, when we heard on Radio 4 that ‘Prime Minister Cameron was on his way to Brussels to meet feillow European leaders to discuss the escalations of civil unrest in Libya’.

‘That’s us done for then Kirst’ I said, ‘the PM won’t be coming to Charlbury today to open the centre’

‘Yes, what a shame’ said Kirsty, ‘still let’s make the best of it after all Matt Hampson is guest of honour and it is a big day for SpecialEffect (the charity that had built the centre)

So we carried on and I was less nervous about my speech, given I knew Matt and the SpecialEffect team.

However, when we got to the National Accessible Games Centre, it was crawling with all sorts of men in black, complete with ear pieces and military style gaits. The word from our hosts was that Mr Cameron was coming after all. He duly arrived and I made the following speech in a small room pretty much one to one, we were literally 3 feet from each other.

I am extremely proud and honoured to be asked to say a few words on this momentous occasion on behalf of the UK video games industry. I am thrilled that SpecialEffect are opening the National Accessible Games Centre here in Charlbury and is a tribute to the hard work put in by the whole of the SpecialEffect team.

This Centre is the first of it’s kind in the UK and we believe in the world and it is a real landmark not only for this wonderful charity, but for the video games industry in general.

The video games industry prides itself on providing true interactive entertainment. But it was only when this very special charity reached out to our industry, the multinational corporations and the smaller businesses, when they nudged us if you like, that we realised that that we could do so much more and make our games truly accessible to those
people with disabilities.

We feel that video games and interactive entertainment products offer a unique opportunity to level the playing field so to speak, to allow all people with or without disabilities to compete, play and enjoy games with each another. We are in an unique position as an entertainment industry and through interaction with initiatives such as SpecialEffect we can
truly start to ensure that we make games that are inclusive.

Our industry charity, GamesAid of which I am chairman, has been massively impressed by their work. So much so that for two years running the members of GamesAid have voted to support SpecialEffect.

Indeed the highlight of the UK’s premier consumer games show, the Eurogamer Expo last September in London was not Assassins Creed Brotherhood, Dance Central or Gears of War 3, it was the work that SpecialEffect showed wowing media and gamers alike. SpecialEffect certainly left a massive impression with their amazing Eye Control technology allowing everyone to play Need for Speed with nothing more than their eyes.

I would also like to say a few words about the synergies between the UK games development industry and SpecialEffect as these
are important to us all.

Driven by a technical expertise, fuelled by passion and commitment and often against all the odds and without a book of rules to follow, the UK has produced some of the greatest video games ever produced. From Elite to Grand Theft Auto to Fable to Little Big Planet, the UK has shown a propensity for technical innovation and awesome gameplay. In short we have punched above our weight on the world wide stage and our UK games developers have contributed and will continue to contribute significantly to the creative industries sector.

In the same way, SpecialEffect led by Dr Mick Donegan and his wonderful team have showed exactly the same approach to their cause. They are doing amazing work, writing the rules as they go, innovating and pioneering along the way. They have showed true leadership and are a massive asset to UKPLC.

Today is the day that SpecialEffect have taken an important step on the road to building this very special place – it really is a little big accessible games centre, built for games and above all open to everyone.

The Prime Minister gave his response, which was straight off the bat, without notes and highly impressive. There were some pictures and then we were instructed to move outside for more pictures. At this point Mr Cameron asked if the industry was getting behind SpecialEffect, and ‘are there any stragglers that I need to help along?’. I said that the industry had got behind the initiative and support was forthcoming and from multiple sources.

He then asked me if there was one thing he could take back to his Government to make a difference to the computer and video games industry. I paused, thought about it, and then said ‘yes, as a matter of fact there is one crucial message you could take back to your Government. Please ask Mr Gove to consider putting computer science back on the National Curriculum’. I referenced the recently published Livingstone Hope Report on skills for the computer and video games and VFX industries, commissioned by Ed Vaizey at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and that it had called for 20 recommendations, the
first of which was to put computer science back on the map. Mr Cameron asked why we should do this. I couched it in simple terms.

‘Prime Minister, we are very creative nation and the creative industries are an example of where we are winners. We have an amazing music, TV, film, and games industries and are
respected the world over. One of the many reasons for this is that we own the English language and it gives us and other English speaking peoples a unique advantage. It is almost a code which allowed us to create art and entertainment relevant to the 20th century. But now in the 21st century, we are all touched and influenced by technology beyond our wildest expectations. Technology requires a different language – the language of computer code if you will. If we do not equip our children to both read and write code, then they will only
ever be consumers of that technology, not inventors. Our culture and economy will be threatened and we will lose
.’

‘But we teach IT in schools’ said the PM.

‘Yes, but that teaches children how to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It does not teach them how to design, develop and build those products. Think of it as the equivalent of being only
able to read and not be able to write. Communication is one way and we have no ability to express ourselves culturally and thus economically’
.

‘I see, that is interesting. In fact it reminds me of the Baltic Conference I attended recently. There was much talk of the big technology companies eyeing Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia as possible sites for expansion. I was told all of these countries have skilled technicians and education standards in the science , technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are high. ‘ said the PM.

‘Yes Prime Minister, they all have a greater command of the new languages, the code, than we do.’

Our conversation ended and we had a series of pictures for the media and guests , before the Prime Minister left in a car, headed for an aircraft to take him to the important European summit on Libya. But before he left, I shook his hand, tapped my nose and said ‘Prime Minister, don’t forget it’s all about the code’.

Mr Cameron looked me in the eye, tapped his nose and said ‘yes, it is all about the code’.

And so to today, Eric Schmidt chairman of one of the world’s greatest technology companies, Google, spoke at the Edinburgh Festival about many things – but the line that did it for me was that the country that
invented the computer was “throwing away your great computer heritage” by failing to teach programming in schools. “I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn’t even
taught as standard in UK schools,”
Schmidt said. “Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made.”

Let’s hope our leaders listen up and take some action. If we don’t, then Britain may not have talent for too much longer.

Full articles on Eric Schmidt’s speech can be found at www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/aug/26/eric-schmidt-chairman-google-education#start-of-comments

and

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14683133

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