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UK games biz demands closer ties with academia

But wants someone else to make it happen

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UK videogame industry leaders have demanded greater ties between business and academia to ensure that Britain's games developers remain globally competitive. But will any of them step forward to foster the relationship?

At games industry conference the Westminster Media Forum, held in London this week, Mary Matthews, Strategy and Business Development Director at game developer Blitz, said that ineffective training is holding the industry back.

“We can’t do what we want to do because we can’t find the right people,” she said.

Yet, acording to Kate O’Connor, Executive Director of Policy and Development at Skillset, an industry body for skills and training, UK universities already offer 80 videogame-related degree courses. None have any industry recognition, however.

Paul Harris, Professor of Screen Media at the University of Abertay, Dundee, agreed that accreditation by game design firms is crucial. He said it is the best way for universities to ensure that students’ skills match firms’ requirements.

Matthews also called for a similar frequent refreshment of the curriculum.

Matthews has other ideas too, such as recruiting potential game designers from the age of 14. In her view, this would help kids establish much earlier a link between enjoying games and developing them, thus steering more designers into the industry.

However, no one appears willing to take responsibility for the proposals. Instead, both industry and academia are hoping the government will do the job for them.

Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, said at the conference: “The games industry must do more to encourage students to choose the right qualifications [for videogame design], such as maths and physics.”

The government, she said, also has plans in the pipeline to create of centres of excellence for videogame development where gaming brains could unite to develop the next smash hit.

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