Games development offers contractor prospects

Wednesday 28 October 2015

An IT entrepreneur has called on the government to help support the burgeoning computer games industry that has sprung up in and around Dundee.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, Chris van der Kuyl claimed that if properly supported, the Scottish computer games industry could make North Sea oil and gas “look like a drop in the ocean”.

To back up this claim, he explained that the Grand Theft Auto franchise, which was developed in Scotland, is now worth more than the all of the recorded music industry put together.

Mr van der Kuyl is the chairman of 4J Games, which has recently won plaudits for converting the popular Minecraft games so that they can be played on video games consoles.

The process of creating video games can offer a variety of opportunities for highly skilled self-employed professionals, both as programmers and creative developers. This can be particularly true given the project-based nature of video games, especially for companies who are struggling to attract the right permanent staff.

With regards to the action he would like to see to support the industry, Mr van der Kuyl said: “Either we decide that this is such a focus that we're going to get a games champion and put them into a position of strength, of being able to pull in the right agencies, come up with strategies, implement quickly and have real teeth to do that, or don't. Just be reactive generic agencies that will all come knocking if we so feel like it.”

The UK government has already announced that it will invest £4 million in small games businesses as part of a bid to bolster the industry across the country.

However, concerns have recently been raised about a lack of reliable internet access in some of the most isolated parts of Scotland, which could limit the potential of the games industry in some places.

Mr van der Kuyl drew attention to the relatively untapped nature of the videogames industry, saying: "This is the biggest entertainment industry in the world and Scotland actually has a serious foot in the door and we don't treat it that way.

"Especially for a country like Scotland, who really have nibbled round the edges and done very well, the opportunity is huge.

"The increased rate of change in things like virtual reality and augmented reality, which is just around the corner now, means the growth potential for this industry is not five or ten per cent a year, it's hundreds of per cent.”

With concerns about the state of the North Sea oil and gas industry continuing thanks to the low global price of oil and dwindling reserves, it is possible that computing in general and video games in particular could be a new dominant industry. This could mean it becomes a driving force for the wider Scottish economy, as well as presenting plenty of opportunities to the right contractors.

By Victoria McDonnell

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