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Computer gaming

The computer games industry is part of the creative industries, which is represented by Skillset Sector Skills Council. This includes: advertising; animation; computer games; corporate and commercial production; fashion and textiles; film; interactive media; photo imaging; publishing; radio; and television.

The computer games industry is firmly established as a major feature of the UK's contemporary media landscape. The industry has recently experienced massive growth in its audience and incredible advances in technology and creative possibilities.

Key facts:

  • 8,850 people are employed in the computer games development industry, which is 2% of the whole creative industries.
  • There are around 220 businesses of which: 155 are games development companies; 30 games publishing companies; and 35 games support companies.
  • 25% of businesses employ between 1 and 5 people, 11% between 6 and 10, 18% between 11 and 20, 21% between 21 and 50 people.
  • 68% of the workforce has a degree, but an estimate 90% of entrants since 2000 were at degree level.
  • 27% of the degrees held by those in computer games are media related.

Jobs in the industry range from: Games Designer, Level Editor, Artist, Concept Artist, Programmer, Quality Assurance (QA) Tester, Audio Engineer, Producer, External Producer, Project Manager, Creative Director, Animator, Lead Artist, Sales Manager

Entry and progression
There are a wide range of qualifications, such as Higher education degrees, Foundation Degrees, BTEC’s and specific vocational professional training available. Although the majority of the workforce has a degree level qualification, many successful games professionals are qualified in non‐games degrees around either art or programming ranging from architecture, art and design, computer science or physics. Employers are particularly concerned with relevant experience, portfolios and knowledge of specific software tools.

The computer games workforce, as with all the creative industries, relies more on informal approaches to gaining employment.

To specialise in the games industry may sometimes mean working long hours on high pressure projects with budgets of millions. It is a fast moving industry with opportunities. New entrants need to get used to working on other people’s games ideas as it will be awhile before they are in a position to originate their own games, so entrants need to be good at working on other people’s ideas and collaborating.

There are a range of industry endorsed courses (both at undergraduate and post‐graduate), training schemes and a Diploma available.
For job specific entry requirements, job profiles should be consulted.

Workforce statistics
Number of UK employees: 8,850
Number of UK employers: 220
Gender: 88% male, 12% female
Ethnicity: 4% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background
Age: 76% of workforce is under 35 years
4.6% report themselves as having a disability
8% of the workforce is freelance or self‐employed

Employment trends and future prospects
Since 2002, the games industry workforce numbers have fluctuated, but remained around 8,000. Future prospects in the sector are positive. Two major developments have significantly impacted on the games industry: the internet; and wireless platforms. These developments have led to the emergence of online multi‐player gaming and wireless transmitted interactive content on the new generation of mobile phones and handheld gaming devices. However, the UK has recently dropped to the fourth largest games producing country.

Skill requirements and shortages
Employers most value technical skills such as C++ programming, online skills (servers and architecture), and asset management and different code applications. In the Art and Design areas, employers most value 3D modelling, texturing, environment and level design skills. The ability to draw and quickly rough out visuals of ideas is prized, as well as inventive character design.

The most common skill gaps reported by computer games employers are: programming; games design; business development skills; and accountancy/financial skills. Future skill gaps are anticipated in: artificial intelligence (AI): high resolution modelling; Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMO); Apps; and Casual Gaming.

Occupational trends
The most common occupation is Interactive or Games Production, accounting for 6,250 (78%) of the workforce. 900 people in Interactive or Games Operations (10%) and 700 in Interactive or Games Business (8%) make up a smaller proportion of the workforce. Around 950 people in computer games (11%) work in finance, HR, IT, sales and general management roles that fall under an umbrella heading of ‘other occupational groups’.

Salary levels
The average income received by the computer games workforce is £37,364, compared to the average received by the creative industries workforce as a whole of £32,200. The average salary for a British games developer is £31,964.
Generally salaries of women are higher than men due to a higher proportion of the female workforce being involved in marketing and management posts.
BECTU, the industry trade union, can advise on rates for freelancers working in the industry.

Further sources
BECTU union for the broadcasting, audiovisual and entertainment industries
IGDA (The International Game Developers Association)
Guardian Unlimited Gamesblog