After GTA V success, Scottish games get serious

FROM the extraordinary sales success of Grand Theft Auto V through to thriving independent firms collaborating with the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland, it is one of the country’s most flourishing, if unappreciated, creative industries.

The hype surrounding Grand Theft Auto V's arrival was a bold statement from the games industry. Picture: Contributed
The hype surrounding Grand Theft Auto V's arrival was a bold statement from the games industry. Picture: Contributed

Now, the influence of the Scottish video games sector is to receive a timely boost courtesy of its first dedicated body.

Launching today, the Scottish Games Network (SGN) will liaise with government, the public sector, and other creative bodies to help the likes of games developers, animators, and technology firms prosper.

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In a sign of the growing cultural influence of games, the independent body aims to “move beyond advocacy” and link up with the “wider cultural and creative industries” at home and around the world, as well as impress upon politicians the importance of digital media to Scotland’s economy.

The founder of the SGN, Brian Baglow, is a veteran figure in the Scottish gaming industry. A former writer on the lauded Grand Theft Auto series, he has become a champion for a sector which has grown significantly over the past quarter century.

“We are now in the position where there are multiple organisations interacting with the games sector, from government, parliament and the public sector, to the wider digital, screen and creative industries,” explained Mr Baglow.

“Our goal is, very simply, to help the country’s games industry grow and prosper. We will be working to provide data, expertise and insight into the games industry, as well as helping the industry open itself up to the wider creative world, fostering new partnerships, collaboration, diversity, funding; and encouraging entirely new experiences.”

Although the Edinburgh-based team behind Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar North, are the most famous developers in Scotland, there are close to 100 independent studios, producing titles for smartphones and tablets, as well as for the next generation of Microsoft and Sony games consoles.

Other prominent companies include 4J Studios, which has enjoyed international success with its Xbox 360 version of Minecraft, which has sold more than eight million copies.

Apart from blockbuster console releases, a number of games firms have linked up with more traditional artforms which point to the kind of partnerships envisaged by SGN. Dundee’s Quartic Llama, for example, produced an iPhone game in conjunction with the National Theatre of Scotland to coincide with its production of Let The Right One In, while Glasgow-based The Story Mechanics enjoyed critical praise for its interactive adaptation of John Buchan’s The Thirty Nine Steps.

Some in the games industry feel it is not properly understood by national bodies. There was widespread criticism last year when a report commissioned by Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise suggested the sector employed a mere 200 people and brought a gross value added of £0.

Mr Baglow said: “Interactive media is now changing every aspect of the creative industries and beyond. The way content is created, distributed, monetised and consumed has changed, and gaming is now a subset of the entertainment industry.

“The opportunities are obvious, but the job is going to be making other industries aware of these opportunities and trying to tie them all together.”