How InGAME is facilitating innovation in the British video games industry
The British video games industry is a powerhouse of talent that has the potential to boost not just the sector itself, but to other industries as well.
However, its R&D model - which requires heavy investment in a single product long before it has reached the marketplace - carries a whole host of risks that the small firms that dominate the sector can struggle to manage.
To address this situation a new multi-million pound project, Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise (InGAME), will establish a dedicated R&D centre for the highly successful Dundee video games cluster with a view to helping de-risk R&D and drive product, service and experience innovation across the industry and beyond.
InGAME is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme (CICP) and represents a significant investment building upon the rich heritage and current industry of the Dundee video games cluster.
Led by the City’s Abertay University, in partnership with the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews, the project will offer a high level resource to games companies.
“InGAME is intended to increase the scale and value of the cluster, and we see this happening in two ways,” says Sean Taylor, Director of InGAME, Abertay University.
“Firstly, to assist more intensive growth through scale-ups and inward investment around original intellectual property; and secondly, to assist with the extensive growth, which would be through more dynamic, sustainable start ups and SMEs.”
“It's great for the students, because they get to work with industry, they get used to working to a brief and it looks great on their CV. It's great for our programme, because we are forging links with industry."
says James Bown Professor of Systems Biology at Abertay University.
More broadly, the objectives of InGAME are to establish new modes of academic-industry collaboration; create wider access to the sector itself by increasing diversity; exploit technical innovation and provide a greater return on investment for original IP; and build a more resilient and responsive talent pipeline.
“On a cluster level Dundee has had some huge successes already,” says Sean Taylor. “Grand Theft Auto was invented here, which is the most successful entertainment franchise ever, never mind the most successful gaming franchise, and Minecraft is currently developed in the city.”
One of the key things about InGAME is its ability to build on these individual regional successes and multiply their impact through collaboration. Alongside other universities, its partners also include public sector organisations, such as Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise, as well as industry itself, including global players Outplay Entertainment, Microsoft and Sony.
“We believe that de-risking the creative process for small companies is absolutely a key component of facilitating innovation,” says Sean Taylor. “What InGAME will be doing is partnering with local organisations and helping them develop original intellectual property and improve the return on their investment by using the fantastic talent available in our universities to act as a creative amplifier for them.
“For example, a small company with a breakthrough idea might come to us for help – perhaps they have some incredible plans around virtual reality, but they may not actually have the experience that they need to make it happen.
“InGAME can help provide that experience alongside the cutting edge equipment that they might need.”
In return, students and the universities get ongoing exposure to the state of the industry. “We need to know what industry needs so that we can produce the graduates that they need,” says James Bown Professor of Systems Biology at Abertay University. “InGAME offers us another way of contextualising the programme.”
Although InGAME only started in October, the project was based on Abertay's long standing experience of taking briefs from industry and aligning them to student projects. “InGAME provides a new way of engaging with industry that complements our long-standing approaches,” says Professor Bown.
“That's why we were able to get our industry partners on board. Plus, we can draw on similar experience at our partner universities, their depth of expertise and the great things that they have done.”
The InGAME team are taking their proposal to Washington for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2019 annual meeting and will be presenting on their plans from 14-17 February.
“We want to show guests and delegates three demonstrators,” says Professor Bown. “The first is the quality of what our masters students can produce by focusing on the example of a product they produced that is currently going through assessment with Playstation using VR to look at the experience of being blind.
“The brief was just a single sentence. Yet, even with such a simple brief, the students went on to produce something really impressive.
“It's great for the students, because they get to work with industry, they get used to working to a brief and it looks great on their CV. It's great for our programme, because we are forging links with industry.”
The second game Professor Bown wants to show at the AAAS attendees shows the way in which InGAME brings together teams of undergrads to work on projects: programmers, artists and the other skills that need to work together to create a successful game.
“We also want to show in our third presentation the use of games technology in other sectors: gaming provides a core set of skills that are useful in healthcare settings, architecture, even finance,” says Professor Bown. “One of the ways a games company might flourish is by offering their skills sidewise.
“Ultimately this is not an academic project: it is genuinely a partnership between academia and industry - and we want to show that.”
Follow the conversation on Twitter: @InGAME_Dundee