Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Skills review for video games and visual effects sectors

I attended a meeting in London yesterday presenting the findings of a large piece of research relating to their video games (VG) and visual effects (VFX) sectors. The meeting was hosted by NESTA.

The findings will be presented to the government in the New Year. This was an invitation-only, early look at what will be in the report. SQA was the only UK awarding body invited, perhaps reflecting our position in this sector.

Some fascinating information was presented. Young people at school were unaware of the UK's significance in the computer games/visual effects sectors. Only 3% of pupils knew Grand Theft Auto was made in the UK. Nineteen percent of (UK) teachers knew this, although this doubled (almost 38%) of Scottish teachers. The authors said that this was a recurring theme - that Scotland was consistently more aware of, and more involved in, these sectors, the Scottish results being consistently higher than the UK average. There was poor awareness of the importance of Maths and Physics in the production of video games and visual effects (none realised that physics is involved in computer games), most pupils and teachers reporting that ICT (as distinct from Computer Science) was the most importance subject to prepare them for careers in these fields. The importance of highly developed programming skills was also not understood. Fewer than one in five (19%) ICT teachers had a degree in Computer Science; not many more (22%) were able to go beyond writing basic computer programs. The actions required included "bringing programming back into the classroom", and making Maths and Physics more attractive to school pupils, perhaps by introducing computer games and visual effects into these subject areas.

The researchers reported that around 1500 students graduated with a VG/VFX-related degree in 2009 and around 10% of these graduates found employment in this sector within 6 months of graduating. The success rate for industry-linked courses was higher (20%) and the overall employment rate (50%) was higher still. It was pointed out that 2009 was a very bad year for graduate employment in any sector. Interestingly, less than one in four VG/VFX degree courses included Maths as a mandatory part of the programme. This figure was lower in FE programmes, with 16% including any Maths.

Employers reported difficulty in filling VG/VFX positions (at all levels) with appropriate people. They complained about "inadequate programming skills" and poor team working and project management skills. The authors recommended a more systematic engagement between industry, HE and FE.

It was pointed out that the video game/visual effects sectors are presently worth $50 billion today and this will increase to $90 billion by 2015, making it one of the largest commercial sectors in the world.

The Livingstone-Hope Independent Review for Video Games and Visual Effects Sector will be published in early 2011.


  1. Interesting post. Are you aware of the 3D Modelling and Design pupils do in Tech Depts, within Graphics and Product design ?

    Pupils are actually creating realistic models of products, rooms, houses etc. Graphics and Product Design are two courses that are just as important as Physics, I would argue more important !

    This is rarely recognised outside Tech Depts. Napier Uni do recognise the courses.

    I feel there is definite scope for collaboration between Computing and Tech depts.

  2. I think exciting subjects like computer games, animation and visual effects are applicable to a wide range of subjects and have the potential to make many subjects much more interesting to young people. CfE provides us with an opportunity to update subjects, like Physics, to make them more appealing. The message from this meeting was clear - that we need young people to leave school with skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and computer games etc. can make these unpopular subjects more appealing.