While an unfriendly tax environment has been the most visible cause for concern about the U.K. videogames industry, Frontier Developments Chairman David Braben says a lack of properly qualified university graduates is having a serious impact on developers in the country.
The industry group Games Up? claims that while 81 videogames degree courses are now on offer at various universities in the U.K., only four are accredited by the government agency Skillset, responsible for monitoring the courses.
“95 percent of videogaming degrees are simply not fit for purpose,” said Braben, who is also a spokesman for the Games Up? organization. “Without some sort of common standard, like Skillset accreditation, these degrees are a waste of time for all concerned.”
Braben said developers in the U.K. were facing increasing difficulty finding employees with training in “high-powered” mathematics and computer sciences that are necessary for the development of increasingly sophisticated games. “We are facing a serious decline in the quality of graduates looking to enter the industry,” he said. “The dearth of maths, physics and computer science graduates is hitting us hard.”
Misconceptions about the industry is one of the major obstacles facing efforts to produce properly-trained graduates, according to Dan Hodgson, head of the Computer Games Engineering degree course at Northumbria University. Many students are put off by the stiff math requirements of the program, Hodgson said, adding that the university makes it very clear to prospective students that the games industry is extremely demanding. “We do have people who don’t have the right mindset,” Hodgson said. “We consistently tell them that this is one of the hardest courses we offer at this university. It’s certainly not for the sort of people who want to laze around and play games for three years.”
While the U.K. maintains one of the top videogame development industries in the world, the country recently slipped behind Canada to fourth place globally. The U.K. government recently launched a European Commission investigation into Canadian videogame industry practices, saying, “The Canadians have driven a tank over the French Citroen and have now parked on our lawn.” While many major companies have established studios in Canada, including Ubisoft, Eidos and Electronic Arts, Investissement Quebec CEO Jacques Daoust attributed the rapid growth of the industry to a ready supply of well-trained employees. “The education system here is great – we are graduating each year 1400 new graduates ready to work,” Daoust said in November 2007. “It was Yannis Mallat who said, ‘We came for the money and we stay for the talent’ – and he’s absolutely right,” he added.