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Computer games

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.

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.

Key statistics:

  • 7,000 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, and 21% between 21 and 50 people.
  • 94% of the workforce is male.
  • 3% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background.
  • 59% of workforce is under 35 years.
  • 4.6% report themselves as having a disability.
  • 4% of the workforce is freelance or self-employed.
  • 80% of the workforce has a degree.
  • 27% of the degrees held by those in computer games are media related.

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.

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.

The most common occupations are: art and design accounting for 24% of the workforce; business management (22%); and production accounting for 19%. A significant proportion work in technical development (13%). Other smaller occupational groups are strategic management (6%), animators (6%), content development (3%) and audio/sound/music (2%). All other occupations in total account for just 4% of the workforce.

This games workforce is distributed relatively evenly across the UK, which differentiates the games sector from the rest of the creative industries. The largest number of employees in computer games is located in: London; East Midlands; and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Source: Skillset AACS LMI report 2010 and Computer Games Labour Market Intelligence 2010

Occupational profile of computer games workforce, 2009


Source: Computer Games Labour market Intelligence 2010, figure 3. Data from Skillset’s 2009 Employment Census.