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Video game-inspired stamps go on sale - expert comment

Today a set of stamps inspired by classic UK video games goes on sale. Dr Esther Wright from the Institute for Advanced Study comments:  

"Video games have often been overshadowed in the public eye by the film, television, music, and other cultural sectors that are thriving in in UK. Yet the video game industry is a vital and constantly-growing sector of the Creative Industries, contributing hugely to the UK economy and accounting for more than half of the UK’s entertainment market. Beyond the statistics, those of us across the UK who make, play, and study them have understood the value of games and gaming for years. Gaming is no longer assumed to just be the province of “gamers”, but something that millions of people now do as a major part of their daily lives.

"According to statistics from Ukie, there were 2,261active game companies in the UK as of June 2018. Major companies like Rockstar Games (who have studios in Edinburgh, Lincoln, and London, as well as around the world) often grab headlines with titles like Grand Theft Auto, which has generated billions of dollars from its global player base. But British studios have long been creating some of the most iconic games and franchises, laying the groundwork for the current state of play in the industry, both at home and globally. They have a rich history that many people don’t know about, but they’d probably recognise some of the games featured on the new Royal Mail stamps without ever knowing that they were made here. Even people who confess to never having played video games, or think video games aren’t “for them” will still understand what you mean when you say the words “Tomb Raider” or “Lara Croft”.

"Academics, researchers, and museum and heritage practitioners are increasingly turning to video games as a way to communicate their findings or offer access to the way they work. Games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017), made by Ninja Theory in Cambridge, not only win BAFTAs, but also attempt to make important interventions into the way popular media represents and engages in conversations about mental health.

"We’ll probably never stop debating and arguing over whether video games are “art”, or modern society’s most important creative medium of expression. But it’s refreshing to see this new collection of stamps as another step toward more widespread recognition of the cultural value, quality and innovation of the work that’s being done by UK developers, and enjoyed by gamers around the world."

21 January 2020

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