One player only: Videogame groups forced to merge over lack of funding

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Astra – Hamster’s Ball LB
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Following a lack of support in the Autumn Budget, the British Games Institute has merged with the National Videogame Foundation to create a “new centre of gravity for games culture” in the UK. It might not be enough to plug a funding hole.

 

The British Games Institute (BGI) is to merge and share headquarters with the National Videogame Foundation (NVF) as the Institute “goes from being a great idea in principle to a bricks-and-mortar presence in the real world”.

Set up by games industry veterans Ian Livingstone and Rick Gibson last October, the BGI has, up to this point, been a campaign to encourage the UK government to invest in a new institution that would seek public funding for the games industry and its various initiatives.

After the team failed to receive any allocation from the Autumn Budget, the search began for an alternative way to establish the Institute, culminating in a merger that will see the BGI’s new headquarters based at the National Videogame Arcade in Nottingham, with members of the NVF joining the BGI team.

“The merger means the BGI – which was until recently just a very good idea backed by an unprecedented number of games, education, culture and finance companies – goes from being a great idea in principle to a bricks-and-mortar presence in the real world,” said Gibson.

“It’s a platform for the BGI to extend the reach and cultural context of games in society.”

Despite this self-determination by the BGI, Livingstone and Gibson are still looking for government support, which they believe should be proportionate to that given to the British Film Institute.

“There is a lack of recognition of the cultural and economic impact that our sector has had over the last 40 years,” he said.

“There are still many stakeholders, policy makers and funding people within our arts bodies who have a sense that games are important but they don’t really know why and they’re not sure how they can fund them.

“I’m not saying existing organisations aren’t doing a great job but if you look at film, at the heart of it they have the BFI but they also have the arts councils, lots of local funding, the BBC, the Research Councils, all putting about £170m into the film sector every year.

Last year, the games industry across all the funding initiatives from government, received just £4m. Why is the films industry getting over 30 times the level of funding as games?”

Gibson added that, although it has been told there are no new funds available now, Ian Livingstone has met with culture secretary Matt Hancock and hopes to meet with him again in three months.

“We’re going out to arts organisations, to universities, to arts councils and other arts funding bodies in order to raise more funds,” said Gibson.

“Then we’ll go back to the minister and say, here’s what we’ve raised, can you match this? That’s our plan.”

The merged organisation will continue to operate and develop the National Videogame Arcade, as well as the various research and educational projects the Foundation was already running.

Additionally, it will build on the programs the BGI team started during last year’s campaign.


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