Tayside and Central Scotland

Scottish video games industry 'could eclipse oil boom'

Chris Van Der Kuyl
Image caption Entrepreneur Chris Van Der Kuyl addressed the committee at its meeting in Dundee

Scotland's video games industry could "make North Sea oil look like a drop in the ocean", a meeting of the Scottish Affairs select committee has heard.

The committee met in Dundee to hear evidence about the country's creative industries.

Entrepreneur Chris Van Der Kuyl told them of "huge" opportunities in the games industry, which he said could outstrip the impact of the oil boom.

Developers have called for better support structures and investment.

Dundee has long been a key hub for the UK's video games industry, which has spawned titles such as Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.

Mr Van Der Kuyl, chairman of 4J Games, which has won awards for its work converting hit game Minecraft for the XBox platform, told the committee that it was "time to get serious about this industry".

He said: "We're living in a time where the pace of change has never been faster, and nowhere more so than in our sector.

"The increased rate of change in things like virtual reality and augmented reality, which is just around the corner now, means the growth potential for this industry is not five or 10% a year, it's hundreds of percent.

"The opportunity is huge.

"It will make North Sea oil look like a drop in the ocean. We're trying to hold a tiger by the tail.

"If there was ever a time to get serious about this industry, this is it - if we let this opportunity pass by, others will take it and Scotland will languish."

Image caption Dr Twist of UKIE told the committee that the immigration debate was "potentially very damaging"

The committee also heard that current UK immigration policy could be impacting on talent recruitment in the industry.

Dr Jo Twist from the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, who also called for more teaching of computer science in schools, told the committee that effective immigration policy was vital.

She said: "The current climate around immigration debates is potentially very damaging to our ability to attract overseas talent.

"We must be able to continue to attract overseas talent while we are fixing our own homegrown talent pipeline, in order to remain internationally competitive."

Mr Van Der Kuyl added that foreign students who had come to study video games development were "fairly heavily leant on to get out of the country after graduating", which he said was "disastrous".

He said: "In our immigration policy we're very well structured to invite people in who have already proven themselves, but they're already settled.

"We need to attract talent that is very early-career, that doesn't quite fit the Home Office boxes that are there at the moment, but which is exactly what we need in our companies."

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