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UK Games Development Skill Shortage: which UK regions house the most games-related courses?

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In light of this April’s BAFTA games awards, British marketplace and video game seller decided to look more closely at the future of the UK gaming industry. In particular, which UK regions and cities offer the most game development-related courses, using a map by UK Interactive Entertainment (or UKie) and compiling its data.  

With industry figures revealing that the UK games market has hit a record target of £5.11 billion in spending in 2017, the demand for newer and more innovative games is certainly there. The market has grown by 12.4% and despite having the largest mobile games workforce in the EU (with some 5,000 full-time employees), there is a shortage of domestic talent when it comes to filling UK positions in the gaming industry.

There are currently 95 universitities and academic institutions offering a total of 235 games-related courses. FE specific qualifications represent 50 of these courses UK-wide.

Here are the top UK regions for studying game-related FE courses: 

1. Scotland – 13 courses

2. North West – 6 courses

3. Wales – 6 courses

4. East Midlands – 6 courses

5. West Midlands – 5 courses

6. South West – 4 courses

7. East of England – 4 courses

8. London – 3 courses

9. Yorkshire and the Humber – 3 courses

10. North East – 2 courses

11. South East – 1 course

Data has revealed that Scotland can be crowned capital of games-related courses available to FE students, with a whopping 13 courses available, the majority at which can be studied at Fife College, including a national certificate in Computer Games Development.

This comes hardly as a surprise when considering that Scotland is home to one of the UK’s most notable games company- Edinburgh’s Rockstar North, famed for the success of Grand Theft Auto V. Upon finishing their course, games developers-to-be can apply for jobs at any one of Scotland’s 130 games companies

In second place is the North West, Wales and East Midlands, where there are a total of 6 courses in each region related to video and mobile gaming.

Other important UK regions for the gaming industry include the South East, home to 18% of UK games companies, the North West (9%), Wales 59 companies (3%) and Northern Ireland 39 (2%). London of course is home to the most games companies in the UK at 630, which represents 28% of all the games companies in the UK. 

Most of these are concentrated in central London (where 48% of London’s games are developed and published). Companies like Rocksteady Studios, responsible for developing the Batman Arkham series, and Slightly Mad Studios (Project CARS and Project CARS 2) are based in London.

Despite enjoying huge successes in the industry, the UK is in desperate need of domestic games developers, designers and producers. In fact, 87% of respondents to UKie’s survey entitled “State of Play” revealed that they hire international talent as UK candidates do not have the right skills.

The European Commission have also suggested that the skills gap in the UK is larger than anywhere else in Europe. The lack of programmers in the UK is largely due to the fact that it is not a skill taught on the national curriculum. However, FE courses could be a great way to get your foot in the door of the UK Games Industry.

Jonathon Wilson, Lead Designer at Coatsink Software, studied for a qualification in Computer Game Design and Production. While having a largely positive experience, he stated that “there were some redundant modules, largely due to staff not having any practical experience in the subjects they were teaching.” The Lead Designer adds that this is a widespread problem with game courses in general, but that “the experience gap is getting smaller as more people from games are starting to become lecturers or provide support to course with guest talks.”

When asked if he would recommend studying a games related course, he said he would as a way to break into the industry, but it should not be considered a one-way ticket to career success. The computer game design and production graduate advised that “just having a qualification doesn’t guarantee that you will walk straight into a job. Try to be proactive outside of your course too, engage with the dev community, attend events and network.” 

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