At the end of your very encouraging speech at the TIGA launch yesterday, I asked a question, "how long will it be before someone in this room gets an OBE". Although there was much laughter (as I was expecting), it nevertheless did have a serious point to it, which I believe you noted.
It's all very well lauding the computer game industry for being more successful than the film industry, but why isn't this recognised in terms that the general public understands? Outstanding exponents of other creative industries are identified for their contributions to popular culture, whether they be artists, musicians, actors, dancers, authors, poets, directors, architects or photographers. Why don't we ever see computer game designers on the South Bank Show? Why are university lecturers discouraged from researching computer games, even as a part of Media Studies?
Well, we have an image problem.
I applaud your admonishment concerning the small number of women involved in game development, but it isn't entirely the fault of we games developers that this is so. Basically, everyone thinks we're geeks. I don't wish to be perpetuating stereotypical myths about what women do and don't look for in a career, but I should imagine that being a geek would not appear near the top of the list of many of them. Writing games that they want to play is not going to change that. Showing us not to be geeks might.
Now actually, most of us AREN'T geeks. I myself am a former university lecturer, I have a PhD, I'm married (to a computer programmer, no less!) and I'm the proud father of two daughters. I've written books, I've written screenplays. I'm not a geek, and I don't know many people in the industry who are.
If we're to come into the mainstream, we need to be invited. We can't just knock loudly on the door and hope we'll be let in - it's more likely we'll be turned away. Now while it's unlikely that there is ever going to be a Royal Academy of Computer Arts (!), I do believe there are a number of ways that the government could help us shed our image and thereby assist us to be taken seriously. Regularly honouring a few of us is perhaps the least expensive but most effective of these. Give a computer games designer an OBE and then see how long it is before he (yes, it will be a he, I'm afraid) is invited onto the South Bank Show.
As for who to honour, well it would depend on what you wanted to do. If you were going for the greatest contribution to the British computer game industry, it would be someone like Jeremy San (or "Jez" - unfortunately he IS a geek!). If you were going for someone who had made the greatest impact on computer game design, well the most-respected and highest-profile designer is Peter Molyneaux. I'm sure that teams of highly-trained civil servants scouring the Internet can find a few more, should you require them at a later date.
[Aside: is it the case that Tim Berner-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has turned down an offer of a knighthood? Or is it that no-one has actually thought that he might deserve one?]
Thank you again for attending the launch of TIGA and for being so positive.
Dr Richard A. Bartle
PS: The last time I looked at the pirated software on the top floor of the Sim Lim centre in Singapore, it was a third of the price of the genuine article but only a third of it actually worked... Most Singaporeans prefer the completely legitimate Funan Centre, where not only does the software function as advertised but you get a proper manual, too!
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