2012 has been the Year of Creative Scotland. A nation wide celebration of creativity which highlights all of the amazing talent, the clever businesses and the dedicated organisations we have here in Scotland.
Unless you work in digital media. The recently announced Creative Scotland awards have categories for film and television, literature, music, theatre – even visual, community and traditional arts. There’s no mention or recognition of digital media however. Not videogames, not digital arts, not even a category for the wider use of technology.
This isn’t to say the organisation has done nothing for the interactive industry. In practical terms, Creative Scotland has funded a number of digital projects and has been instrumental in several titles – games and otherwise – created and released by companies in Scotland over the last few years.
As an organisation however, Creative Scotland seems entirely uncertain about the role of digital media in Scotland’s cultural and arts fields. The fact that technology or digital media are not recognised within the 2012 awards – the year of Creative Scotland no less – relegates one of the country’s most significant cultural drivers to the role of ‘infrastructure’ or ‘business’.
Bizarrely, the actual Scottish government seems to recognise the value of digital media and interactive entertainment as an ‘industry’. The government supports Dare to be Digital financially and Fiona Hyslop (and previous culture ministers) have attended a number of games-related events in an official capacity. Plus, we should stress that Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International provide invaluable support and expertise to digital media and interactive companies across the country.
So why are games and digital media creators being ignored? It can’t be because they’re ‘businesses‘. The film and television sectors in Scotland are supported and promoted by Creative Scotland – and many (ok, some) of those are run as money making concerns.
Could it be that there’s a lack of understanding and insight into the interactive and digital media markets? Or perhaps that the areas of existing arts and culture don’t see digital media as relevant?
This ignores the reality that not only is digital media and technology changing every aspect of the creative industries – from the way they are created and distributed, through to the way they’re monetised, marketed and consumed.
Not to mention that the biggest Scottish cultural export of the last two decades is a video game. Grand Theft Auto is a global phenomenon. It’s been designed and developed in Scotland since day one. It’s outsold almost everything else created in Scotland and the next title, GTA V looks set to become one of the world’s biggest selling titles of all time.
Or is that reducing it to tawdry money-making business once more? Not art. Oh dear no.
There are over 120 companies in Scotland working within the interactive sector. They ALL consider themselves creative. If you expand that to the individuals and indie developers working on entirely new types of arguably non-gaming interactive experiences, then you can more than double that.
By ignoring, or refusing to recognise the digital sector within their awards – and with their more general dismissal of the creativity inherent in gaming – Creative Scotland is turning its back on one of the world’s most vibrant and rapidly evolving creative sectors.
In a country with such a global reputation, heritage and legacy of creating original new videogames, this goes beyond short sighted dismissal, into the realms of wilful ignorance.
Scotland deserves better than this. We have a national body charged with supporting and promoting creativity, which either cannot or will not engage with or recognise a wildly creative sector in which hundreds of individuals and business are creating new experiences.
Not good enough.