Last week’s media frenzy over the research into the creative industries created a lot of coverage, across a very broad range of websites. From the BBC to Joystiq and Game Politics, news of Scotland’s non-existent games industry provoked a great deal of reaction and outrage.
One of the more recent articles is worth mentioning here. Robert Florence (co-creator of Consolevania, Burnistoun and board game fan), writing in Eurogamer lays the blame squarely at the feet of a very unexpected party – Rockstar North…
We all know that Rockstar North is a secretive company. And that’s fine. It’s good to be secretive about your projects. But I think that this influential giant, slumbering in its Edinburgh hideaway, is shirking its responsibilities to its home nation. I don’t think it’s acceptable for an industry leader to play no part in the grassroots development of an industry. If I were at Rockstar North, I would be embarrassed by stories of Scottish kids thinking our games were made in America. I would be ashamed.
When we made Consolevania, Scottish Enterprise asked us to make a documentary film about the Scottish games industry. The idea was for us to highlight how healthy our games industry was, so that people from abroad could be very impressed by us at industry parties. In actual fact, the companies we spoke to were struggling and desperate for help. It became a documentary about struggle, and the need for some government assistance. And everybody spoke to us apart from Rockstar North. Everybody told us the same thing – “Ooh, no. Rockstar won’t talk to you.” This was a piece about the games industry in Scotland, and Rockstar North wouldn’t take part.
That sums them up. They just don’t take part.
You should read the whole article.
While we don’t agree that the blame can be laid at Rockstar’s door, Rab makes a fair point. Your editor has been called upon by newspapers, radio, TV and magazines across the world to defend titles such as GTA and Manhunt on numerous occasions. Which he’s happy to do. The company creates some phenomenal games and Scottishgames.net will always defend the games sector against the hysterical accusations of the media when it comes to mature content in gaming.
However, Rockstar’s ongoing wall of silence, well, it doesn’t help. Anyone. We have a company on our doorstep that creates one of the world’s biggest games franchises. GTA is arguably Scotland’s biggest cultural export. Ever.
Yet the team in Edinburgh aren’t part of the community. They’re absent from the discussions, not involved in the events and don’t get the chance talk to the rest of the industry.
We know this isn’t the fault of the Rockstar North team in Edinburgh. We suspect that every request gets forwarded straight to the team in New York, where it’s ignored, refused or killed.
Which is a crying shame because the folks in Edinburgh deserve better. It would help the rest of the games industry – not just in Scotland – but UK wide and it would show the rest of the world the expertise and talent that we all kinda suspect exists up here.
Rockstar North contributes a lot to the UK games industry, having them here gives Scotland credibility that it sorely needs in the cultural sector.
It would be nice to include them in more things. It would be good to talk to them directly. It would be great to get their take on things and use their expertise and experience to make the interactive sector more prominent – and give them the recognition they really should have.
How about it, NY?
We’re a fragmented bunch for such a small group of people in a wee nation. In games education GCal don’t talk to WestScot don’t talk to Abertay don’t talk to WestScot don’t talk to GCal don’t talk to Abertay! Some serious butt-kicking required imho …
I’m working on something John. You’ll be hearing from me soon…
Rockstar has nothing in common with the rest of the Scottish game dev scene. Nothing whatsoever. There’s Rockstar, making hugely ambitious successful AAA games, and there’s a bunch of micro studios making things for mobile / Facebook / whatever. With all due respect, there’s no commonality.
So what on earth is there to talk about? Why expect a big American firm like T2 / Rockstar to promote some piddly local industry that isn’t their own? Why expect Rockstar to participate in events that aren’t of relevance to them, or to network with people who aren’t in the same business as them?
The only time Rockstar and the Scottish dev scene ever cross paths (metaphorically) is when someone (Baglow) is talking shit about them in public, or someone (Baglow) is name-dropping them in the pub, or some nobody dev is trying to either claim credit for their work or trying to piggy back on their credibility and success in some way. It’s a joke, an embarrassment for all concerned.
Here’s the best way for the Scottish dev scene to create awareness: make great games that gamers care about. Quit banging on about fucking Lemmings and GTA and create something new, something that isn’t a cynical bottom-feeding iPhone cash-in. By all means, consider adopting Dave Thomson’s “Made in Scotland” banner proposal. But for goodness sake shut up about Rockstar, let them manage their public communication as they wish.
Is that an official response, or are you simply an interested bystander?
You started a discussion, and I contributed to it. I’m entitled to do so anonymously under the circumstances, rather than being harrassed or having details of my ISP / IP address posted on Facebook. That was pretty shabby conduct on your part, by the way.
Really? You’re seizing the moral high ground? OK, I apologise for posting your IP. It’s been removed. However you’re commenting anonymously and called the majority of the games industry ‘piddly’, ‘cynical’ ‘nobody dev’ and ‘bottom-feeders’. I find that fairly shabby, disrespectful and flat out rude.
But that’s just me. Do please feel free to carry on contributing…
Brian, what I find works best when I disagree with someone is to either ignore them or engage in healthy debate. I agree my comment had an abrasive tone, but I stand by the points. Remember – you chose to approve my post, so clearly you weren’t all that offended by my rudeness before you ran to your Facebook cronies for pitchforks and torches eh?
Your comment didn’t have an abrasive tone. Your comment dismissed the rest of the industry. You also very specifically complained about me ‘talking shit’ about Rockstar. And name-dropping (presumably to make myself look more important?)
I don’t believe that cross-posting a comment from a publicly available blog, onto a closed industry-specific group which is specifically linked to that blog is running for cronies. I posted your comment because I thought it was massively disrespectful to every single other developer working in the country.
You dismissed the industry as a whole and every other developer in your original comment. I try really hard to support the industry – all of it. INcluding Rockstar (whether you believe that or not). Not to mention *all* of the developers working up here because we do get overlooked and sidelined by many of the organisations, the media, etc. So when it comes to having a company of Rockstar’s significance and GTA’s prominence within the same country and the same industry, perhaps you can see why I’d be keen for them to join in now and again.
I stand by what I said. I absolutely intended to be rude about a certain type of dev (and a certain type of PR man) who have done well over the years as a result of their chronic GTA-tourettes. While it’d certainly be nice if Rockstar were more open and talkative at times, it makes no sense to blame them for the lack of recognition for the Scottish dev scene. If we all made better games, we’d get more recognition.
Certainly there are things to be very proud of, but there’s no denying the glut of “me-too” products, rip-offs and work-for-hire tat. That’s not the kind of thing that gets our little industry respect, and not even Rockstar can fix that one for us. I’m referring to the kind of stuff that may keep the lights on, but does not inspire gamers one bit. So how about we get that sorted before we start acting all aggrieved over being “overlooked” and “sidelined”, and before we start looking to lay blame one of the few companies left actually trying to make something decent.
A games company in Scotland is surely part of the Scottish games industry? Rockstar North can benefit from tax breaks as well. All Brian is suggesting is that they make themselves heard for the mutal benefit of everyone.
The games industry needs more people like Baglow who are prepared to go out of their way to help small games companies get established. What the Scottish games industry does NOT need is isolationist, “triple A all the way” arrogance.
There have been some great things coming out of the smaller dev teams in Scotland, and they should rightly be proud of that progress and continue to build on it. My point is simply that it is SO different from what the big studios do as to be a totally different business. So why look to them to promote the local dev scene? Why single them out for not doing enough, and why be surprised when a large American company acts like a large American company?
The best of the Scottish indie devs have already learned to stand on their own feet. By contrast, the weaker devs endlessly name-check DMA and Rockstar as evidence of the thriving local dev scene, despite the fact that (a) Lemmings was a long time ago and (b) what Rockstar does today is not at all representative or typical of the modern local dev scene as a whole. To build a better industry we need to get away from the legacy of DMA and focus on creating new things of value in 2012. Be proud of Rockstar’s success by all means, but don’t blame them for not solving everyone else’s problems.
Just commenting to disagree with John… certainly some folk at Gcal DO talk to some folk at UWS. I’ve had quite a few long chats with folk at GCU and a lot of the issues we face are very similar, so it is pretty good sometimes to share ideas. There are a couple of folk at Abertay that I get on well with too, and have been known to share a pint with when in town..