Game Over? Anything but - helping young people enter the thriving game industry

By Ajay Sharman posted 18-01-2023 09:24


The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) is the recognised voice of the UK Games industry. Last year, they published the second UK Games Industry census, conducted by the University of Sheffield and completed by over 3,600 industry employees. The report explored a number of new areas such as the impact of the pandemic on working practices and attitudes towards the workplace and industry to deepen our understanding of the sector. Such surveys are important, because they give a future workforce and young people a broader understanding of the sector and the opportunities the sector could offer them.

This sector is one part of a wider digital skills focus. We live in a world where new technologies play an increasingly important role across the economy and society. UK Government, as part of the industrial strategy, is focussing on a world leading digital economy which supports business needs and promotes technological innovation.

In order to achieve this, it’s crucial that young people and adults have the digital skills they need. This could be basic digital skills to maximise life’s opportunities, general digital skills increasingly needed in almost every job, or the specialist knowledge for particular technical roles in the games and video games industry. There is growing support to all areas of society to find people with the potential and talent to fill these roles. Digital skills are key to improving productivity and innovation. There is no silver bullet or Harry Potter magic wand for this and it needs collaboration across government, industry and the voluntary sector.

STEM Learning is passionate about encouraging more young people into computing, technology, AI and a wider digital skills arena. We support teacher CPD in Computing and Technology, through the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) and also by ensuring role models from UKIE (STEM Ambassadors) to actively engage with schools and young people.

Back to the Census which revealed a number of key findings. The demographic make-up of workers in the games industry showed marginal improvements to diversity in the 2022 census when compared to 2020. The gender make-up of the industry has diversified – but only slightly. Males represent 67% of the workforce, females 30% with 3% non-binary compared to 70%, 28% and 2% in 2020.

The games industry workforce is young with 61% listing their age as 35 or under in 2022, a slight reduction on 66% two years earlier. This is encouraging, however the figures for ethnic groups remained similar to those reported two years ago, with the vast majority categorised as White British (66%), 24% as White Other, 5% as Black, 2% as Asian, 2% as Mixed/Multiple ethnicity and a further 2% as Other.

Games industry workers are significantly more likely than the general population to have grown up in a household where the main income earner worked in a managerial or professional job or to have attended a state selective school. Over four fifths (82%) reported having at least an undergraduate qualification.

A significant finding is that the games industry has more neurodivergent people working within it than the working age population. Overall, 18% of respondents reported having at least one neurodevelopmental condition. More people in gaming were autistic or had a condition affecting concentration, such as ADHD, than the working age population. So when it comes to recruitment into the industry, encouraging young people from SEND backgrounds to see gaming as a career choice at an early age seems sensible. But do we have recruitment practices that help us widen the talent pool?

Looking at mental health, 38% of the people who responded to the census reported that they suffered from anxiety, depression or both. This is up from 31% prior to the pandemic.

The games industry workforce remains highly international, with 20% of people in the UK games industry reporting a nationality from the EEA and 9% from the rest of the world. The census also explored in detail additional information about the UK industry workforce, such as their job roles, their location in the UK and the size of their businesses.

The census reported that most workers feel positively about the companies they work at and four fifths of respondents agree that they were proud to tell others where they work; that they would recommend their company as a great place to work, that their employers were committed to creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and that they felt any bullying and harassment are taken seriously where they work.

What about paths to promotion in the games industry? The report highlighted career development in the UK games industry and found that in the three years preceding this census, over two fifths of game workers had been promoted at their company and one fifth had made a diagonal move to a more senior role in a different organisation. Therefore career progression was seen as a positive aspect to the sector. Although people aged between 26 and 35 are the most likely age group to have been promoted, with those aged 41 and above noticeably less likely had advanced, while interestingly and worryingly Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people are more likely than White British or White Other to have made a diagonal move, but less likely to have been directly promoted.  

31% who described themselves autistic reported being directly promoted in the past three years. This figure is significantly lower than the equivalent figures for people with other neurodevelopmental conditions (including ADHD and dyslexia) and lower again than the figure for people who reported having no neurodevelopmental conditions.

As arguably the most successful entertainment form of the 21st century, video game sales surpassed the £4billion mark in 2020 - so if making, designing and delivering games is your passion, now's the perfect time to enter this growing, thriving industry. I feel the industry still requires role models to show the opportunities the sector could have for them, including role models from wider diverse backgrounds.

IntoGames is a non-profit organisation that supports people on their journey in developing the skills and confidence they need to thrive in this industry. They lead a network of 1000s of games industry professionals dedicated to inspiring the next generation of talent in schools, colleges and universities, which is run in partnership with UKIE. A number of these Video Game Ambassadors and professionals are also STEM Ambassadors and make a huge difference to raising the opportunities a role in the games industry can offer! You can request a STEM Ambassador today to visit your school or college – in person or virtually – for free. The gaming sector is fast moving and evolving and we need to ensure that we allow young people an opportunity to see the incredible range of jobs open to them

Clearly we need to do more and to work more cohesively in mobilising gaming role models and STEM Ambassadors, through the education system, supporting teachers, career advisors and senior leadership teams to the end game - to coin a gaming phrase. We must work together to ensure schools access diverse industry professionals that fully represent the population, culture and skills that the UK future workforce have to offer.

Did you enjoy this blog? If so, scroll to the top and hit the 'Recommend' button!

1 comment



19-01-2023 10:45

For those wanting to delve more into this area and are based near Bradford there is a great annual event in early Feb 2023.  The Yorkshire Games Festival held at the National Science and Media Museum.  I went there a few years ago and heard some great talks and saw some very keen young programmers.  What was really pleasing was seeing the diversity of those in attendance (my unconscious bias wasn't expecting that!).  To find out more click here.