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How Millennials are Powering the Leeds City Region’s Gaming Industry

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12 Dec 2016

By Roger Marsh OBE, chair, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP)

I was flicking through the i newspaper the other day when one particular article grabbed my attention. According to a new 12-month study for the National Citizen Service, almost half of teenagers in Yorkshire and the Humber (48%) think the area they live in will negatively influence their chances in life. This was the highest rate in the country.

For an organisation such as the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership this is perplexing. Not only does the Leeds City Region boast the biggest regional economy outside London, it is also a hotbed for jobs in the digital and gaming industries. There are around 8,500 digital technology companies in the city region employing 70,000 people. So, it’s the perfect place to live if you’re young, creative, and looking for an exciting career path and are handy with technology.

With virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), wearable tech, Big Data and the Internet of Things all forecast to be key tech trends in 2017, and with digital jobs predicted to grow at ten times the rate of non-digital, now is clearly the time to base yourself in the Leeds City Region to launch your career in this sector.

Grand Theft Auto… Made in Leeds

What many youngsters possibly don’t realise is that this region is a hotbed for both up and coming and well established gaming companies. For example, did you know Leeds is home to Rockstar Games, the creator of one of the top five best-selling games of all time, Grand Theft Auto?

There’s also Red Kite Games in Huddersfield, Barog Game Labs and Weaseltron Entertainment in Leeds, Team 17 in Wakefield, and New Moon and Revolution Games in York, to name but a few. All of these are thriving, and crucially, many are hiring. By investing in job creation and innovation, the Leeds City Region has become the UK’s capital of tech and digital skills.

Some of these companies are also doing their bit to try and fill the current skills gap in the UK’s gaming industry as a whole, which could otherwise be left trailing in a global industry that’s predicted to reach $113 billion by 2018.

Earlier this year it was announced that Barog Games Lab, Team 17 and Weaseltron would be amongst those to help design the structure and content of two new degrees at the University of Leeds; High Performance Graphics and Games Engineering. These new courses were introduced to try and address the severe technical skills shortage in the UK, particularly in coding, programming, software development and data analysis.

But let’s not forget that such courses are far from new in the Leeds City Region. The University of Huddersfield has a BA in Computer Games Design, Leeds Beckett offers a BSc in Games Design and the University of Bradford has a BA in Graphics for Games available for undergraduates. The University of York is also home to the Digital Creativity Labs which is working towards being a world centre of excellence for impact-driven research, focusing on digital games, interactive media and the rich space where they converge.

It’s so important to raise the skills of our people, especially amongst those in education, to give them a solid platform for when they enter the world of work and meet the jobs demand of the future.

North-shoring: Reversing the ‘brain drain’

Whilst it’s these sorts of courses that will undoubtedly attract the most promising digital minds into the Leeds City Region, with so many high profile gaming companies based here too, there is no need to migrate south to London to find work in this industry after graduating.

With recent news that the North of England has lost 310,000 graduates in the last 10 years in a so-called north to south ‘brain drain’, I believe that in the digital sector, the Leeds City Region is bucking this trend and is actually witnessing a trend towards north-shoring. In other words, many companies are leaving London to set up offices here instead where talent is in abundance, office space is a lot more affordable and quality of life is first rate.

To make the Leeds City Region an even more attractive place to launch a career in gaming, a three-year development programme has just been launched to help games studios and budding gaming SMEs.

Backed by Creative England, GamesLab is offering a total of £300k in grants which will be split into smaller sums of money. The people behind Creative England said that the Leeds City Region is the ideal place to invest in the gaming industry as it’s full of creative and gaming talent.

I couldn’t agree more.