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The UK Games Industry Census: A New Benchmark, and a Long Way to Go

Today games industry trade body UKIE launched its new report, The UK Games Industry Census. Top of the list of its findings was the fact that the UK game industry is still predominantly male, white and relatively young.

The census was independently conducted by the University of Sheffield, and pooled insight from approximately 20% of the UK’s full time game development staff, making it the largest and perhaps most thorough of its kind. While there may be few surprises for an industry that is on the whole keenly aware of its diversity problem, together some of the headline figures paint a stark picture.

• Two thirds of the UK game industry are 35 years old, or younger.

• 10% of the UK game industry come from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. BAME representation is reportedly notably lower in senior roles.

• 28% of UK game industry workers are female, and 2% are non-binary with regards to gender, meaning 70% of the sector are male. Female representation is not only under the national average, but under the average for the overall UK creative industries. Equally, there is less female representation at senior levels.

Those shortcomings are hard to ignore. It should be pointed out that there are some counterpoints, even if they are less than thoroughly counterbalancing. For example, BAME representation in the UK game industry is slightly higher than the national working population, as well as being above that in the overall creative industries. That does not, however, gloss over the problem with regard to senior roles. The percentage of BAME workers also falls below IT’s 14%.

Interestingly, 21% of the games industry are LGBTQ+, which is a significantly higher figure when compared to the overall UK population, where LGBTQ+ people make up between 3-to-7% of those in the UK.

Elsewhere in the findings, it will perhaps surprise nobody in the sector that the UK game industry is substantially international with regard to its workforce. 28% of those employed in games in the UK hail from non-UK nations, compared to 17% in the general working age population. Survey respondents in fact came from 88 different countries, meaning the UK game industry represents 45% of the nations on Earth.

Ukie, which supported The University of Sheffield’s creation of the census, is presenting the findings as a benchmark that can be used to improve diversity and representation in the UK game industry. As such, the trade body launched the ‘#RaiseTheGame’ pledge on the same day as the report.

#RaisetheGame comes as a collaboration between game companies with a presence in the UK. The pledge’s ambition is to sign up some 200 UK game businesses so as to cover 50% of the workforce by 2021. The collective effort of those signed up, it is hoped, will bring about ‘meaningful cultural and behavioural change in games companies’. EA, Facebook, Jagex, King and Xbox stand as the five founding #RaiseTheGame companies, and will be asked to provide detail on how they met the various pledge pillars on an annual basis. Other studios such as Payload Studios have already signed up.

Those pledge pillars are (to quote the official statement on #RaiseTheGame):

1. Creating a diverse workforce by recruiting as fairly and as widely as possible
2. Shaping inclusive and welcoming places to work, by educating and inspiring people to take more personal responsibility for fostering and promoting diversity and inclusion
3. Reflecting greater diversity within games at every level from game design and development through to marketing and community engagement.

“We know that games businesses across the country have recognised that placing equality, inclusivity and diversity at the heart of their work is critical to their success as creative, innovative world leaders,” said Dr. Jo Twist OBE, introducing the census findings in the report. “But we also know that it has been hard to do so without robust, reliable data to help guide them.”

And that is the very point of this effort; providing the availability of meaningful data to help better UK game industry diversity and representation.

“It’s important to keep in mind why we’ve taken such a frank look at our industry,” Twist later added in her opening statement. “By conducting this census, we now have a benchmark that can lay the foundations for the creation of a truly diverse and inclusive sector for the future. The newly launched #RaiseTheGame pledge is an excellent example of how businesses can be more representative and inclusive, which enriches the diversity of what we create. It brings together the sector to share the goal of building a diverse workforce, providing long-term support to one another and giving us the best chance of making that ambition a reality.”

The census also revealed some other fascinating insights on the well-being of the UK game industry.

31% of of those surveyed revealed that that they live with anxiety, depression or both; a figure that is a good way above national average of 17%. Meanwhile, 21% of UK game industry respondents live with a chronic physical health condition, which is again higher than the national average, which in this case is 13% of the working age population.

Elsewhere in the report it was noted that three quarters of the industry works 33-to-40-hours per weeks, while 3.5% experience 51 hours or more as a typical working week.

The report certainly doesn’t paint a perfect picture of the UK game industry; far from it, in fact. But it does offer an opportunity for meaningful reflection, planning and pro-activity to address the issues highlighted. The UK game industry has thrived overall for many years, but with better diversity and representation it can do so all the more, in terms of the diversity of the medium itself, the audiences served, the well-being of the workforce, the commercial fortunes of games, and the sector’s contribution to the wider economy.

The full The UK Games Industry Census report is available here, while companies can find our more – and sign up to – #RaiseTheGame here.