Ripping The ‘Art From Our Chests – Arts Courses and Gaming

Never has such an incredible pair of tits existed

Every legitimate arts culture struggles through its infancy. There have always been sceptics, manipulators and – well – capitalists trying to convert art into money. And most of the time it works. And it works in a nice, self-replenishing cycle, too; art makes money, and (most of the time) that money goes back into funding artistry. At the risk of stereotyping myself with my repetitive rhetoric about “gaming as art”, I feel now is a better time than any to say this; gaming can save our country.

This is a bold claim. If this article was published in, say, The Independent or The Guardian, then people would get to that sentence, laugh, and find something else to read about (maybe about how Katie Price’s tits are a bit bigger now than they were four months ago, because that is more interesting). But I’ve got some very flimsy and subjective opinions to throw at you to try and prove my point. Also, I’m sure I can get my editor to put in a nice picture of some boobs for you, somewhere, if that’ll keep your attention a bit longer.

So hear me out; I live in Britain, and I have just heard some very startling information. The average tuition fee for British universities has gone up to ~£9,000 for submissions this year. To cut through swathes of muddled, debatable information, this basically means that it’s going to cost you about three times as much as it used to. I managed to get into uni two years ago, and am currently studying a Creative Writing course therefore I am technically an arts student. If I knew that I was going to have to pay back about three times what I’m already going to have to pay back, I would not have bothered going into such an uncertain world – I’d have gone somewhere where I knew for a fact that my skills would be needed, come graduation; academia or vocational skill-based work. As it stands, I am set to leave Uni with a bit of paper saying I can write a bit well. Not worth ~£20k (my housemate worked out that’s our repayment scheme.)

The future's bright; the future's a barren wasteland devoid of education... as Facebook and Twitter prove daily

Where’s gaming in all of this? It’s coming, don’t worry. Just a few more facts and figures first. You may ask why I’m telling you about repayments and fees, etc – it’s because that bad bit of news I mentioned earlier is this (taken from a tweet by Jonathan Wakeham, campaigner at Arts Emergency);

“2012 UCAS stats show arts literally decimated: Soc studies -12% European lit & lang -11% Creative arts -16%. Please support @artsemergency”

Research = vital

UCAS is the official site used to measure applications to Universities and Higher Education courses. What the tweet above outlines is a severe drop in arts-related courses in general. The national feeling is very similar to my own – why bother going into arts when you can go elsewhere and have a better shot at employment? According to UCAS (source), the only specific category that has seen positive results since the fees went up is Medicine, and this was only by 1.3% (the other, rather vague category is “general, combined and other”). Overall, submissions are down by 7.1% – now I’m no statistician (clearly), but I know that’s a big chunk of students.

So, let’s bring it back to gaming then. Why mention all of this? Why bring this all up here? Because the gaming industry is currently worth over 25.1 billion US dollars, that’s why. Despite the recession. And it’s still growing. That figure was taken from ESA annual reports. The same reports valued “The Industry” at 11.7 billion USD in 2008. Over two years, the value almost doubled, and the trend of increase seems set to carry on for a while.

This and the decline of arts, to me, seems like an anomaly – gaming is one of the strongest industries at the moment, and while it does require a fair amount of technical expertise to put a game together, there is also a lot of demand for the “arty” side. Every game needs composers, writers, scripters, artists, voice-actors, mo-cap actors, concept designers, art directors… the list is extensive. I’d class all of these positions as “arts-based”, and yet the awareness of these jobs is, at best, meagre. The general public just seem to think games happen. A lot of people still see this industry as a bit of a curiosity – a bit of a joke.

We get it... gamers don't have sex... uh huh

The profit to be made from making games is incredible, and is increasing at an exponential rate. Losses of physical merchants like GAME Group send out the wrong message to the masses – they see a weakening industry that’s lost its strongest British supporter. What they don’t see is that GAME went down because of their own mistakes, but that gaming is still strong because it is advocating cybersocial evolution; online communities and downloadable content are words in our everyday lexicon. To us, losing GAME is a bit of an inconvenience; we can shop online/download our merchandise, but to non-gamers, “we’ll all just have to go to HMV”.

Struggling developer can't even afford a hat that fits

There is a certain smugness about non-gamers when I say that I want to “go into the games industry”. The majority push up their lips, nod a little and say “whatever floats yer boat”, and are honest about telling me “oh, it’s all low-pay, you know?” and “that’s a bit nerdy”. Both are wrong. Employees under games publishers and developers are, generally, above the national average in terms of skill-to-wage ratios. As for the “nerdy” argument, I would rather be in an open-planned office, writing with a team of Hollywood execs working on the next Halo title than stuck in a job I’m not really enjoying, watching everyone else go about their lives.

I am taking a gamble – I am very very aware of this. I know writers make next to nothing, day-to-day, being writers. But it’s a gamble that will pay off if I end up with BioWare, Bethesda, Bungie or any of the other narrative-driven studios (or any studio, for that matter). I have auxiliary skills that I can fall back on, and degrees like mine (and most arts, to be honest) are good door-openers into PR companies, publishers and events-based work. All of this helps when building up a CV for gaming – I’m only 20, and I’ve already managed to land work-experience in a game-centric TV studio, write articles for a respected website and rub shoulders with some important, industry people. I honestly don’t think I’d have had these chances if I hadn’t picked up a thing or two from my Creative Writing course.

So, this is my message: if you’re reading this and you’re trying to decide whether or not you want to go into Arts at uni, do it. Every country needs culture to proceed, and culture comes from arts. The fact that the Great Betrayer (Clegg) and his overlord – the archfiend Cameron – are trying to diddle our country out of its artistic heritage should be a moot point; every society succeeds on culture and science, and (as author Philip Pullman recently said) “the ability to study [arts] should be a right, not a privilege”.

Can you tell me another story about The Educated?

This doesn’t change the fact that you might be paying up to £9,000 a year to learn how to write a sonnet (true story). Nor does it change the fact that you might be pushed through uni and still end up working that old bar job you had when you were 18. But, as far as my over-romanticised and possibly over-zealous mind goes, it’ll sure as hell be worth it when you’re penning the next Mass Effect and get to see the ending before everyone else…

Oh. Ooops.

[P.S – there’s no point going into any “smart” stuff, anyway. China’s top 10% of students almost outnumbers ALL of our students. We can’t compete with that. Just try and get famous instead. Everyone loves fame.]




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5 Comments

  1. SimonJK says:

    I totally hear what you are saying but from more of a broad spectrum view. The future stability of this nation begins at school/univeristy, but less and less each year is being done to support the eductation of the young and those in higher education. the government is totally dropping the ball grabbing the profits and running, seen as this is a gaming peice – dropping the flag and running off team killing on the way out. What is the future requirements of this country? I’d say maths, sciences, art and the electronic industry but all these subjects are optional if available at all and science is bastardised into one subject yet other subjects are inforced – religous studies, food tech and social skills – even music has ended up as an after school payed activity in most cases.

    So when the government insists that we need migrant workers to support the Country due to skill lacks then they only have themselves to blame. We need to point a finger (or a paint brush) and demand the future of this Country need governmental support starting with more money for education and less for their extra cars and flats just to be near their dual constituancies.

  2. Rich says:

    Unfuckwittable as ever. Not sure I’d take your route though.

    It’s the classic Demolition Man problem…

    “You wanna live on top, you gotta live Cacteau’s way. What he wants, when he wants, how he wants. Your other option: come down here, maybe starve to death. “

  3. Edward says:

    Dom, we should totally have babies together. Their writing skills would be second to none except Richie himself.

    I’m finishing up an English and Drama degree as we speak, and while I never really thought it’d guarantee me a job (and in fact half the reason I did it is so I could delay figuring out what to do with myself in future) circumstances brought me to this place, with the same opportunities as you and the same future prospects. It’s a wonderful opportunity, and one we couldn’t have had without the benefits of additional education that too many are now being encouraged to give up on.

  4. Alfie says:

    I always found it interesting that despite the fact that new media, games, blogs, video sharing, etc. are taking over traditional media in terms of popularity. Their ability to connect with audiences and their general tendency to be actually relevant and to connect with their audience are so much greater, but for some reason people still sneer and still wonder when the content creators are going to get a “real job”. It blows my mind how non progressive people can be. Youtube’s ad revenue system is a great example of audience centric, new media content creation being a viable implementation of what the internet has to offer in terms of having a viable career doing something like this. But people who knock out £200k a year making a Youtube video a week to an established viewership are still presumed to be goofing off and not having a real career. Wake up world.

  5. Dom says:

    Cheers for the feedback, y’all. Glad you (mostly) agree. I wrote this in anger after someone blew smoke up my arse about gaming being a waster’s job and then seeing some UCAS thing on Twitter featuring the stats. Bah.

    Ed, our children would be immaculate and beautiful and we would train them to usurp Richie as unfuckwittable king. Or something.

    Simon, I get you. The whole education system in this country is horribly outdated and defunct. If we want to raise actually decent children (instead of yobs that think kicking cats to death is fun) then we seriously need to look at how we educate them and teach them to think.

    Alfie, you’re right – I don’t understand why people aren’t making the most out of social media and want to force people into archaic forms of entertainment, etc. Everything needs a shake up but the British are too placid to do anything about it.

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