Frank Boyd’s Emai to the DCMS re:Creative Research

27 10 2006

From Frank’s Blog:

“At Nesta’s conference on supporting “making innovation flourish” event at the Business Design Centre I find myself lobbying civil servants from the DCMS about the governmnent’s ‘technology programme’ again. One of them asked me to send an email, so I did:

“This is an extension of the case I made to the Creative Economy Programme’s Technology Working Group on extending the definition of Technology R&D to cover experimentation with genre, content and format. There are economic and cultural arguments for this.
While there is a constant improvement in the underlying technologies for new media consoles, set-top boxes, distribution channels and development tools, there is relatively little spent on innovation in content or formats for interactive platforms. With the market still in its infancy, commissioners and publishers, especially in the games industry are extremely conservative and risk-averse when it comes to investing in new content and formats. The vast majority of products released in this country are sequels (I think Final Fantasy XIV has just appeared in the shops) or derived from major brands which have been successful in other media: Harry Potter, James Bond, Pirates of the Caribbean etc).
This reluctance to invest in R&D and innovation stifles economic development in two important areas:
i) the types of consumer who make up the market
Until there are games and other forms of interactive entertainment which appeal to a broader demographic, mainstream games publishers will remain focused on a target market of young males because they tend to be the people who buy their products
ii) opportunities for new publishers or developers to become established.
It is very difficult for independents to develop titles because the production costs are high and the routes to market are uncertain. As a result there is not the same ecology of small, medium and large creative producers in the games/interactive entertainment sector as there is in film or television.
The argument for public sector investment in digital content is not just about the economy, however. Government recognises the cultural, democratic, educational and social value of film, public service media and the arts through debate and policy lead by the DCMS. But an increasingly large number of people does not engage with the 20th century forms which are the focus of most cultural policy (and funding). Interactive entertainment, games and participatory storytelling are becoming more and more dominant as the forms which young people engage with.
We can hope to overcome the phenomenon of ‘toxic childhood’ by trying to persuade children to spend less time in front of computer and console screens; we can also try to improve the quality of the stuff that they engage with when they are in the digital universe, and not just through the provision of factual or educational content. We have always understood the importance of story-telling as a way of conveying cultural, moral and ethical values; we expect the BBC to invest in high-quality drama and to spend large sums of the public’s money on plays and series with very high standards of production. Should we not be investing now in the R&D necessary to establish creative formats, conventions, structures and content for new media entertainment and drama which have the same (public service) values as the best television?
None of this would require any new public expenditure but a reallocation of existing resources. It could be done through an extension of the criteria under which applications can be made to the Technology Programme, through greater BBC investment in creative R&D in new media, and, perhaps, through a Public Service Publisher.”

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