Dreaming big: What’s wrong with aspiring to work in games?

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Earlier this week UK games industry trade body Ukie tweeted a picture of a rather curious bus stop advertisement from mobile phone outfit 02.

Ukie, of course, is part of the team behind AskAboutGames, along with the VSC Ratings Board, which grants UK games their age-ratings. As a trade body Ukie looks to support, grow and promote the games industry in the UK.

But why was that advert so striking? All it did was ask a simple question. ‘Is it alright that your kids only aspire to be an eGamer?’ The question pointed to 02’s ’02 Family’ initiative; something that appears to have aims not unlike AskAboutGames’. Through 02 Family, the communications giant hopes to inform and support parents and guardians bringing up youngsters in the digital, connected age; their focus is rather more about mobile phones, of course.

The question posited by the billboard didn’t answer the question. Arguably, then, it was just trying to encourage debate, and inspire thought. That’s very amicable. Except that the question felt rather loaded, in including the word ‘only’. To say that a child ‘only’ aspired to a certain career suggests they aren’t being ambitious enough. Consider these two hypothetical sentences, where we’ve deliberately moved the focus away from games:

‘My child wants to work in music.’

‘My child only wants to work in music.’

The second is certainly a little more dismissive of the child’s ambition, compared to the first.

And, yes, the 02 ad also included the term ‘eGamer’; a rather unspecific and less-than-common term. It seems they are referring to an ‘eSports athlete’ or ‘professional gamer’. We’re not here to criticise their preferred jargon, though. The point is, the ad seems rather dismissive of ambitions to make a living from games.

Ukie’s tweet about the 02 campaign was typically spirited and playful, but made an important point. The games industry is huge in the UK, and offers thousands of well-paid jobs catering to numerous skillsets, interests and specialties. The UK games industry is worth £5.11 billion, providing a significant space for opportunity, success and high earnings.

More and more schools, colleges and universities include game design skills on their curriculum, making the route to becoming employed in games more feasible and achievable. And even if your child loses interest in a career making games in later life, the core skills they will have learned on that journey will qualify them to work in many other sectors. Knowing how to code, design, engineer and distribute are increasingly essential skills in a continuously more technological, digital and connected world.

It’s fair to point out that, if the ad is talking about professional gamers, that is a slightly different realm. eSports – which refers to organised competitive gaming – can make its stars very rich indeed. Some of the best players are millionaires, making a great deal from prize winnings and sponsorships. And many more make a good amount in the five-figure area. Certainly, not every eSports competitor makes money. But the only way there is to make a success of eSports is to try, which brings us to a more important point; stifling your children’s ambition might not be the best way to go about managing their relationship with games. If they show an interest in eSports, talk to them about it; maybe play some of their favourite esports titles against them (and be prepared to lose!).

Why does eSports interest them? What do they love about it? Have they considered the many other professions in the booming eSports sector? There’s commentators, coaches, sports psychologists, broadcasters, event organisers, managers, marketeers; and, of course, the thousands of people making the games eSports athletes play. A youngster’s interest in becoming an eSports stat might actually open the conversation that leads them to a life loving their career, even if they’re making a lot of money making games, rather than earning it playing them. If you want more insights in the common careers in the games industry, check our recent series of guides to games jobs youngsters can aspire to and eventually make their day job.

Here at AskAboutGames we’re not here to criticise 02, and we certainly don’t know their answer to their own question. They may feel exactly as we do about the opportunity, and they deserve credit for inspiring an important conversation, which may well be their sole aim. But we do believe this; if youngsters in your family aspire to make video games part of their career, they have their eyes on an exciting, growing industry full of opportunities and good wages. And they are offering you a chance to engage with them in discussing the role games can play in your family.

As for us, we’d love to only be an eGamer when we grow up.

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