Brian Baglow: I Won’t Try To Tell You How Much Opportunity We Have, You Know This Already

I’ve worked in the video games sector for the last 20 years. I’m sure you’re fascinated. However there is a point here. You see, at the risk of sounding like Late Call, working in video games has been a lot like being in favour of Scottish independence over the last two decades. Yes, we were invited to parties. But we were the slightly awkward guests, standing in the corner, looking at the LPs and pretending we were just really into music, man.

Outside the actual games industry, there was a perception that it was all somehow a little… dubious. It was no job for a proper, sober, responsible and mature grown-up for God’s sake. That’s what financial services were for. And the output! Good God above, it was for kids. Or was destroying kids. Or was just bloody irresponsible. I have it on good authority that video games cause violent behaviour, childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder, car theft, murder, epilepsy and an over abundance of rescued princesses.

I have, dear reader, stood in groups of very angry people, in parties, meetings, gatherings, networking drinks, conferences and the like, watching as tiny flecks of spittle fly into my free cheap red wine, as many and numerous people have told me that I’m wasting my life, video games are morally bankrupt and that they’re not – and never can be – art.

I have in short, put up with so much vacuous, ill-informed, belligerent pish in my time, that I’ve considered giving it all up and going to work in a shoe shop.

(You see where this awkward, overly extended metaphor is going, right?)

Yet I’m still here. Still doing video games. At age 44. My parents are finally – more or less – convinced it’s a proper job. While the rest of the world have started to waken up to the idea that video games are not the revolting, unacceptable waste of bloody time, but may in fact have something to offer.

Could it be that the time has come where video games (and independence) must be taken seriously?

The world’s press reacted with shock when the awful, evil (Scottish) Grand Theft Auto V game was released in September last year, making $1Bn in the first three days – and more money in its first month than the entire global music industry. The reaction was a combination of bafflement and outrage. How dare this medium, which we don’t understand, suddenly be so popular and influential. Didn’t people listen when we said it was bad for them? Caused cancer? Armed robberies?

Only yesterday it was announced that Minecraft, one of the most unexpectedly popular games of the last decade, was acquired by Microsoft for a trifling $2Bn (the console versions are made in Scotland you know).

All of a sudden, the rest of the world is interested in games. Not just the rest of the creative industries, but the world at large. The opportunities they present for learning and education, health care, fitness, entertainment and even political engagement are now being recognised as something that we should probably know more about and understand better.

All of a sudden people want to engage and find out more about this weird and formerly shameful preoccupation.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with independence?

Lots. For a start it means I get invited to more glamorous parties. And people don’t avoid me quite as much as they did. Their eyes darting off to one side to find someone important.

The practical upshot of this is that over the last couple of years I’ve been to a huge range of events with The Scottish Government, parliament, public sector, creative industries and beyond. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a good couple of dozen members of the Scottish parliament, from all parties and affiliations. From cabinet secretaries to plain vanilla MSPs. You know what – they’ve been awesome. They’ve been happy to engage, direct and interested in what people have to say. At no point did anyone shout, throw things, sneer at a transparently stupid question or have me forcibly ejected.

I’ve also been to Westminster. It was jolly impressive. The statue of Oliver Cromwell. The huge echoing halls and chambers. The sense of history. Seriously. You should go. Don’t throw things. We’re above that… You’ll also get lifted.

Westminster does, you may or may not be surprised to hear, do a very acceptable Merlot. And lots of it. At Holyrood if they can’t get a participant to sponsor a meeting, there’s no wine. There’s not even a cup of coffee, let alone biscuits. They are, a lovely Holyrood person assured me, trying to keep things simple and transparent.

Clearly this is not an issue on which to decide the future of a country. But… it’s indicative.

If I, some bloke who started a games network, can meet and talk to and engage with the people actually running the country, then I feel, that there’s a more direct and accountable government, right there.

If someone from that government calls me and asks questions about what’s actually happening within the industry I work in, then I feel that’s a more responsive and participative government too.

I know, I know. None of this. NONE of this is in any way objective or of real value when it comes to suitability to run a country.

But these little things matter. I’m some guy who used to make video games. And I can meet ministers and MSPs? I feel that’s a good thing. I can ask questions? And get actual sensible answers? That’s pretty damn good too.

Over the last several months through National Collective you’ve heard from people far more visionary than me, I’ve read articles which have inspired, informed, educated and upon occasions, infuriated me. You’ve heard from people who have addressed the huge issues. Scotland’s role in the global community. The visions for the future. Our potential. The fact that we can do better. Do more. Be more.

You know this. You’re clever people. The fact you’re reading National Collective means that you have checked the claims, read the articles, examined the evidence and questioned the arguments.

You’ve joined in the celebrations, you’ve gone to the gigs, you’ve joined the crowds. You’ve seen just how much Scotland has to offer the world – creatively, economically, socially and politically.

I’m not even going to begin trying to encapsulate just how much hope, how much opportunity we have. You know this.

We can make Scotland better. We can make our culture, our creativity, our passion, our education, our resources, the foundation of a future which exceeds anything we can achieve with the infrastructure and constraints of the UK.

It’ll be our responsibility too. It’ll be like being a big grown-up country. I for one am looking forward to it.


Brian Baglow
National Collective

Photo: Ewan McIntosh