Finlay Thewlis: Scotland, Can You Switch On The Power Button?


Don’t forget what this referendum is about – the opportunity for change and not just the chance of change, but change defined by the people of Scotland.

  • We need a yes vote to decide how we handle the creative sector in scotland
  • We need a yes vote for the cultural gain within these new industries and once again make an artistic contribution to the world in ways we’ve done in the past by supporting new IPs.
  • We need a yes vote so we can fulfill our potential

For many growing up in my generation, computer games played an amazing role in our cultural development and how we opened up to the creations of the fast-growing gaming space.
We played in all sort of worlds, with all sorts of drastically different characters, in varying functional ways. Such is the nature of games, their platforms, their visual style and the stories they tell, their variation in presentation and function still provides surprises to many peers in this industry that I work in. Artistic and financial gaming successes can come from absolutely anywhere.

The new Intellectual Properties (IPs) that can define a generation can come from any place, from any development team, at any time. The opportunity to create something stunning comes from a talented and skilled team, working well together, with the right investment and creative conditions they should be able to pull off their initial vision that they set out to create. Of course, this is not a cast-iron guarantee, many studios fail, many projects remain unfinished and many prototyped IPs never see the light of day.

So, in Scotland how can we carve out our place in this exciting industry, not just to create games that are financial successes, that create jobs but also to create striking artistic titles that go beyond just a game and become that ‘must experience journey’ to further the cultural impact of games to people across the world.

So how does this all matter in the context of Scotland’s independence referendum?

I’d open by saying, conditions matter – especially in games. What sets games development apart from many other forms of development, it has an inherent cross-discipline nature that’s handling defines it’s success or failure. By harnessing the right conditions for our creative industries, be they games, film, TV or anything else – we can contribute amazing things to the creative world.

Really, do we need independence to achieve these conditions? I’m going to be honest – No. We don’t need independence to create great games, however really the point is – we aren’t doing nearly as well as we could be.

The UK economy right now is tailored to suit the banking sector, big finance and large multinationals and game developers based in Scotland after a Yes vote could stand to gain a great deal, not only by having a government ready to listen to it’s businesses (keeping in mind over 98% of Scotland consists of SME’s). This exact act allows everyone across Scottish society to engage in a conversation about how can we make Scotland better, and how Scotland can build an economy that will ready this small part of the world for the future. That huge majority of SMEs will all be looking to ensure Scotland’s new constitution doesn’t just cater for them but is focussed and built around them. The games industry, if open and vocal about its concerns and opportunities can forge a great part of this new Scotland-focussed economy.

In addition to this, can you imagine being part of the generation that built a new version of Scotland, the one that kicks the cringe and forms a modern, international and forward-thinking cultural fabric. We’re at a cultural, and to a degree, an economic crossroads, do we carry on with the kilt-wearing, shortbread version of scotland or the game-developing, app-creating one with our distinct ‘made in scotland’ stamp on it?

Discussing with games industry colleagues over the last few years about how independence may impact on going forward. Chats varying from CEO-level to Producers to Designers to Programmers and more. Rockstar North is the often cited developer of ‘instant recognition’ due to the incredible success of Grand Theft Auto 5. Some close friends of mine cited an issue of attracting staff against the pull of London and the South-East. It’s clear a Yes vote can help customize the economy to suit the businesses here and make savings on UK defence spending on Trident.

Let no-one be under any false sense of the games industry just being a sort of, outlying, way to generate wealth it’s expected to be worth northwards of $100bn by 2017.

Developers fall and rise too frequently and we could definitely do with a healthier access to finance to build up teams and develop staff’s skills to improve, specialize and ultimately have a chance to be more stable.

Indeed it’s not just the raw economic flexibility that matters to developers, a genuine, more frequent and reflective government on the realities of what a modern industry like the gaming sector is. This means that given a more frequent and detailed dialogue we can avoid future embarrassment like this.

One of the amazing things about games is that just like other art forms be it a painting, a song, a poem etc they cross language barriers, and different cultures and allows people to from opposite ends of the world to delight in their shared experiences. Something seen turn from raw playable joy to raw hard cash in the Microsoft purchase of Minecraft for an eye-watering £1.5bn. Made in a nation of a population similar to Scotland’s – Sweden, and alongside Finland, and Denmark we can see proof that small socially democratic european nations can succeed in the gaming sphere. So with independence can we invest in a way that suits our economy and society and with so much anxiety going around in the media these days let’s talk about the benefits and the future.

So if you’re an undecided voter – I’d ask you to think ‘Why shouldn’t we take responsibility for our future when the facts tell you we’d have every chance of making a success of it?’.
I’ll be voting Yes tomorrow because I’m ready to help forge a new path in this world for my generation and generations to come. Take the chance of a lifetime and turn the power button on Scotland.

Finlay Thewlis
National Collective