Can we replace oil and gas with pixels and explosions?

This bloke Chris van der Kuyl says that the moribund oil and gas industry should be replaced by game development, and it will save Scottish contractors.

Is it true? The IT entrepreneur seems to think so, considering how he spoke to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee about it recently. In fact, according to van der Kuyl the ability of the gaming industry to support local freelancers, contractors, and umbrella company contractors is astronomical. His proof? The “Grand Theft Auto” franchise (GTA), a game series that has spent some time in development in Scotland, has generated so much revenue that it’s actually eclipsed the amount of money the entire recorded music industry has ever made. In other words, van der Kuyl says it’s big business.

The programmer does have the qualifications to talk about this subject, it turns out – he’s the chair of 4J Games, a company that’s been highly praised for porting the ultra-popular “Minecraft” game – something exclusive to computers – to video game consoles in order to expose the game to a wider range of consumers. Minecraft has been raking in money hand-over-fist (not as much as GTA, but still a massive amount of dosh), so if you ask me it does seem like the potential is there to become a massive economic boon for not just Scotland but for the entirety of the UK.

What this also means is that the project-based development cycle of the video game industry is one that is ideal for freelance work. Skilled programmers and IT contractors commonly come on board for six months to a year – sometimes longer – and work to develop a game so it can ship complete and on time before going on to the next project, and this could be a serious boon to local umbrella company contractors looking for a leg up in the industry, don’t you think?

Meanwhile, the Government has already earmarked some £4 million for game company development in the UK, though it hasn’t exactly said where it’s going to be spreading that wealth around. Individuals like van der Kuyl are obviously campaigning quite hard to get a piece of that pie, and with any luck maybe they’ll get it. Scotland in particular could make do with some better broadband infrastructure, as not everywhere is particularly well-suited for the kind of high levels of connectivity a development studio would need in order to remain competitive; if even a portion of that cash can go into building that telecommunications infrastructure – something that will drive project-based jobs in and of itself – the idea of Scotland becoming a hub for IT contractor activity isn’t that far-fetched at all if you ask me.

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