Immersive and addictive technologies Contents

Appendix 1: Visits in support of the inquiry

1.Before and during the inquiry, we undertook the following fact-finding visits to inform our understanding of the technologies and speak to people working on them.

Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Dundee—Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt

2.Curator Marie Foulston told us that this major exhibition aimed to do something “radically different”—to challenge expectations of the industry while advancing the conversation about the future of games design. The exhibition showcased different ways in which games have been designed from the mid-2000s to the present, so was rooted in the era of smartphones and social media. Divided into three sections, the exhibition enabled us to consider:

a)The design process, including how player’s emotional responses and cinematic techniques are used by designers.

b)‘Disrupting’ conversations in the games industry, including around depictions of violence, sexual content and different cultures and genders. These conversations have factored into our discussions during the inquiry, and it was interesting to see how they are happening within the games industry itself, which is also coming up with solutions to them.

c)How people are playing and designing games in collaborative ways, including through online communities.

Inition studio, Shoreditch, London

3.Inition is an immersive technology agency that creates content utilising “new realities” for businesses and charities. The company’s futurist, Amelia Kallman, talked us through future trends and challenges in the sector, including the need for 5G to maximise the full potential of immersive technology, the current and potential uses of biodata, and the need for greater understanding of VR’s long-term effects and its interplay with game transfer phenomena.

4.We also heard from Jonathan Kaye, a disability, inclusion and access consultant, who stressed that immersive technologies can be profoundly life-enhancing for people with disabilities and made the case for the development of such technologies to be fully inclusive.

5.We experienced a range of immersive outputs, including VR films designed to raise awareness of social issues such as childhood trauma and road safety, and a mixed-reality experience simulating the effects of multiple sclerosis.

Dundee, Scotland

6.Dundee is globally renowned as a hub for games companies and the home of Abertay University, which founded one of the world’s first computer game design courses more than 20 years ago.

Abertay University

7.We discovered the university’s key role in training the talent pipeline for the city’s games industry and met students on the MProf in Games Development, who demonstrated some of the games they are developing in teams. The university’s courses offer a largely unique synthesis between the artistic and technical skills needed for game design, and have a graduate employment rate of approx. 95% for technical students, and approx. 60% for arts students. Local companies including Team Junkfish and Puny Astronaut discussed and demonstrated their games with us, and we heard about InGAME, a new research and development centre, which aims to increase the scale and value of Dundee’s video games cluster by supporting companies in creative experimentation, technological innovation and business intensification.

Games cluster

8.We visited a number of companies operating within the city’s games cluster to find out more about the conditions for, and benefits of, such a concentration of developers. For example, Chris Van Der Kuyl from 4J Studios, which develops console versions of Minecraft, discussed the business models underpinning current trends in game design including in-game purchases and advertising. At Earthbound Games, we heard about how the company’s new game for the esports market, Axiom Soccer, has integrated spectators into its design from the outset. We also discussed the monetisation of the game, and the potential for partnerships with traditional sports. We also visited Ninja Kiwi, which develops paid-for mobile games and is part of a larger New Zealand company.

UK Games Fund

9.The UK Games Fund distributes Government funding to support early-career, independent games developers. We heard about how the funding received to date has been used to give grants directly to companies, run the Tranzfuser competition for development of new games and facilitate networking and knowledge-sharing between recipients.

Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia

Wider applications of immersive technologies

10.Our visit to Latvia and Estonia enabled us to find out more about virtual reality and other immersive technologies are used in training and across creative sectors. We visited Anatomy Next, which creates 3D simulation tools to help in the training of medical students. At Vividly, we saw how immersive technologies are used in urban planning and architecture and how VR can be used in educational tools and public and creative spaces to make experiences open and accessible. Similarly, we learnt about how MOTOR is creating interactive experiences for Estonia’s museums.

The development and ethics of VR

11.We held a roundtable meeting at Tallinn Technical University, where the Re:Creation Virtual and Augmented Laboratory researches the physiological and psychological aspects, applications, and impacts of virtual reality. We heard that Estonia introduced robotics and computer science in schools ten years ago, which has created a generation of futurists and technologists to work in VR development.

12.We also discussed the centrality of data to VR experiences. The technologists we spoke to said that as the collection of data in VR is vital to create a better user experience, it is important to know the best and safest way to collect user data, while respecting users’ privacy. In addition, they noted that there is a lack of academic studies exploring the long-term effects of excessive VR/AR use. We were told that as the makers of the headsets such as HTC, Sony and Oculus collect the most data, they would be well-placed to discuss these issues.

e-Estonia briefing centre

13.Estonia is a leader in digital innovation, internet freedom and cyber security, which in turn has enabled a thriving start-up and entrepreneurship culture. We heard about the principles of Estonian e-governance, including the importance of data transparency. The legal foundation for the Estonian system is that the data belongs to the private citizen, and the state is the guardian of that information. In practice, every citizen can log into their portal and see all the information related to them. They can also see who has attempted to access their information, with the time, date and name of company/individual.

Games companies

14.We visited Creative Mobile, an independent game developer and publisher, best-known for the Drag Racing series. We were told that more than 3 million people play their games, and the average daily play time is between 10–20 minutes. Most of their profits come from 5% of their top users and a player that plays 15 minutes per day might spend more than a user who plays for three hours in one sitting.

Published: 12 September 2019